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ETSU researchers study impact of modified ketogenic diet on Type 2 diabetes

Contributed • Mar 21, 2020 at 10:14 PM

Three faculty members from East Tennessee State University recently received a grant to study the impact of a modified ketogenic diet on individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

“We are doing a 12-week pilot study that will explore the effects of a modified ketogenic, or low-carbohydrate, diet on people with Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Donna Fraysier, assistant professor in the ETSU College of Nursing. “We are looking at this diet’s effects on individuals’ hemoglobin A1c, daily blood glucose and quality of life.”

Fraysier is conducting the study with Dr. Michelle Lee, associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitative Sciences in the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences, and Dr. Victoria Pope, assistant professor in the College of Nursing.

The research team received a grant from ETSU’s Research Development Committee for their pilot study, which will conclude at the end of March.

For the study, they recruited participants with Type 2 diabetes who were willing to try a modified ketogenic diet. The participants keep a food journal to detail everything they eat and were given kits to check their blood sugars at prescribed times each day. They also meet as a group bi-weekly to collect data, answer questions and take part in education based on the American Diabetes Association standardized curriculum.

“Every two weeks they come together and we give them tools on how to make better food choices, how to read food labels, how to distinguish good fats from bad fats, good carbs from bad carbs,” said Pope, an advanced practice nurse who focuses her research on cardiovascular health.

From taste tests to cooking demonstrations, the researchers are trying to empower the participants to integrate the modified ketogenic diet into their lifestyles as easily as possible. In addition, they are compiling a cookbook of the recipes they learned and discovered throughout the research.

While the recipes help improve the quality of life for the participants, the results will ultimately indicate whether the diet is successful in managing Type 2 diabetes.

“One thing I am looking for as far as diet is whether there is a certain level of grams of carbohydrates that they’re consuming that tends to show a decrease in their blood glucose levels on average,” said Lee, who is a registered dietitian/nutritionist.

Such a decrease could help participants lower or eliminate medications and ultimately help them manage their diabetes without insulin.

“If individuals who have Type 2 diabetes can control their diabetes – maybe even for a period of years – with diet rather than lots of costly medications, it’s going to have a good, positive impact on their quality of life,” Fraysier said.

The interprofessional team of Fraysier, Lee and Pope plan to publish the results from their pilot study and then develop additional studies on this topic.

To learn more about the College of Nursing, visit www.etsu.edu/nursing. To learn more about the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences, visit www.etsu.edu/crhs.

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