Keto Diet & Insulin Resistance

Published: July 10, 2019

Keto Diet & Insulin Resistance

Does the ketogenic diet have an effect on insulin resistance in a negative way? Well, in order to answer this question I have to first address what insulin resistance actually is. And then we’ll dive into some studies that take a look at the short-term effects of the ketogenic diet on insulin resistance, but then the long-term effects. Does the ketogenic diet actually effect our ability to process glucose and could it make us insulin resistant? Well, we’ll dive into all of that. I’m Thomas DeLauer with Keto-Mojo and we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty of insulin resistance and sensitivity.

What is Insulin Resistance?

So, first and foremost, insulin resistance is where your cells are essentially not able to process insulin anymore. They become resistant to it. So, in essence, when you consume some carbohydrates what normally happens in your body is your pancreas secretes insulin and this insulin tells the cell to open up and let glucose in. Well, if someone’s been consuming tons and tons of glucose to the point of ultimately making themselves diabetic what happens is the cells no longer open the door when glucose knocks. So glucose comes to the cell, knocks, says “Hey, can you let this sugar in?” and the cell just never opens the door. That’s insulin resistance. Insulin sensitivity is the opposite. That’s where the cell just opens the door for anybody and everybody. Not quite that extreme, but essentially the cell is just very sensitive.

Annals of Internal Medicine Journal Study

So, in order to make some sense of insulin resistance as it pertains to the ketogenic diet, let’s take a look at a study that was published in “Annals of Internal Medicine”. So, this took a look at 10 obese patients. Okay, these 10 obese patients had type two diabetes, and for one week they had them eat their normal diet. Then, after that one week was up, they had them go on a ketogenic diet for two weeks, okay? After the ketogenic diet they found that the test subjects had lost about 1.65 kilograms, which was just a positive side effect, I suppose, but they found that their insulin sensitivity went up 75%. What that means is their insulin resistance reduced 75%. So, type two diabetic patients that were having a serious issue with insulin resistance had much less insulin resistance after being on a keto diet for just two weeks. This is powerful because it shows that simply by reducing the carbohydrate intake and switching over to using ketones as fuel the body didn’t need the glucose as much so it was able to sort of relax and recover a little bit.

Endocrinology Journal Study

But the question that comes to mind, a question that actually comes up quite a bit, is if someone is on a keto diet for a longer period of time could it make them insulin resistant, too? And the reason that that question comes up is because people realize that if you go a long period of time without eating carbohydrates, does your body sort of lose the machinery, does it sort of lose the ability to process glucose? Well, there’s a study that was published in the journal Endocrinology that took a look at this. Now, the interesting thing is this study looked at rats, but full disclaimer, when you’re looking at sort of the cellular level like this it’s really still close to comparing apples to apples. It’s not entirely, it’s maybe a gala apple to a jazz apple, but it’s still pretty darn close, okay? So this study was looking at peripheral and central insulin levels in response to the keto diet for a longer period of time. So, what it is, it took two groups of rats. One group of rats just went on a regular diet and another group of rats went on a ketogenic diet for eight weeks, okay? At the end of the eight weeks they had the rats go back on a normal diet. And what they found is when they came off keto, went back on a normal diet, they had a big spike in blood glucose and a big spike in insulin. At first glance that sounds bad. We’re like uh oh. Okay, we found out that when these rats went on a keto diet for a while and they came off keto they were somewhat insulin resistant, their bodies weren’t processing it. They weren’t processing the glucose. Now, what was interesting, though, is after just one week it normalized. So, right when they came off keto their body was kind of like whoa, what’s going on with these carbohydrates, we don’t know what this is, and it sort of lacked the ability to process it, but within one week the levels had come back down to those of the group that didn’t do the keto diet. So, it only took a week for everything to balance back out.

Endocrinology Journal Study Results

Now, what’s really cool with this is central insulin resistance balanced back out the way that it should, but peripheral insulin resistance might have stayed elevated for a little while. Now, what does that mean? Peripheral insulin resistance is at the individual cell level. Basically what ended up happening, after just eight weeks of being on the ketogenic diet the rats now had the ability, or their bodies had the ability, to sort of dictate what cells needed glucose and what cells didn’t. Rather than just having it be a systemic master switch, it was auxiliary switches at the individual cell level. So, in a way, although we did have a little bit of insulin resistance for a short period of time upon cessation of the keto diet, we really made the body more, I don’t know, flexible. So, the ketogenic diet has some powerful effects when it comes down to insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance. We can’t always look at insulin resistance as a bad thing. If you’re always insulin resistant, yeah, that’s bad, but if you have the ability to toggle it on and off especially at the individual cell level throughout the body that can be a very powerful thing. You don’t always need to be bombarding your body with glucose.

So, either way, the ketogenic diet seems to still be paving the way when it comes down to helping out all kinds of different ailments but also just helping our bodies become more normalized when it comes down to energy metabolism. So, if you’re looking to see where you’re at in the ketogenic spectrum, you want to measure your ketones, you’re always going to want to make sure you leave the guesswork out of the equation and see where you’re really at and leave the measuring to the Keto-Mojo meter. The gold standard when it comes to ketone measurement. As always, keep it locked in here with Keto-Mojo. I’m Thomas DeLauer and I’ll see you in the next video.


Get our FREE keto recipe eBook and email newsletter!

We create truly outstanding keto recipes, test them to make sure they'll work in your kitchen, and deliver them straight to you!