Boy with type 1 diabetes goes 24 months without insulin on Paleolithic ketogenic diet, but is this a honeymoon period?

Jack Woodfield
By Jack Woodfield
14th March 2016
In Depth
 
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Last year, we reported on a study in which a nine-year-old boy with type 1 diabetes was able to come off insulin injections for 19 months by following a Paleolithic ketogenic diet.

Before beginning the diet – a modified version of the ketogenic diet, which consisted only of animal meat, fat, offal and eggs with a fat:protein ratio of 2:1 – the boy had been on insulin therapy for six weeks, alongside a high-carbohydrate diet.

Some members of the diabetes community attributed the success of the diet to the honeymoon period, which is when people with type 1 diabetes can still produce some insulin following their diagnosis.

Are these findings attributable to a honeymoon period?

Not according to Hungarian physician Dr. Csaba Tóth.

“This should by no means be regarded as a honeymoon period”, Dr. Tóth, the medical leader of Paleomedicina Hungary, told Diabetes.co.uk

“Besides this method, we are not aware of any clinical data from literature indicating an increase in C-peptide following [type 1] diagnosis onset while being safe and without side effects.

“Typically, C-peptide tends to zero already at one year after diagnosis onset on the standard diabetes diet. The present case is not the only one in our practice. We are following others and experiencing the same.”

Furthermore, Dr. Tóth believes that adopting the diet could lead to autoimmune changes within type 1 diabetes.

“It seems that if one strictly adheres to the diet, the autoimmune process may halt. From ex vivo human studies four routes are known to recover pancreatic beta cells. Thus it seems possible to recover the lost function of the pancreas. Of course, this is possible in those cases without insulin receptor dysfunction only.”

The boy went 24 months without insulin after following the Paleo diet. Photo: IJCRI

The boy went 24 months without insulin after following the Paleo diet. Photo: IJCRI

The boy in the study went without insulin for 24 months. The success is undoubtedly remarkable, even if he moved on to insulin injections afterwards.

Not only did the boy go two years without insulin, but his blood sugar levels were significantly lower on the Paleolithic ketogenic diet compared to his six weeks of insulin therapy. He didn’t have any complications or episodes of hypoglycemia, and the study authors stressed that the diet can be sustainable in the long-term.

They noted, though, that patients with long-standing type 1 diabetes are likely to have exhausted beta cells, and the need for insulin replacement could be unavoidable. “In these cases, however, the Paleolithic ketogenic diet may be used as an adjunct in an attempt to likely prevent diabetic complications,” said the researchers.

What significance do these findings have for type 1 diabetes?

“Our findings indicate that patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may have another option to choose,” said Dr. Tóth.

The boy in the study went without insulin for 24 months. The success is undoubtedly remarkable, even if he moved on to insulin injections afterwards.

“This is a treatment requiring much more from the patient and his/her environment in terms of motivation, cooking techniques, personal burden of resisting against the mainstream etc. However, once realised, the method may offer a much better outcome of the disease.”

It should be noted, though, that when Dr. Tóth says the Paleolithic ketogenic diet could be a treatment option for type 1 diabetes, he doesn’t mean as a replacement for insulin injections.

The diet could help newly diagnosed type 1 patients with residual insulin secretion be without insulin for a short-term period, but the benefits that extend to people with long-standing type 1 include better glycemic control and the potential to prevent diabetic complications.

Of course, these findings refer to just one boy. Further research on a larger scale will be needed to confirm the results among people with type 1 diabetes of different durations. However, the Paleolithic ketogenic diet appears to be a fascinating area for future type 1 diabetes research.

Do you have any experience of the Paleolithic ketogenic diet? Has it helped improve your blood glucose levels?

Picture: thepaleodiet.com

What do you think?