In the biohacking and ketogenic communities, many people use low-carb, ketogenic eating to optimize the performance of their minds and bodies, lose weight, and prevent type 2 diabetes. The mainstream medical community is slowly warming up to the benefits of the ketogenic lifestyle, particularly regarding Type 2 diabetes, though mainstream acceptance of keto as a viable therapeutic option is far from complete. A new study marks a major move in that direction, and remarkably focuses on type 1 diabetes, rather than type 2.
Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2 in that it is though to be primarily genetic, rather than the result of a combination of lifestyle and genetics. Whereas type 2 diabetes develops later in life and is predicted by factors such as excessive weight, lack of fitness, and eating habits, type 1 often manifests in childhood or adolescence, and doesn’t appear to be the result of any particular lifestyle, behavior, or general health factors. So while there is growing momentum behind the idea that ketogenic eating may be valuable for preventing or reversing type 2 diabetes, the notion of managing type 1 diabetes hasn’t received widespread attention.
The new study, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics JournalPediatrics , tackled this very idea. 316 people were recruited for the study, including 130 children whose parents consented to their participation. Participants were recruited from the Facebook group TypeOneGrit, which is aimed at those using a low-carb to manage diabetes.
While it was an observational study, not a randomized clinical trial with a control group, the findings were nonetheless impressive. Hemoglobin A1C is a widely used metric for gauging long-term blood sugar level, with 6.5 considered to be the threshold for diabetes, and 5.7 considered normal. Participants in the study had followed very low-carb diets for an average of 2 years, and the data showed that their average A1C levels had fallen to 5.67 percent. The researchers consider this to be “exceptional” blood sugar control.
Participants in the study continued to use insulin while on the low-carb diets, but required less of the drug than commonly used on normal diets. The children in the study showed no signs of impaired growth, countering a long held concern about low-carb diets for children, and all participants had very low rates of significant diabetes related complications.
Belinda Lennerz, an instructor in the division of pediatric endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study characterized the blood sugar control found in participants as seeming “almost too good to be true.” “It’s nothing we typically see in the clinic for Type 1 diabetes,” she told theNew York Times.
Dr. David Ludwig, a co-author of the study and pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital told the Times “We think the findings point the way to a potentially exciting new treatment option.” But he cautioned that because the “study was observational, the results should not, by themselves, justify a change in diabetes management.”
Given the prevalence of type 1 diabetes, which affects over a million americans, and the increasingly common incidence of type 2 diabetes, it’s encouraging to see research supporting the power that low-carb eating can have in managing these diseases.