Can Low Carb Help with Your Diabetes?

We all know that eating right is important when you want to stay fit and feel good. But for people with diabetes, diet is much more than that; it's very closely tied to their health. Unfortunately, there’s no official well-defined diet for diabetics to follow. Institutions like the NHS or WHO only give general recommendations. They don’t say much about low carb despite a growing amount of research supporting it. So, should you go low carb when you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Let’s take a look.

The problem with diabetes diet recommendations

The NHS (1) and WHO (2) both offer some guidance for diabetics. They say you should eat more vegetables and fibre. They stress the importance of exercise and hydration. And they warn against eating sugary foods. Most recommendations in countries across Europe are similar.

These are all good advice but Diabetes UK criticized the NHS for one key recommendation. They think that people with diabetes shouldn't base their meals around starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread.

“Starchy carbohydrate may be problematic for many people with type 2 diabetes as carbohydrate requires greater insulin production than fat or protein does… By advising people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes to base their meals around carbohydrate, the NHS diet advice increases the underlying problem of insulin resistance (3).”

Low carb outperforms other diets

This is where low carb comes in. Less carbs means that your body needs to produce less insulin. Research suggests that it might be the way to go if you have diabetes. The most recent systematic review from June 2020 summarizes (4):

“Our study findings confirmed that ketogenic diets were more effective in improving metabolic parameters associated with glycaemic, weight, and lipid controls in patients with overweight or obesity, especially those with pre-existing diabetes, as compared to low-fat diets.”

And the good news is that it works even long term. A clinical trial published in June 2019 shows it’s effective and safe even after 2 years (5).

Who endorses low carb?

Research on low carb and keto keeps showing great results for diabetes. Some institutions are starting to take it seriously. This is what happened so far.

  • May 2017 – Diabetes UK published a report saying that low carb can be safe and effective for people with type 2 diabetes (6).
  • August 2018 - Diabetes Australia says that for people with type 2 diabetes, there is reliable evidence that lower carb eating can be safe and useful (7).
  • April 2019 - The American Diabetes Association endorses low carb as an option. They say that reducing carbs is the most effective way to lower blood sugar (8).
  • June 2020 - Diabetes Canada supports low carb diets as an effective option for type 1 and type 2 diabetes management (9).

Let’s make low carb enjoyable for everyone

It's exciting to see these endorsements and growing interest. This means that more patients and doctors will learn about low carb and get a chance to improve their health. We will continue to make low carb foods tasty so everyone can enjoy them.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-2-diabetes/food-and-keeping-active/
  2. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/204871/9789241565257_eng.pdf?sequence=1
  3. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diet/nhs-diet-advice.html
  4. Yeo Jin Choi et al. (2020): „Impact of a Ketogenic Diet on Metabolic Parameters in Patients with Obesity or Overweight and with or without Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials“, in: Nutrients https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32640608/
  5. Shaminie J. Athinarayanan et al. (2019): „Long-Term Effects of a Novel Continuous Remote Care Intervention Including Nutritional Ketosis for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-Year Non-randomized Clinical Trial“, in: Front. Endocrinol. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31231311/
  6. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/resources-s3/2017-09/low-carb-diets-position-statement-May-2017.pdf
  7. https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/8b4a8a54-f6b0-4ce6-bfc2-159686db7983.pdf
  8. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/42/5/731
  9. https://www.canadianjournalofdiabetes.com/article/S1499-2671(20)30097-6/pdf?fbclid=IwAR3eweIg3qbmFdLVt_EYLszBvNmdSX2QnuzrXRC28eQERU_9VK1iGqWK5FY

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