Ketogenic diet, an increasingly popular weight loss strategy, may cause a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, a study warns. The findings, published in the Journal of Physiology, raise new questions about ketogenic diets and whether or not they are actually healthy. Type 2 diabetes is one of the most pressing challenges of our time and its ultimate cause has not been fully understood, said researchers at ETH Zurich and University Children’s Hospital Zurich in Switzerland.
Ketogenic diets, which are low in carbohydrate and high in fat, are known to lead to weight loss and have been considered to be healthy. “Although ketogenic diets are known to be healthy, our findings indicate that there may be an increased risk of insulin resistance with this type of diet that may lead to Type 2 diabetes,” said Christian Wolfrum, an associate professor at ETH Zurich.
Insulin is released in the blood and used to control blood sugar levels including signalling the liver to stop producing sugar. If this system is impaired and the body does not use insulin properly, which is called insulin resistance, individuals are likely to develop high blood sugar levels. The researchers showed that for ketogenic diets this process for controlling blood sugar levels does not work properly and there was insulin resistance in the liver.
When the liver is unable to respond to normal levels of insulin to control blood sugar levels this may lead to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The study involved feeding mice two different types of diet (a ketogenic diet and a high fat diet, which causes the liver to become resistant to insulin) and then performing standard metabolic tests on them.
Using specialised procedures the researchers were able to determine the effects of internal sugar production from the animal (mostly the liver), and sugar uptake into tissues (mostly the muscle), during insulin action. It is important to note that the research did not analyse whether the diet employed causes obesity, if given long term.