Can a Keto Diet for Diabetes be Harmful?

By Shantanu Sodhi +2 more

Diabetes, a metabolic disorder, results in abnormal blood sugar levels in our bodies. If not checked, it can cause significant damage to the body. While medicines have their role to play, dietary changes can positively impact blood sugar levels. When thinking of making a lifestyle change for improved health, people ask, ”Which is the most effective and the best diet for diabetes?” The consensus believes that the Keto diet is the best for diabetes, as it is a low-carb diet.

What is a Keto Diet?

Keto meals target a lower blood sugar level by decreasing the carbohydrate in the diet. Simply, it is a low-carb, high-fat diet plan.

The Keto diet meal plan advocates the following conditions: 

  • Higher amount of fat – almost 75% of your daily diet.
  • Moderate protein amount – constituting 20% of daily calories.
  • Carbohydrates in a limited amount – as low as 5% of the daily calories consumed.

Keto for Medical Conditions

The Keto diet has been here for a century now. It is thought to be beneficial as a therapeutic tool for various medical conditions such as:

–   Epilepsy in kids

–   Parkinson’s

–   Alzheimer’s

–   PCOS

–   Diabetes

–   Dementia

–   Bipolar Disorders

–   Some Cancers

But, What Happens when a person living with Diabetes opts for Keto?

When a diabetic person follows the Keto diet meal plan, the body goes into a stage of ketosis. Ketosis is when the body starts to use the body fat for energy as opposed to carbohydrates. This phenomenon has popularised the belief that the Keto diet for diabetics is beneficial in terms of weight loss and blood sugar control.

The word ketosis should not be confused with Ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes. When the blood sugar reaches high levels and there is a lack of insulin, the body starts breaking fat cells to meet the energy requirements. Ketones are released in the blood as a result of fat breakdown. High levels of ketones can be fatal and result in Ketoacidosis.

Is Keto Diet harmful to a person with Diabetes?

Under certain circumstances, the keto diet may harm the body more than doing good. 

  1. Low Blood Sugar

Not monitoring blood sugar levels when eating keto meals can be dangerous. As the ketosis begins in a few weeks of the diet, the blood sugar levels can take a dip. If the monitoring is irregular and medicine dosage is not adjusted to the changing blood sugar levels, it can cause serious issues.

  1. High Blood Sugar

If the keto diet is not followed actively, the blood sugar levels may consequently increase. As per research, the keto diet for diabetes does not allow the body to utilise insulin optimally. It can result in insulin resistance, increasing the risk of type-2 diabetes.

  1.  Increased Risk of Obesity and Cholesterol

Since the keto diet advocates 75% of fat as the main component of the diet, it can be detrimental. Often patients with diabetes also have higher chances of Dyslipidaemia (abnormally elevated cholesterol levels or fats in the blood). The increased fat intake can shoot up cholesterol levels

Though there is a lack of evidence to support the theory, there can be a link between the keto diet and the risk of obesity and heart diseases. 

  1. Post-diet Weight Gain

If the diet is not maintained properly or left abruptly, there can be rebound weight gain after the diet. The body metabolism and insulin levels may not adjust accordingly. This behaviour of the body can create a problem.

Keto-related symptoms to watch out for:

Consult the diabetologist if you feel any of the below signs and symptoms when following the keto diet for diabetics:

  • High blood sugar readings don’t decrease at all
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Nausea
  • Fruity odour in your breath
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Tiredness and confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blood sugar readings below the normal range

Serious side-effects of Keto

The keto diet is known to have some side effects. Unmonitored keto meals or keto diet plans that are not in sync with the diabetic and metabolic history of the person can have side effects. Some of the side effects that may occur with keto meals include:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Kidney stones
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Constipation
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Decrease in bone mineral density
  • Risk of heart diseases


The basic premise of keto meals and their impact on blood sugar levels makes it one of the contenders as the best diet for diabetics. Dietary requirements, calorie intake, body metabolism, and type of diabetes vary amongst individuals. Experts suggest that a person with diabetes must follow a diet that is sustainable for a long period of time. Keto diet or other extreme diet plans may show exciting results in a short duration, but they are difficult to follow throughout life. One must learn about a healthy nutrition plan for diabetes from their doctor and registered nutritionist based on their eating habits, choice and health needs.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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