New UBC Okanagan research could help people with diabetes

A drink to improve diabetes

New research from UBC's Okanagan campus could change the daily struggle of controlling blood sugar levels for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

More people with the disease are searching for strategies to control blood sugar, says UBCO School of Health and Exercise Sciences associate professor Jonathan Little.

“It’s a disease that’s becoming alarmingly common in Canada and approaching what many would consider epidemic levels. While Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with medications or injectable insulin, many people are looking to options that don’t require taking pills every day or that are less invasive.”

Now, there could be a drink for that. The ketone monoester drink, a popular new food supplement, may help control glucose by imitating certain aspects of a ketogenic diet. 

“There is mounting evidence that a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is very effective in controlling blood sugar and even reversing Type 2 diabetes. We wanted to know what would happen if artificial ketones were given to those with obesity and at risk for Type 2 diabetes but who haven’t been dieting.

"Because they’re so new, there’s very little research on how they can influence metabolism and we’re among the first to look at their use in non-athletes."

Little and his team of researchers asked 15 people to consume a ketone drink after fasting overnight, then drink a fluid containing 75 grams of sugar 30 minutes later.

Blood samples were taken throughout the process, monitoring any changes in their levels. 

“It turns out that the ketone drink seemed to launch participants into a sort of pseudo-ketogenic state where they were better able to control their blood sugar levels with no changes to their insulin,” explains Little. “It demonstrates that these supplements may have real potential as a valuable tool for those with Type 2 diabetes.”

He's quick to point out that ketone supplements aren't a magic solution to manage diabetes, as there are a number of issues that still need to be worked out.

This includes the lack of knowledge about long-term effects of consuming ketones, and the unpleasant taste of the drink. 

“But for those that aren’t able to follow a strict and challenging ketogenic diet, or for those that are looking for a new way to control blood sugars, this may be another strategy in helping to manage Type 2 diabetes.”

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