An Online Intervention Comparing a Very Low-Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations Versus a Plate Method Diet in Overweight Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial


Background: Type 2 diabetes is a prevalent, chronic disease for which diet is an integral aspect of treatment. In our previous trial, we found that recommendations to follow a very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and to change lifestyle factors (physical activity, sleep, positive affect, mindfulness) helped overweight people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes improve glycemic control and lose weight. This was an in-person intervention, which could be a barrier for people without the time, flexibility, transportation, social support, and/or financial resources to attend.


Objective: The aim was to determine whether an online intervention based on our previous recommendations (an ad libitum very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet with lifestyle factors; “intervention”) or an online diet program based on the American Diabetes Associations’ “Create Your Plate” diet (“control”) would improve glycemic control and other health outcomes among overweight individuals with type 2 diabetes.


Methods: In this pilot feasibility study, we randomized overweight adults (body mass index ≥25) with type 2 diabetes (glycated hemoglobin [HbA1c] 6.5%-9.0%) to a 32-week online intervention based on our previous recommendations (n=12) or an online diet program based around a plate method diet (n=13) to assess the impact of each intervention on glycemic control and other health outcomes. Primary and secondary outcomes were analyzed by mixed-effects linear regression to compare outcomes by group.


Results: At 32 weeks, participants in the intervention group reduced their HbA1c levels more (estimated marginal mean [EMM] –0.8%, 95% CI –1.1% to –0.6%) than participants in the control group (EMM –0.3%, 95% CI –0.6% to 0.0%; P=.002). More than half of the participants in the intervention group (6/11, 55%) lowered their HbA1c to less than 6.5% versus 0% (0/8) in the control group (P=.02). Participants in the intervention group lost more weight (EMM –12.7 kg, 95% CI –16.1 to –9.2 kg) than participants in the control group (EMM –3.0 kg, 95% CI –7.3 to 1.3 kg; P<.001). A greater percentage of participants lost at least 5% of their body weight in the intervention (10/11, 90%) versus the control group (2/8, 29%; P=.01). Participants in the intervention group lowered their triglyceride levels (EMM –60.1 mg/dL, 95% CI –91.3 to –28.9 mg/dL) more than participants in the control group (EMM –6.2 mg/dL, 95% CI –46.0 to 33.6 mg/dL; P=.01). Dropout was 8% (1/12) and 46% (6/13) for the intervention and control groups, respectively (P=.07).
Conclusions: Individuals with type 2 diabetes improved their glycemic control and lost more weight after being randomized to a very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and lifestyle online program rather than a conventional, low-fat diabetes diet online program. Thus, the online delivery of these very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and lifestyle recommendations may allow them to have a wider reach in the successful self-management of type 2 diabetes.
Trial Registration: NCT01967992