- Adherence to a low-carbohydrate diet can lead to remission of type 2 diabetes after six months.
- A review of studies confirms that a low-carbohydrate diet is the best option, but the benefits may diminish after one year.
- More research needs to be done on the long-term effects of diet.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
A strict low-carb diet may be the best bet for patients with type 2 diabetes to go into remission, according to a new analysis of studies.
The findings of a meta-analysis published Wednesday in the BMJ are in line with an official recommendation from the American Diabetes Association that reducing carbohydrates is the best approach to lowering blood sugar.
The analysis summarizes data from 23 randomized controlled trials involving more than 1
In general, patients who adhered to a low-carbohydrate diet for six months achieved higher levels of remission than those who tried other dietary changes.
Dr. Mark Cucucella, a professor at the University of West Virginia School of Medicine who has published several studies on dietary changes and diabetes, said reducing carbohydrate intake and eating more nutritious foods can help patients reverse their course. the disease.
“The good news about diabetes is that it’s a dietary disease, so it’s reversible with carbohydrate-oriented lifestyle measures,” Kukucella, who was not involved in the study, told Insider. “This meta-analysis is just another collection of studies that shows it’s possible to do that.”
People with type 2 diabetes are “carbohydrate intolerant”
While the term doctors commonly use to describe type 2 diabetes is “insulin resistance,” Kukutsela said another way to look at it is that people with the disease are “carbohydrate intolerant.”
“Their bodies do not metabolize and do not respond well to carbohydrates, and the end result is high levels of insulin, which precede high hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels,” Kukutsela explained.
Fats and proteins do not cause blood sugar levels to rise, as carbohydrates do, so reducing sweets and starches can help patients keep their diabetes under control along with medications.
Other options for managing diabetes include bariatric surgery – removing the stomach and intestines – or eating an 800-calorie shake a day, so reducing carbohydrate intake is a relatively simple solution, Kukucela said.
Adhering to a low-carb lifestyle is the hard part
Most of the benefits of a low-carb diet seen after six months – such as weight loss, improved body fat and reduced drug use – diminish with the 12-month assessment, the analysis found.
The reduction in benefits may be due to patients not adhering to the diet over time, the authors suggest, but more research needs to be done to investigate long-term adherence and effects. Some participants also reported a lower quality of life and worse cholesterol levels after 12 months.
Keeping diabetes in remission is like keeping a beach ball underwater, Kukutsela said. If patients allow their dietary changes to slide, the disease can easily bounce back. However, he said the short-term benefits bode well for the overall effectiveness of the diet and cited patient support as the next step.
“If you can show that something works for six months when nothing works but eating and getting your stomach out, then we need to figure out how to help people keep doing that plan.”