Beyond Diet And Exercise: Controlling Blood Sugar

Successful diabetes management goes beyond blood sugar recipes and medication and requires knowing the science behind cellular and digestive metabolism. Learn about how the body burns energy, what substances can help with type 2 diabetes, and how to take control of your blood glucose levels below.

RELATED: Getting Sugar Smart: Know Your Nemesis

In this article:

  1. Diabetes in Numbers
  2. All Roads Lead to the Mitochondria
  3. ALC: Biochemical Shuttle
  4. Limiting Insulin Secretion
  5. Keto for Diabetes: More Than Just a Fad
  6. Research on Keto
  7. What Are the Risks?

What You Need to Know to Have Stable Blood Sugar

Diabetes in Numbers

According to the recently published National Diabetes Report, over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. That’s nearly 10% of the population.

Perhaps more disconcerting is that nearly 30% of those folks go undiagnosed, unaware that they even have the disease. All told, adult type 2 diabetes accounts for 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Unlike type 1 diabetes — an autoimmune disease that shuts down your body’s insulin production — type 2 diabetes is caused entirely by poor diet and lack of exercise.

If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to take it seriously. This is one disease that can be fully reversed by making changes in your lifestyle.

In addition to adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise program, a high-quality lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine supplement can help you control blood sugar. These natural compounds lower uncontrolled blood glucose and restore insulin control by stabilizing your metabolism.

All Roads Lead to the Mitochondria

Mitochondria | Beyond Diet and Exercise: Controlling Blood Sugar | nutrients

In several studies, lipoic acid appears to help lower blood glucose levels ― a hallmark of type 2 diabetes onset. Although it doesn’t affect insulin secretion, it does restore insulin sensitivity to cells.

Research suggests this is due to a change in insulin receptor activity, as well as altering the location and function of glucose transporters, residing on the surface of all cells.

“Mitochondria primarily metabolize fats as a fuel source, so constant glucose use actually put mitochondria offline.”

Recall that glucose metabolism occurs inside the cell, but not inside mitochondria. That’s partly why sugar is a quick — albeit inefficient — fuel source.

Mitochondria primarily metabolize fats as a fuel source, so constant glucose use actually put mitochondria offline. Lipoic acid combats pre-diabetic symptoms by making glucose transport more efficient and by metabolically “switching” the cell to mitochondria-powered fat burning.

ALC: Biochemical Shuttle

Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC) is a substance that helps the body turn fat into energy. In type 2 diabetes, the metabolism has been hijacked into mass conversion to glucose or sugar-powered energy production.

In fact, there’s such an overabundance of glucose that cells actually ignore insulin, hence, the development of insulin resistance.

One of the primary natural functions of ALC is to act as a biochemical ‘shuttle’ for fats into the mitochondria. So, like with lipoic acid, ALC combats pre-diabetic symptoms by metabolically “switching” the cell to mitochondria-powered fat burning over glucose.

In a number of research studies, ALC has been shown to reverse diabetes-related damage in peripheral nerves and blood vessels. In turn, this improves circulation, especially in the limbs, and also reduces symptoms of peripheral neuropathy ― the nerve damage (and pain) that occurs in response to diabetes-induced hyperglycemia.

Limiting Insulin Secretion

Happy mature couple jogging against cloudy sky | Beyond Diet and Exercise: Controlling Blood Sugar | meal planning

The human body operates best when insulin secretion is very limited ― in response to the occasional fruit or sweet. Daily intake of excess carbohydrates ― including starches or simple sugars ― leads to weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes, ultimately increasing the risk of developing other conditions like blood pressure problems, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Keeping blood sugar low is key to a healthy metabolism. If your body’s only means of lowering glucose is through insulin, you’re putting your metabolism at risk. Manage your blood sugar by limiting the intake of sugar and simple starches.

With a proper diet, a moderate exercise regimen and a positive attitude, you can tackle and control blood sugar.

In addition to eating unprocessed, healthy foods, consider a mixed supplement of lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine to repair damage and to jump-start your mitochondrial metabolism.

RELATED: What You Need To Know About Fasting, Starvation Diet, and Caloric Restriction

Keto for Diabetes: More Than Just a Fad

We’ve talked about how the body can use fats as fuel instead of sugar and how taking ALC and high-quality lipoic acid can induce this. But did you know you can also hack your diet to turn on the fat-burning switch of your metabolism?

Enter the ketogenic diet.

Ketogenic Diet Definition: A diet focusing on high amounts of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and low levels of carbohydrates

Essentially, keto for your diabetes diet means eating more fats and fewer carbs. Now, people with diabetes 2 are often overweight and need to lose weight, and increasing fat intake may seem unhelpful.

However, the goal of keto is to make the body use fats for energy instead of carbs or glucose—the very metabolic state we’ve talked about which helps in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

A few days into a ketogenic diet, a person will run out of glucose, forcing the body to use fats instead. The body undergoes nutritional ketosis wherein it creates fatty acids called ketones, which the body burns for energy.

When we say fats in a keto diet, we don’t mean saturated fats commonly found in fried and processed foods. For this high-fat, low-carb diet to work, your meal plan must have heart-healthy unsaturated fats, around 20-30% lean protein, and very little healthy carbs (usually 50 g or less per day).

Some of the healthy fats often eaten in a ketogenic diet are:

  • Eggs
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Almond butter
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Salmon
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chia seeds

Research on Keto

Healthy eating and dieting with salmon fish, avocado, eggs and nuts | Beyond Diet and Exercise: Controlling Blood Sugar | vegetables, keto diet chart, food plan

While originally created as an epilepsy treatment back in 1924, researchers are also looking into the effectivity of keto diet for type 2 diabetes.

In fact, in a 2008 24-week study on the effects of a low-carb diet on type 2 diabetes and obesity patients, researchers found that subjects who’ve undergone the ketogenic diet saw greater glycemic control improvements. These subjects also needed lesser dosages of medications than those on a low-glycemic diet.

Additionally, a 2013 literature review also reported that a ketogenic diet can lead to more significant blood sugar control, weight loss, and A1c improvements.

More recently, 2017 research also found the ketogenic diet outperformed conventional low-fat diabetes diet in a 32-week weight loss and A1c experiment.

What Are the Risks?

Changing the body’s energy source and increasing ketones in the blood results in a state of nutritional ketosis. However, when ketones in the blood spike, a person may be at risk of being in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Diabetic Ketoacidosis Definition: A complication of diabetes wherein the blood contains too much ketones

This is why patients on a keto diet are advised to test ketone and blood glucose levels throughout the day to check if they’re in the healthy range. This can be done at home using over-the-counter urine strips.

The American Diabetes Association recommends ketone level testing if your blood sugar is over 240 mg/dL.

Type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to limit your quality of life. With the help of your doctors, you can find supplements and lifestyle changes that can improve your blood sugar and overall symptoms.

Have you tried the ketogenic diet to manage your symptoms? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

Up Next:


National Diabetes Statistics Report. 2014. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Konrad D, et al. 2001. Diabetes. 50(6):1464-1471

Segermann J, et al. 1991. Arzneimittelforschung. 41:1294-1298.

Melhem MF, et al. 2002. J Am Soc Nephrol.13:108-116

Xue YZ, et al. 2007. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 21(6):445-8.

Volek J, et al. 2008. Am J Cardiol.102(10)

Beyond Diet and Exercise: Controlling Blood Sugar

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 2, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.