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Can the Keto Diet Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

Can the ketogenic diet reverse type 2 diabetes?

Usually yes, the majority of people can reverse or put in remission the condition of type 2 diabetes (elevated blood sugar) by following a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. Not a cure, but the condition can go into remission as long as the individual continues to follow a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet.

Table of contents

What is type 2 Diabetes?

The normal range of blood sugar is between 72-99mg/dL while fasting. Normal Hemoglobin A1c levels are between 5.7% and 6.4%. Fasting blood sugar levels consistently above 100mg/dL along with A1c levels of 6.5% or higher could indicate type 2 diabetes.

How does the keto diet put type 2 diabetes in remission?

By lowering sugar and refined carbohydrate intake the blood sugar in the body goes down. With lower blood sugar the pancreas doesn’t produce as much insulin.

Without the constant bombardment of insulin, over time, the cells become more receptive to the effects of insulin and the sensitivity improves. The combination of less ingested sugar/carbohydrates and better insulin sensitivity usually leads to normalized blood sugar levels.

If caught early enough, a type 2 diabetic can usually control their blood sugar through a Ketogenic Diet without drugs.

Can keto cure type 2 diabetes?

I don’t like to use the word cure. Yes, a low carbohydrate diet can lower blood sugar to non-diabetic levels. However, if you return to eating the crappy, starchy diet that contributed to you becoming insulin resistant in the first place, your type 2 diabetes will return.

keto reverse type 2 diabetes

What are the dangers of high blood sugar?

This is why it’s important to understand how keto and type 2 diabetes work together. A low carbohydrate diet (Keto) lowers blood sugar. High blood sugar (glucose), also known as hyperglycemia is toxic and can damage nerves throughout your entire body.

Diabetic nephropathy is the most severe danger because hyperglycemia destroys nerves primarily in the eyes, legs, and feet and kidneys.

What is the actual condition that causes type 2 diabetes?

Normally insulin binds to the protein receptor of the cell and directs the cell to absorb glucose in the blood to use as an energy source.

In type 2 diabetes, it is believed that the insulin binds to the cell, but the signal is not sent into the cell and the cells don’t uptake the glucose. Subsequently, blood sugar builds up.

Why do people get type 2 Diabetes?

Typically, type 2 diabetes is a condition of insulin resistance. Eating sugar and/or refined carbohydrates in excess or too frequently stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels.

Constant exposure to excess insulin over time causes the cells in the body to become resistant to the effects of insulin. The effect is glucose building up in the blood resulting in levels considered diabetic.

Normally insulin binds to the protein receptor of the cell and directs the cell to absorb glucose in the blood to use as an energy source.

What’s the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 Diabetes?

In the case of type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce insulin. The type 1 diabetic has to inject insulin into their body to control blood glucose.

Type 1 Diabetes is a medical condition and currently, there is no cure. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

You could say type 1 diabetes is not enough insulin and type 2 is too much. While a ketogenic diet can help a type 1 diabetic, they will still need medical supervision and exogenous insulin injections for the rest of their life.

Why is there so much controversy about reversing type 2 diabetes with keto?

It doesn’t work for everyone. There are a lot of variables that go along with type 2 Diabetes. This is a condition that slowly emerges usually later in life due to many years of poor diet and lack of exercise.

In some cases it is genetic, a person’s beta cells fail for unknown reasons and the insulin receptors don’t function properly, but this is a fairly rare condition.

The sooner someone identifies the problem and takes steps to improve the condition the better chance they will have at reversing type 2 diabetes with a low carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet.

We don’t develop type 2 diabetes overnight, it will take discipline, patience and time to heal.

Quite often the low carbohydrate diet doesn’t work to reverse insulin resistance because the individual gives up to soon and doesn’t give it enough time. Insulin resistance is usually a slowly progressive illness that can take 1 or 2 decades to manifest. You didn’t get sick overnight and you’re not going to heal overnight.

The bottom line is that even if a low carbohydrate diet doesn’t improve insulin sensitivity enough to eliminate the need for medication. Reducing the foods that spike blood sugar will definitely lower blood glucose levels and reduce the need to take as much medication.

One question I get quite often on Quora is: How can I reverse Type 2 diabetes naturally?

Remember, almost all medication has side effects and many of the side effects/complications don’t manifest until years later. So reversing type 2 diabetes naturally is by far the best choice for long term health.

For example, statins have been prescribed for years as a way to lower cholesterol. According to this study published in the Diabetes Journal, statins might have an adverse effect on cognitive function.

Here are some factors that influence type 2 diabetes:

The below-listed factors sometimes work in combination. For example, a poor diet can contribute to both inflammation and substandard probiotics in the gut (intestinal microbiota).

Also in the more advanced stages of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas eventually burns out and can’t produce enough insulin. Unfortunately, those individuals might need exogenous insulin. That’s why it’s important to catch it early.

Factors that influence type 2 diabetes:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Inflammation
  • Intestinal microbiota
  • Exercise
  • Dietary history

Genetics affects type 2 diabetes

This is something we can’t control so there is little value in focusing on genetics. The bottom line is we inherit genes from our parents and some people through a genetic flaw lose the ability to process blood glucose properly.

Their pancreas still produces insulin so they are not a type 1 diabetic, but their insulin receptors don’t respond properly and blood sugar builds up in the body.

Some people just have a medical failure, either their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or their B-cell insulin secretory function fails. They’re also other medical conditions that exist that could cause someone to produce insulin, but their blood sugar still can’t be controlled through diet. These conditions are fairly rare and again since it’s uncontrollable, there’s no reason to focus on it.

A great keto drink

Age is a factor in type 2 diabetes

As we get older our body doesn’t work as well as it used to. Some people as they get older the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or with others the insulin receptors lose sensitivity.

As we get older it becomes more and more important to reduce the dietary intake of simple sugars/starches and carbohydrates and improve the controllable factors as listed above.


Do you smoke and drink, get poor sleep, and let yourself get stressed out? If so you might be putting yourself at risk in developing type 2 diabetes. Pollution and exposure to other toxins like drugs, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, and chemical vapors could injure the immune system and lead to metabolic illnesses like type 2 diabetes and even cancer.

The liver not only detoxifies the body but is paramount in the process of sugar and fat metabolism. Learn how to improve liver function and prevent fatty liver disease in this article.

Lowering inflammation can improve type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance

Inflammation is becoming known as a contributing factor in cardiovascular disease, mitochondrial dysfunction, and efficient B -cell insulin secretory function. Here is a great resource that shows the science of Inflammation, stress, and diabetes.

This article explains how eating healthy fats can reduce inflammation.

Additionally, here is a good resource for some effective supplements that can reduce inflammation.

Intestinal microbiota

We’ve talked about how keto can reverse type 2 diabetes, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Eating a low carb diet itself is not enough if you don’t consume foods that seed and feed your intestinal flora (gut microbiota).

Some of it is emerging science, for example, we know that infants that are breastfed are more healthy than infants that are bottle-fed. The mother passes on her microbiome (beneficial bacteria) to the child through breast milk. There is recent research that even shows a non-diverse microbiome contributes to autism in children.

Could possibly a non-diverse microbiome as a child also contribute to one becoming type 2 diabetic later in life? That is why fixing digestive health and the intestinal flora should be one of the first steps in reversing type 2 Diabetes.

Exercise can improve insulin function

Muscle glycogen is sugar stored in the muscle and liver to be used for short term energy (anaerobic). Glycogen is the primary energy substrate during exercise intensity above 70% of maximal oxygen uptake (Vo2max⁡).

Think of your muscles as tanks full of glycogen. The tanks have to be emptied once in a while or they will overfill. Once overfilled the excess blood glucose has nowhere to go. Exercise empties your tanks and makes them ready to be filled back up again. Exercise helps insulin work more efficiently by making insulin receptors more sensitive to insulin.

Any exercise helps, even a brisk walk, but resistance training/weight lifting is the most effective way to deplete muscle glycogen. Here is a great resource that goes into detail on weight lifting and the low carbohydrate ketogenic diet.

Dietary History

There was a reason parents used to make kids eat vegetables and not snack in between meals. Normally type 2 diabetes caused by insulin resistance is a slow process that takes many years to manifest, but now even kids are getting it. Keto can reverse type 2 diabetes but the sooner we fix our diet the better.

Kids as young as 10 years old are getting type 2 diabetes now.

From 2002 to 2012 the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes increased at 4.8 percent. The study included 2,846 youth ages 10-19 with type 2 diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity rates were 13.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% among 12- to 19-year-olds. See the problem? The CDC has it backward.

Reduce processed food consumption to help to reverse type 2 diabetes

Processed and packaged foods are typically loaded with sugar, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. They contribute to inflammation and will slow down the ability of keto to put type 2 diabetes in remission. Here is a comprehensive article on why we shouldn’t eat processed foods.

Obesity doesn’t cause type 2 diabetes. It’s insulin resistance that contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The results speak for themselves. The alarming increase in type 2 diabetes correlates closely with the large increase in sugar consumption in the last 50 years. The article goes in great detail about how and why excess sugar consumption is bad for you.

The longer and more often you subject your body to high insulin, the higher chance you will develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Of the 7 factors that contribute to diabetes listed above. Insulin resistance is by far the leading contributing factor to type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest for us to control through a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. Before you roll your eyes and click off this page please understand that a ketogenic diet is not a no-carb diet.

You are just replacing simple sugars and starches with complex carbohydrates mostly in the form of vegetables. Before you assume anything about keto, please read this article that debunks most of the keto myths.

Insulin Resistance can also contribute to fatty liver disease

This article on PubMed says Insulin resistance precedes the development of type 2 diabetes by 10 to 15 years. The development of insulin resistance results in an increase in endogenous insulin production. Elevated levels of insulin results in a pancreatic beta-cell activity that can no longer adequately meet the insulin demand created by insulin resistance.

In other words, the cells won’t allow the insulin to put the glucose inside anymore. It’s a feedback mechanism that protects itself. Insulin becomes toxic to the cells because of overexposure.

Without proper insulin function, glucose builds up in the blood. The pancreas then detects the excess glucose and produces even more insulin which makes the cells even more resistant to insulin.

Insulin resistance is a vicious cycle

Mechanism of insulin resistance
Mechanism of insulin resistance
The mechanism of insulin resistance

A ketogenic diet can reverse type 2 diabetes

It’s true, I am just one example. You can read about my keto transformation here. One of the leaders of diabetes reversal is Verta Health.

This is Virta Health’s definition of type 2 diabetes reversal:

Maintaining an HbA1c below 6.5%, with the elimination of all diabetic medications removed (except for metformin).

Virta Health

Here are a few (48) testimonials if you care to read about other people’s success with reversing type 2 diabetes with a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. There are multiple studies available to prove that it works.

Here is a study published on the Frontiers of Endocrinology that shows that intervention (ketogenic diet) was also effective in the resolution of diabetes and visceral obesity with no adverse effect on bone health.

How does a keto diet reverse type 2 diabetes?

You have to lower the insulin levels in the body by reducing glucose in the blood. You lower glucose by eating less frequently, but more importantly, by reducing the amount of sugars/starches and carbohydrates that you eat. Following a ketogenic diet can potentially reverse type 2 diabetes.

Lowering insulin levels in the body over time causes the insulin receptors to improve their insulin sensitivity. Here is an excellent explanation of the ketogenic diet.

Even if insulin sensitivity doesn’t improve much, with lower glucose in the blood your pancreas doesn’t have to produce as much insulin. Your pancreas gets a break, and your insulin receptors are not constantly being bombarded with insulin.

Since you don’t have much excess glucose in the blood, there is less sugar being sent to your kidneys and your kidneys also get a break.

It’s absolutely insane to first try and lower blood sugar with drugs. Why not just quit eating the sugar that causes the high blood sugar in the first place?

Robert Bryant

Taking drugs to remove the sugar from your blood is like putting a glove on when your hand is burning over a fire. Why not just remove your hand from the fire?

Excess sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes

I know, some of you will say that not everyone can lower their blood sugar without drugs.

I understand that, but I will contend that most people that say that have not really tried a ketogenic diet to lower their blood sugar. They just don’t want to, most people feel that changing their diet to a ketogenic diet is on their “to hard-to-do list”. They would be wrong. It’s really not that hard.

I do understand there really is a segment of the population that for medical reasons can’t lower their blood sugar through diet no matter how hard they try and for those, I truly do apologize, but my message for those unfortunate individuals is:

This information is really not for you, you have to get help from a doctor.

keto and the rise in type 2 diabetes
Food consumption and rise in diabetes

Type 2 diabetes symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excess thirst
  • Swelling of feet, ankles, fingers, and face
  • Water retention
  • Tingling feeling/numbness in extremities
  • Diabetic neuropathy (cell damage)
  • Renal neuropathy (eye damage)
  • Skin tags
  • Arthritis
  • Yeast infections/rashes
  • A feeling of low blood sugar
  • Feeling the need to snack between meals
  • Craving sweets and starches

The key to putting type 2 diabetes in remission is by understanding blood sugar levels

Knowing the science behind the “hangry” phenomenon is the key to reversing type 2 diabetes through diet. This article explains why we get Hangry.

You have to break the cycle by getting fat or keto-adapted with a ketogenic diet.

Fasting really helps. Going for periods of zero food intake can drastically lower insulin levels in the body. Here is a great guide to intermittent fasting and OMAD (eating one meal a day).

This takes time, the first three weeks will be difficult, but if you stick with it long term you will most likely beat type 2 diabetes and will be able to live a completely healthy life. Keto flu and keto constipation are possible temporary side effects, so I will give you ways to prevent each:

Why did I use the ketogenic diet to reverse my type 2 diabetes?

Because I didn’t want the side effects associated with taking drugs and I like toes better than french fries. Plus drugs can’t reverse type 2 diabetes, they just temporarily mask the symptoms.

Eventually, drugs would not be enough and I would most likely suffer from kidney failure, blindness, or foot amputations. I really didn’t want to live my final days in a wheelchair or hospital bed.

A low carbohydrate in conjunction with extended fasting can actually help you live a longer healthier life.

If you want to take the plunge and save your own life here is how to start a keto diet and a keto diet beginners guide.

Can dietary supplements lower blood sugar?

I didn’t even want to include this information because I don’t want people to think they can just take a supplement and not change their diet and everything will be OK. I tried this route for about 10 years and my blood sugar kept going up until I reduced my sugar and carbohydrate intake.

These supplements have a very minimal impact on blood sugar and unless you radically change your diet they will be a waste of money. However, this question keeps coming up so I did include the most promising supplements.

There have been studies that have shown that certain supplements can lower blood sugar modestly.

Out of all the supplements that can help with blood sugar, sulforaphane and berberine are by far the most promising. By the way, sulforaphane is found in broccoli sprouts and is one of my top 14 keto superfoods. Here is a list of the most researched supplements for lowering blood sugar:

  • Sulforaphane
  • Berberine
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Fenugreek
  • Ceylon cinnamon
  • Gymnema sylvestre
  • Bitter melon (Momordica charantia)
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
  • Vanadium
  • Polyphenols
  • Banaba
  • American ginseng
  • Prickly Pear

Ok doctors listen up. Let’s start diagnosing type 2 diabetes long before it’s full-blown diabetes.

Doctors can diagnose prediabetes before type 2 diabetes and that’s a good start, but…There is a way to diagnose metabolic syndrome long before prediabetes. Doctors should schedule a C-Peptide test during routine physicals for everyone.

The C-peptide test is used to measure pancreatic beta-cell function. C-Peptide is produced in equal amounts to endogenous insulin but is excreted at a more constant rate over a longer time.

Why don’t doctors order a C-Peptide test to diagnose (possible future) type 2 diabetes?

If someone has high C-Peptide readings then they have high insulin. They won’t be diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes because the blood sugar might still be normal because the extra insulin is removing the extra sugar.

If excess insulin causes insulin resistance, which is widely believed, then high C-Peptide readings could lead to future insulin resistance and future diabetes.

We could diagnose type 2 diabetes much earlier, prescribe a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet, and prevent most type 2 diabetes from ever occurring. Yes, it wouldn’t be perfect, but what would it hurt? It would give the doctor and patient more knowledge about their health.

Doctors would have another tool in their toolbox. It seems like such a no-brainer and yet doctors do not routinely order C-Peptide tests when they conduct physicals and/or exams. Help me get the word out to change this.

Here is my diabetes remission story: Keto diet transformation

More questions about keto? Here are the top 25 questions on the keto diet answered.

Robert Bryant
Robert Bryant

Type 2 diabetes is a passion of mine. I talk to people about it daily. Honestly, I don’t typically get a very positive reception. When I tell people that type 2 diabetes can go away by simply changing their diet, they don’t want to hear it. To this day I don’t understand this mentality.

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