Yes, you read that correctly. You would think it’s the opposite as most information you’ll find would say to restrict carbs/follow the keto diet to regulate your blood sugar once you’re pre-diabetic or actually have diabetes. But what if it’s actually the contrary?

First, let’s look at some stats and more info about diabetes.

What is diabetes?

After we eat, carbs are digested and broken down into glucose. This triggers insulin to go up, a hormone that helps cells absorb sugar from the bloodstream so they can use it for energy. However, if sugar can’t get into cells because of broken insulin, sugar in the bloodstream continues to increase, hence weird values on your blood test.

Over time this chronic high blood sugar can damage blood vessels, nerves, and organs which can lead to serious complications aka diabetes. Diabetes is also often accompanied by high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) and can accelerate damage to blood vessels.

As you may know, there are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, meaning the body is attacking itself. In this case, body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. This is why they rely on insulin to live! With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and/or the body does not properly use the insulin it makes.

For the purpose of this article, I am referring to type 2 whenever I write “diabetes”

Symptoms of high blood sugar

Many people don’t feel any symptoms, but if they do, these are the most common ones: excessive peeing, excessive thirst, and unexplained weight loss.

How is it diagnosed?

Diabetes is diagnosed via a simple blood test. If you see glucose on your blood test sheet, that’s what it is! There are three times at which blood sugar can be tested:

  • Fasted
  • 2 hours after a “glucose challenge”
  • Randomly
Fasting blood sugar (mmol/L)2-hour glucose challengeCasual plasma glucose
NormalLess than 5.6andLess than 7.8
Prediabetes5.6-6.9and/or7.8-11
DiabetesMore than 6.9orMore than 11orMore than 11 with symptoms of diabetes

After an overnight fast, this value should be lower than 5.6 mmol/L (fasting blood glucose). However, they sometimes also test glucose after a glucose challenge aka they give you sugar water and test the value then when they suspect there is something off. Here, the value should be lower than 7.8 mml/L (glucose challenge).  Finally, there’s also a random blood sugar test, which can be taken at any time regardless of when you last ate, and this value should be less than 11.1 mmol/L (random blood glucose). To summarize, if your fasting blood sugar is higher than 7 mmol/L or your glucose challenge value at higher than 11.1 mmol/L, you may have diabetes. Anything in between the normal and diabetes values is considered pre-diabetic.

To make things even more confusing, there is another test called A1C, which takes the average blood sugar of the past 2-3 months. This value should be less than 7%.

Stats:

Diabetes affects 7.3% of Canadians aged 12 years and older, and men more than women. 50% of people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

Risk factors:

Diabetes us multifactorial. Many people think it only happens to people above a certain BMI, but high blood sugar could happen in all bodies. Some risk factors include physical inactivity. Tobacco smoking, depression, schizophrenia, low vitamin D status, low fiber intake, socioeconomic factors, and genetics. Those of South Asian, Hispanic American, Chinese, and African ancestry are at greater risk.

Interestingly enough, weight bias and weight stigma are also factors. If this is the first time you hear these words, they refer to the negative attitudes towards, beliefs about, and discrimination against others because of their weight. Weight stigma

The link between dieting and blood sugar

I am going to repeat it for the 1000th time, we don’t know how to lose weight and keep it off. I know I still haven’t convinced you because you know someone who succeeded. But for every person that succeeds, about 15 people will fail. Not only that, they will lose and regain the weight, known as weight cycling. Unfortunately, weight cycling actually leased to inflammation. Ok bear with me for the explanation: Weight cycling causes changes in body fat in a way that creates an environment low in oxygen (hypoxic). Hypoxic body fat secretes leptin, which increase white blood cells. These white blood cells (macrophages) release pro-inflammatory compounds. Briefly, weight cycling or yo-yo dieting causes inflammation, which can increase your risk of most chronic diseases, including diabetes. It can also increase the risk for complications.

What’s more is that dieting often leads to disordered eating, which itself indirectly causes poor blood sugar control because of stress. See the following image for more info.

Now we still need more research on the subject, but knowing losing weight and keeping it off is almost impossible, why not focus on adopting healthy eating and exercise behaviors to lower your risk?

TL;DR: Stress caused by dieting can cause both physiological and emotional changes that lead to unbalanced blood sugar values.

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