The use of ketogenic diets in children with diabetes is relatively rare but research shows the diet to hold promise.
Research that exists suggests that children treated with a ketogenic diet have found improvements in the quality of their life through the diet without any major adverse effects.
Most research in children has been carried out in those with type 2 diabetes or obesity, and currently there is a lack of research into the effects of the diet in children with type 1 diabetes.
It is important that a ketogenic diet is followed by children only if it has the approval of the child’s doctor.
Ketogenic diet and type 2 diabetes
The ketogenic diet may be an effective short-term, and possibly long-term, therapy for pre-adolescent and adolescent children with type 2 diabetes.
Within a few days on the diet, blood sugar levels can decrease to a normal, healthy range, sometimes up to a point where the use of diabetes medication may become no longer needed.
In one study looking at the effect of a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet in the treatment of teenagers with type 2 diabetes, the diet resulted in a significant decrease in HbA1c, from to 73 to 57 mmol/mol (8.8 to 7.4 %), while average daily blood glucose values fell from 8.9 to 5.5 mmol/l.
The teenagers also lost significant weight over the study period with their BMI falling from 44 to 39 over a period of up to two years.
Whilst this was a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet, it suggests that other forms of ketogenic diets, such as low-carb ketogenic diets, may benefit children with type 2 diabetes too.
Ketogenic diet and type 1 diabetes
There has been a lack of research studies investigating ketogenic diets for children with type 1 diabetes The research that does exist is limited to case studies.
In children with type 1 diabetes, there is evidence that a ketogenic diet lowers the need for insulin, reduces the number of hypos and leads to improved HbA1c levels. A case study from 2010 showed these results from a three-and-a-half-year-old girl with epilepsy and type 1 diabetes.
A case study by Hungarian doctor Csaba Tóth has showed that a ketogenic Paleo diet may help to slow down the development of type 1 diabetes in children.
A nine-year-old boy who had been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, was able to come off insulin for two years by following a ketogenic Paleo diet.
This was possible because the boy was recently diagnosed and was being medically supervised. It is important that people with type 1 diabetes do not attempt to come off their insulin.
Ketogenic diet for obese teenagers
Ketogenic diets show significant promise for helping obese teenagers to lose weight.
A number of studies have shown a ketogenic diet to lead to greater weight loss in overweight adolescents than low-fat or low-calorie diets.
As we saw, when we looked at the diet’s use in children with type 2 diabetes, the diet can be adhered to and produce weight loss over a lengthy period of time -up to two years and possibly longer.
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