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The Keto Diet and Type 2 Diabetes: Here's What Happened When I Tried It

 

Headstone with the word "Bacon" on itMuch as I'd like to keep eating bacon and eggs everyday, the foods that made me love eating again don't love my lipids.

I am a keto diet dropout. 

Two years ago, after three months on the high saturated fat diet, my LDL’s—the bad cholesterol—jumped to dizzying heights, along with my usually stellar HDL’s. 

The results were presented by my endocrinologist at my six-month exam. I expected him to rave over my lowered weight, but he got hung up on my cholesterol.

“You’ve always been so stable,” he said, eyes on his computer screen. “Anything up?”

At first, I hesitated. Keto diets are popular. And effective. But they also contain all those foods that type 2’s—who are prone to cardiovascular disease—have been warned off of for years. Butter, whole dairy cream, fatty steaks, streaky bacon and whole eggs. 

Foods that had made me love eating again. 

If I let him know what I had been doing, I reasoned, he probably was going to lecture me. But what could he say? So, what if my cholesterol had a little blip: my A1C had dropped to 6 from 6.3, my blood sugars were the best they had been, and my blood pressure was even lower. 

Not to mention that I was wearing my skinny jeans that I hadn’t been able to button and zip since I’d given birth to my second son. 

I cleared my throat. I figured I’d own up. I had plenty of evidence on my side. 

Why Me?

“I’m doing keto,” I told him. 

“Really,” he said, noncommittally. Then, “I know some patients who have had good success with that.”

I had braced myself for a fight. 

“I really feel great,” I said, relieved. “My sugars are really low. I’ve read about people who go off their medications. Or even reverse their diabetes.” 

“I mean, why can’t that be me?” I asked. 

My doctor nodded. 

“Well,” he said. “Let’s say your lipids have me concerned.  We can put you on a statin, and they’ll probably drop.” He wrinkled his brow. “But how about if we talk about modifying the diet.

At once, visions of butter-soaked eggs passed before my eyes, followed by piles of shimmering short ribs.

“How?” I asked suspiciously.

“What about subbing turkey bacon rather than pork? Or going for egg whites and leaving the yolks behind. Or having three whites and one yolk?”

“No bacon?” I said trying not to whine. “One yolk?”

“How many times a week are you eating bacon and eggs?”

“Every morning,” I said. “Seven times.”

He nodded. 

And then he began to talk. In the end, he didn’t say to stop keto. He simply said he might cut back—not only on my lovely  butter and cream, but also the amounts of animal protein. He told me everything I had suspected from the start, that while the diet took off pounds with rapid ease, the standard keto diet, so high saturated fat diet might actually—deep breath—not be right for all people with type 2 diabetes. 

“All is not lost,” he said. “Eat more fish. Avocado. Tofu.”

Tofu. My heart dropped.

We finished the examination, shook hands, and parted. 

“Best of luck,” he said, as I made my way out of his office.  I forced a smile. I knew that to prevent any heart problems, I had to rethink the diet. 

At the front desk, I scheduled my next appointment. 

“Have a good day!” the receptionist said. 

But bacon!! I wanted to cry.

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