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Easy Low-Carb Diets for Diabetics: Atkins, Paleo, and Keto

Why Low carb diets are good for diabetics

Low-carb diets have been quite popular these days and publicized as helpful in achieving weight loss and helping to prevent diabetes and hypertension.

The main thinking behind these diets is that a low carbohydrate intake results in reductions in insulin secretion and propel the body to primarily burning fat for fuel.

When glucose production remains low and is no longer able to be primarily used as the main fuel, ketone bodies are produced as an alternative to glucose. These bodies become the main source of energy for both the body and brain, a process known as “ketogenesis.”

➢ During this process, the body relies on fat for energy by boosting its metabolism, which results in burning fat at a higher rate. [1]

The mechanism sounds promising, but there are concerns regarding these diets. So let us discuss the Atkins diet, Paleo diet, and Keto diet, what they are, how different and similar they are, and the benefits and risks of following a ketogenic diet.

Source: Lybrate Low carb diet #1 Atkins diet

➢ The Atkins diet was introduced in the American market in the 1960s and developed by cardiologist Robert Atkins. He proposed that carbohydrates, not fat, were responsible for weight gain and health problems.

➢ The diet focuses on consuming a lot of protein and a moderate amount of fat (e.g. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, and cheese) while restricting carbohydrate intake to no more than 20g a day.

Low carb diet #2: Paleo diet

➢ The Paleo diet was introduced by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin in the 1970s. He proposed that foods from the past (i.e. 10,000 years ago) that humans obtained by farming, hunting, and gathering would make contemporary people healthier.

➢ This diet consists of the approximate caloric breakdown of 35% from fat, 35% from carbohydrates, and 30% from proteins with approximately 100g of dietary fiber a day. [2]

A Paleo diet focuses on meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, yams, sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, olives, and fresh/unprocessed coconut. It avoids processed foods such as sugar, soft drinks, dairy products, legumes, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, and margarine. Simply put, the goal is to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods.

➢ Among these three diets, the Paleo diet is the least restrictive regarding carbohydrate intake.

Source: verywellfit

Low carb diet #3: Ketogenic diet (KD)

➢ The ketogenic diet has been used to treat intractable epilepsy in children since the 1920s. The proposed mechanism was that a ketogenic diet would imitate starvation, and thus reduce seizure activity. Other studies of disease and disorders have been performed utilizing this diet including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cancer, and diabetes. [3,4]

➢ This diet is high in fat, adequate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. A typical keto diet consists of 70-80% fats, 20% proteins, and 5-10% carbohydrate (20-50g per day) from non-starchy vegetables. This diet is considered a “very low carbohydrate diet, high fat” diet.

🍞 Examples of low carb diet:

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread = 15g carbohydrate

  • 1 cup of blueberries = 18g carbohydrate

  • 1 medium sized apple = 22g carbohydrate

The benefits of ketogenic diet

➢ Both the consensus report for diabetes care from clinical professionals and a recent study [5,6] concluded that a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet (“ketogenic diet”) does lead to:

○ Blood glucose (A1c) reduction

○ Weight loss

○ Less hunger and less desire to eat

○ Lower blood pressure

Increase in HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and a decrease in LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol).

The risks of ketogenic diet

➢ While taking these benefits into account, practitioners and patients should take note that there are also common side effects of adhering to a very low carbohydrate diet such as: [7,8] nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, a difficulty in exercise tolerance, and constipation.

➢ More importantly, a very low carbohydrate diet may reduce the intake of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can all be safely consumed from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pulses (beans, peas, and lentils).

Most studies on keto diets are performed for a duration under 2 years, and thus only short-term benefits are known. Studies of the long-term effects of this diet are still in progress. Until those studies emerge, there will be an ongoing debate regarding which diet would provide weight loss along with health benefits while also preventing short and long-term negative effects.

We each have our own diet history and preferences. Therefore, the best diet plan should be one that is likely to be sustainable so that it can be enjoyable and easy to attain. If you want to learn more, health care practitioners at Doctorhere are here to help you find the right individualized, customized plan for you.


[1] Brouns, F. (2018). Overweight and diabetes prevention: is a low carbohydrate–high-fat diet recommendable?. European journal of nutrition, 57(4), 1301-1312.

[2] Jamka, M., Kulczyński, B., Juruć, A., Gramza-Michałowska, A., Stokes, C. S., & Walkowiak, J. (2020). The Effect of the Paleolithic Diet vs. Healthy Diets on Glucose and Insulin Homeostasis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(2), 296.

[3] D’Andrea Meira, I., Romão, T. T., Pires do Prado, H. J., Krüger, L. T., Pires, M. E. P., & da Conceição, P. O. (2019). Ketogenic diet and epilepsy: what we know so far. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 5.

[4] Ludwig, D. S. (2020). The ketogenic diet: evidence for optimism but high-quality research needed. The Journal of Nutrition, 150(6), 1354-1359.

[5] Evert, A. B., Dennison, M., Gardner, C. D., Garvey, W. T., Lau, K. H. K., MacLeod, J., … & Yancy Jr, W. S. (2019). Nutrition therapy for adults with diabetes or prediabetes: a consensus report.Diabetes care, 42(5), 731-754.

[6] Abbasi, J. (2018). Interest in the ketogenic diet grows for weight loss and type 2 diabetes. Jama, 319(3), 215-217.

[7] Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S. V., de Oliveira, S. L., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(7), 1178-1187.

[8] Bostock, E., Kirkby, K. C., Taylor, B. V., & Hawrelak, J. A. (2020). Consumer reports of “keto flu” associated with the ketogenic diet. Frontiers in nutrition, 20.

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