If you look online for information about ketogenic diets, you may come across a number of supplements that are listed as being helpful for ketogenic diets.
When considering the value of supplements, it’s helpful to understand that people follow ketogenic diets for different reasons.
Ketogenic diets have become popular with a range of people including athletes, bodybuilders, people with epilepsy, diabetes and people that are looking to shed excess body weight.
Our guide will help you to see which supplements are relevant for people with diabetes and which are less relevant.
This page is to provide information on the supplements available and should not be read as encouragement to take supplements. Speak to your doctor first if you are considering taking a supplement to support a ketogenic diet.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), found in coconut products, are considered by some researchers to be a superior source of dietary fat as the body is able to produce more ketones from MCTs than from other dietary fats.
MCTs have an advantage in allowing people to stay in ketosis despite having a slightly higher carbohydrate intake than would normally be the case.
The diet is sometimes used by people with epilepsy as it allows them to remain in ketosis, and therefore control seizures, without having to restrict their carbohydrate intake so much.
Research has yet to show whether MCTs have any benefit over other forms of fat in terms of weight loss.
If you are considering having MCTs, be wary of taking too much at once as it can cause an upset stomach.
The body needs extra magnesium to regulate sodium and potassium levels which are important salts to replace, particularly when starting a ketogenic diet.
Low levels of magnesium can result in issues like leg cramping and muscle discomfort during physical activity, as well as insomnia.
Getting too much magnesium usually isn’t a problem as, unless kidney function is impaired, excess magnesium the body doesn’t need is easily flushed out in the urine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Both the essential amino acid lysine and the BCAA leucine are readily converted into ketone bodies. The theory is that lysine or leucine are protein sources that won’t knock you out of ketosis.
Whilst this may potentially confer some advantages to bodybuilders there’s no significant evidence that BCAAs will support weight loss or otherwise help people with diabetes.
Ketone supplements (ketone esters)
Similar to MCTs, ketone supplements known as keto esters increase energy availability.
The most common type of ketone supplements commercially available today are BHB salts, which is a combination of sodium, potassium, and the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).
Consuming a BHB salt directly puts ketones into your blood and so prevents the body needing to burn body fat for ketones.
As a result, keto esters are of more interest to athletes than for any people with diabetes that are actively looking to shed body fat.
Researchers have theorized that cinnamon might improve insulin response and speed up the metabolism of glucose.
Whilst cinnamon appears to show potential in post-meal blood glucose levels, in clinical trials run over a number of weeks, cinnamon has failed to demonstrate a significant benefit on overall insulin sensitivity.
Consuming a teaspoon or two of cinnamon before a meal may have a modest effect in reducing blood sugar levels after meals if combined with a healthy diet overall.
Note that a natural chemical called coumarin in cinnamon has been linked with a small increase in risk of liver disease, so people with liver disease should avoid consuming large amounts of cinnamon.