A new mouse study questions whether ketogenic diets lead to insulin resistance, however the study has little relevance to human diets.
Studies of mice need to be interpreted carefully because the way the study is run can make a huge difference to the results. Despite this, some news websites have been reporting that keto diets ‘could increase diabetes risk’ which could cause unnecessary confusion.
The research was carried out by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zürich). The study set out to compare the effects of a ketogenic diet against a high fat diet that was intended to mimic a fast food style of diet.
One trouble with the study is that the mouse ketogenic diet used had the majority of energy coming from man-made trans fats. The diet was a mix of mainly hydrogenated vegetable oil with some casei, corn oil and cellulose included in addition. This is a world away from the healthy ketogenic diets including fresh vegetables, meat and cheeses that humans are eating.
By contrast, the high fat ‘fast food’ diet was a mix of fat and sugar that included lard, sugars and cellulose. It was composed mainly from hydrogenated vegetable shortening (Crisco).
Hydrogenated fats, or trans fats, are known to be dangerous to health and a number of countries have bans in place to lower levels in human diets. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the mice in the ketogenic diet group developed insulin resistance on a similar scale as the mice fed the high fat ‘fast food’ diet.
The study indicates that having a very high level of trans fats is unhealthy in terms of raising insulin resistance, with particular relevance to mice. Sadly, the way the study was run does not help us understand how healthy the ketogenic diets that humans eat may be. This question will be better answered using human studies.
The study, ‘Short‐term feeding of a ketogenic diet induces more severe hepatic insulin resistance than a obesogenic high‐fat diet’, is published in The Journal of Physiology.
Editor’s note: Within humans, low carb and ketogenic diets have been very effective at helping people with type 2 diabetes. A study published this week showed that the one-year outcomes of our Low Carb Program led to reduced HbA1c levels, weight loss and some were able to come off at least one of their diabetes medications.

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