Testing your diet to help prevent type 2 diabetes

Diagnosing the benefits of your diet using a ketone breathalyser

The latest figures from Diabetes UK show that over 4.9 million people are currently living with diabetes in the UK, with over 90% of those suffering from type 2 diabetes.

According to NHS England, the problem is only likely to get worse. Around 2 million more people have pre-diabetes and are currently at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with growing rates of obesity pinpointed as a contributing factor.

So how does type 2 diabetes differ to type 1, and how can low-carb diets such as the keto diet help to control, and even reverse, type 2 diabetes?

What is Type 2 diabetes and how can weight loss help?

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes occur when the body is unable to properly store and use glucose, a simple sugar which gives us vital energy. In diabetes patients, high levels of glucose collect in the blood, causing complications such as heart and kidney disease, loss of eyesight, neurological conditions, and damage to other organs.

Type 2 diabetes - increasingly a disease of diet and lifestyle

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the pancreas so that it can no longer produce insulin, which is the hormone that normally helps regulate glucose levels. In type 2 diabetes patients, the pancreas still produces insulin, but the body isn’t able to use the hormone effectively. Type 1 diabetes is actually relatively rare, affecting around 5-10% of diabetes patients, while type 2 is becoming increasingly common in the developed world.

On the other hand, there is no way to prevent or reverse type 1 diabetes, and it is not thought to be linked to lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is different: risk factors include obesity, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, symptoms of type 2 can be slowed or even halted by losing weight and following a healthier lifestyle. And medical experts agree that the disease can be completely prevented by a healthy diet and physical exercise.

How can the keto diet help?

The keto diet is essentially a low carbohydrate (carb), moderate protein and high fat meal plan. Carbohydrate-rich choices such as bread, pasta, fruit and potatoes are substituted for foods like meat and poultry, eggs, cheese and avocado.

Other vegetarian options for a ketone diet include:

  • Non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, cauliflower, peppers and aubergines
  • Healthy fats – olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oils
  • Nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts
  • Seeds – chia, hemp, flax and pumpkin
  • Full fat dairy products – milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Protein – eggs, tofu, tempeh, spirulina, natto and nutritional yeast
  • Low-carb fruits (in moderation) – berries, lemons, and limes
  • Herbs and seasonings – basil, paprika, pepper, turmeric, oregano, rosemary and thyme

As carbs are gradually reduced, the body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis, burning fat for energy instead of glucose.

To understand fully what ketosis is, it’s useful to discover a bit of background on the different metabolic pathways our body uses to fuel our cells.


When we eat carbohydrates, our body converts them into glucose to use for fuel to complete basic body functions and daily activities. When glucose enters the bloodstream from carbohydrates, insulin is excreted to process the glucose.

Insulin signals to the cells to uptake the glucose from the blood to use for energy or to store as glycogen via glycolysis. For the average person on the average diet, this is how cells get energy to function. This process is known as carbohydrate metabolism, or glycolysis. In patients with type 2 diabetes, there is an increase in rates of glycolysis in the liver and other tissues.


When carbohydrates are cut from the diet, our bodies use a different metabolic pathway. In the first few days of beginning a keto diet, stored glycogen and amino acids in the muscle tissue are used as the body’s main energy source. This is known as gluconeogenesis. However, this is only temporary.

Lipolysis and ketogenesis

After approximately three or more days of converting to keto, the liver starts using the fatty acids from fats and converts them into ketone bodies to use for fuel via lipolysis. The ketone bodies are a substitute for the glucose. This metabolic adaptation is known as becoming ‘fat adapted’, shifting you into a state of nutritional ketosis.

What are the benefits of being in ketosis?

Keto diet devotees report a wealth of benefits, including weight loss, improved mood, better quality of sleep, mental clarity and sustained energy levels. But what is the benefit for people suffering from, or at risk of developing, type 2 diabetes?

As the diet removes carbohydrates, keto eaters will experience stable blood sugar levels meaning less energy highs and lows. Insulin sensitivity increases, which can help halt or reverse type 2 diabetes.

Having a stable blood sugar also helps to maintain energy levels throughout the day, rather than experiencing fatigue and slumps that often come after lunch.

Testing to see if your diet is working

testing your dietThere are various ways to check levels of ketones in the body, including blood and urine tests. In recent years, the process has become far simpler with the development of accurate breath-testing systems, for example the Ketoscan Mini. Launched in 2019, the Ketoscan Mini became the world’s first cartridge-based portable ketone analyser, using innovative breath sensor technology to test for ketone bodies.

The Ketoscan analyser is used with the Ketoscan app, which tracks changes in ketone levels and offers insight into the rate at which fat is being burnt. This is a safe way to monitor progress and to ensure healthy, sustainable weight loss.

The keto diet – where to start?

Type 2 diabetes patients should always consult their doctor before embarking on a new nutritional pathway. One recent expert study, while recommending a ketogenic diet as a ‘helpful option’, also warns that it is not suitable for some type 2 diabetic patients i.e. women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with or at risk for eating disorders, or people with renal disease.3

But if you’re worried about your weight and the associated danger of developing diabetes, it’s never too soon to act. Remember – if you decide to try the keto diet, it’s important to monitor progress by regular testing of ketone levels.

Ketone breathalyser

Ketone breathalysers are obviously more convenient than arranging blood or urine testing. However, the results need to be checked for accuracy. Always ensure that the analyser is regularly calibrated with quantified and assured control material for optimum consistency.

The keto diet takes commitment, but the health benefits can be life changing, with the exciting potential to help tackle the looming diabetes crisis threatening the UK.

An organic compound that is the basic building block of all proteins. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
blood pressure Full medical glossary
A group of compounds that are an important energy source, including sugars and starch. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
Abbreviation for Eustachian tube. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. Full medical glossary
A simple sugar that is an important source of energy in the body. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
A hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels. Full medical glossary
A group of compounds that are produced by fat metabolism. Full medical glossary
Increased levels of ketones in the blood resulting in their excretion in sweat, urine and breath, giving a classic smell like pear drops or nail polish remover. It occurs as a result of metabolic changes during prolonged fasting or starvation and is also common in poorly-controlled diabetes. Full medical glossary
One of two bean-shaped organs that are located on either side of the body, below the ribcage. The main role of the kidneys is to filter out waste products from the blood. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
Relating to metabolism. Full medical glossary
The chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. Full medical glossary
Myocardial infarction. Death of a segment of heart muscle, which follows interruption of its blood supply. Full medical glossary
Tissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. Full medical glossary

Associated with the nervous system and the brain.

Full medical glossary
Excess accumulation of fat in the body. Full medical glossary
onychogryphosis Full medical glossary
A gland behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin and glucagon, which together regulate glucose levels in the blood. Full medical glossary
A glandular organ that secretes digestive enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
proctalgia fugax Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
per vaginam Full medical glossary
Relating to the kidney. Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
trigeminal neuralgia Full medical glossary
Relating to the urinary tract. Full medical glossary