Ottawa researcher probes impact of ketogenic diet on Type 2 diabetics


Ottawa medical researchers are leading a project to see if cutting carbohydrates from the diet of people with type 2 diabetes can improve disease management.

About half of young adults across Canada are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the most frequently diagnosed disease, during their lifetime. Although the risk can be reduced by making healthier lifestyle choices, millions of Canadians are still likely to develop diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction in the body in which the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 is more likely to develop during puberty and is often associated with genetic factors.

Type 2 diabetes may be related to diet and other lifestyle factors, but genetics may play a role in diagnosis.

For more information about type 1 diabetes, check out our "Lace Up" story.

Dr. Erin Mulvihill, assistant professor and researcher at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, explained that in type 2 diabetes, the body can produce insulin, but it doesn’t respond effectively. No insulin signal Unlike type 1 diabetes, in type 2 diabetes there is an insulin signal, but the body does not receive it.

This is why many people with type 2 diabetes take drugs such as metformin and sitagliptin. Because these drugs help improve that signal.

“We are getting better with treatment, but the level of control they can have is still not good enough.”

— Dr. Erin Mulvihill, Professor and Researcher, University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Mulvihill is currently conducting a research project funded by Diabetes Canada to investigate the impact of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet on people with type 2 diabetes. Many people following the keto diet, which has become popular in recent years, have successfully managed type 2 diabetes by restricting carbohydrates and sugars.

Mulvihill hopes to understand the effects of very low levels of glucose on hormone-producing beta cells over time. These cells are designed to sense and respond to glucose, Mulvihill said. over a long period of time No I want to see if exposure to glucose somehow impairs their functioning, or if it helps them function better.

Mulvihill is principal investigator leading the team leading nearly half of a four-year Canadian Diabetes Association-funded research project titled Investigating the Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Type 2 Diabetes.

“Diabetes is caused by defective insulin production in pancreatic islets,” says the Canadian Diabetes Association abstract of the Mulvihill-led project. “Recent evidence suggests that a ketogenic (high-fat, low-carbohydrate) diet can be used to treat type 2 diabetes. However,
The effects of these diets on pancreatic islets and whether they actually affect insulin production are unknown. Our study evaluates the short- and long-term effects of following a ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes and provides information on its safety.

The abstract states, “The ketogenic diet can lower and stabilize blood sugar levels,” but medical researchers say, “It is not known whether it corrects the inadequate insulin secretion that causes type 2 diabetes.” Provide patients with the confidence to practice a ketogenic diet for effectiveness or identify concerns about these diets.

Mulvihill’s doctoral work included research into high cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, another risk factor for heart disease and circulatory problems is diabetes.

Mulvihill began her diabetes research because of commonalities with cardiovascular disease expertise, but she also has friends and family members with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Mulvihill said:

Mulvihill is also a professor teaching other aspiring researchers at the University of Ottawa. She teaches metabolism in her third year and her fourth year at uOttawa’s Translational and Molecular Medicine program. She also teaches several graduate courses. One on lipids and lipoproteins and hers on molecular mechanisms and cardiovascular disease.

Mulvihill and her students’ research on the ketogenic diet is considered “preclinical,” meaning it does not directly involve patients.

A close-up of the Mulvihill laboratory equipment. These are Eppendorf pipettes, commonly used in laboratories to put more precise amounts of liquid into epTips for cell research. [Photo © Nicole Beswitherick]

“We do a lot of research on cells and experimental animals, and we have agreements where patients can agree to donate samples as part of a clinical study,” she said. Analyze some of these samples in the lab.

Mulvihill said he hopes medical science will test nutritional interventions more closely and give people more options for managing diabetes.

She added: “At the population level, we know that some of these interventions may not be effective for adherence.” I think that — it just increases the number of success stories,” she said.




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