What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common microvascular complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.1–3 Its prevalence is related to the duration of diabetes and the level of glycemic control.4 Suboptimal diabetes management and sustained hyperglycemia (ie, high blood glucose levels) can lead to microvascular damages to the retina and swelling in the eyes.5,6
Can Ketogenic Diet Improve Diabetic Retinopathy?
The ketogenic diet is a diet that focuses on consuming very low amounts of carbohydrate and high amounts of fat.7,8 Although there is a dearth of studies that have specifically studied the impact of ketogenic diet on diabetic retinopathy, one case study showed promising results. A case report in 2020 of a 40-year-old woman with type 2 diabetes mellitus and diabetic retinopathy on insulin therapy has shown that ketogenic diet can improve or even reverse retinopathy.9 The patient reported that she adopted a coconut oil-rich ketogenic diet and lost 55 pounds of body weight and achieved a hemoglobin A1c of 5.3% without insulin therapy. After two years, her affected eye regained stable vision and her macular detachment from retinopathy was completely resolved.
Although this case study reports a rare case of a complete reversal of diabetic retinopathy following a ketogenic diet, studies have demonstrated that healthy weight loss in individuals with diabetes can show significant health improvements.7,8,10–13 Various research has shown that the ketogenic diet can effectively promote weight loss and improve various metabolic profiles such as insulin resistance, hemoglobin A1c, lipid profiles, weight and waist circumference, and body mass index. Given the importance of glycemic control and weight management in reducing the risk of diabetes-related micro- and macrovascular complications, the favorable effects of the ketogenic diet on metabolic health may potentially extend to improving diabetic retinopathy. However, it should be noted that more rigorous studies need to be conducted to establish the safety and efficacy of the diet in managing diabetic retinopathy.
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