Body fat to treat diabetes: Will it work here?

A newly discovered method of replacing glucose with body fat to beat diabetes is being considered as a revolutionary way of fighting the condition which is of epidemic proportion in India.

Published: 12th February 2018 01:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th February 2018 10:11 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: A newly discovered method of replacing glucose with body fat to beat diabetes is being considered as a revolutionary way of fighting the condition which is of epidemic proportion in India.
But Indian carbohydrate-heavy food culture may not allow this treatment -- which involves no medical or surgical intervention -- to settle down here as a cure for diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes). A recently published study has shown that ketosis (when the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns fat instead) could reverse Type 2 diabetes.

The study, compiled by San Francisco-based Virta Health, reports that the treatment could also improve other chronic metabolic diseases without medication or surgical intervention.The study oversaw 349 Type-2 diabetes patients over a year. Of them 87, received usual care provided by their own physicians and dieticians following the American Diabetes Association recommendations. The other 262 patients adopted a low carbohydrate, high fat nutrition.

The 262 patients had non-starchy carbohydrates with a moderate protein intake. This enabled patients to sustain ketosis, where the body uses fat as its primary fuel source instead of glucose. The patients themselves logged in their blood sugar and ketone (molecules produced by the liver from fatty acids during low carb diet) levels in an app devised for the purpose of this study.The investigators monitored the patient’s levels and made adjustments accordingly to avoid hypoglycemic events (where blood sugar levels drop below normal).

Patients exhibited an average decrease of 1.3 per cent in average blood glucose and also saw 12 per cent weight loss during the year.The findings demonstrated a reversal in diabetes progression. At least 94 per cent of those who received the Virta treatment decreased insulin dosage or stopped it by the year’s end.
In contrast, usual care participants experienced no significant changes in diabetes medication use.
India has 10 million cases of Type 2 diabetes every year and is often called the diabetic capital of the world.


Sheela Krishnaswamy, diet and nutrition consultant, said in India, carbohydrates form 60 to 65 per cent of the total calorie intake. It can be brought down to 50 to 55 per cent. “Vegetarians get their carbs from vegetables, fruits and dal. So, to bring it down to a ketogenic diet is very challenging in India. A balanced diet approach will work better for diabetics. No refined sugars or maida but adequate amount of carbohydrates and protein, and lots of fibre through vegetables and some amount of fruit, provided the blood sugar is controlled, is advisable,” she said.   Farhana Afroz, chief dietician, Healthcare Global Hospital, said, “Diabetics may already have high fat levels in the body, and to consume fat and protein as a source of energy on an everyday basis is not advisable in the long run. Milk has lactose sugars so even that can’t be consumed in a ketogenic diet. We have more subcutaneous fat compared to westerners. Our chances of storing fat is much higher. Ketogenic diet can be taken temporarily for doing weight loss corrections. But the body can go into diabetic ketoacidosis (a serious complication that occurs when the body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones).”

India Matters


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