Low Carbohydrate Diet Observed to Benefit Diabetes Patients

Limiting carbohydrate intake could improve glycated hemoglobin levels.

A new study finds that reducing carbohydrate intake may benefit patients with diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels, and may even reduce weight.

In the study, published by the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, the authors reviewed previous intervention studies to determine how a lower carbohydrate diet impacted glycated hemoglobin, which is used to measure blood glucose levels.

When participants followed a low carbohydrate diet, in which they consumed up to 120g of carbohydrates per day, glycated hemoglobin levels decreased. Significantly, patients who reduced their carbohydrate intake to less than 30g per day saw a 2.2% reduction in glycated hemoglobin levels, according to the study.

"Our findings suggest that a reduced carbohydrate diet can be an effective technique for managing diabetes and new guidelines that promote lower carbohydrate intakes for both the general population, and those with diabetes, should seriously be considered,” said lead author Michelle McKenzie. "More long-term studies are required to ensure that the results can be confidently translated into clinical practice, however, the science at this point in time is compelling and should not be ignored."

Patients who followed the diet also were observed to also lose weight. A low carbohydrate diet was linked to a median loss of 4.7kg over 2 years, compared with only 2.9kg lost from a low fat diet, according to the study.

The authors reported that patients on the low carbohydrate diet also experienced less psychological stress from diabetes management, which can be complicated in certain patients. The low carbohydrate diet was also seen to reduce mood changes between meals.

Overall, the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet were observed to greatly benefit patients with diabetes, compared with a low fat diet. If confirmed in additional studies, these findings could be taken into account when determining a nutrition plan for patients with diabetes, especially for those with obesity concerns.

"It's important to consider which food groups should be used to replace carbohydrates when altering diet. Previous research has shown that diets high in fat, particularly saturated fat, carry risks for people with Type 2 diabetes,” said study co-author Sarah Illingworth.

Patients with diabetes are more susceptible to heart disease, and should avoid foods with high fat and cholesterol content to mitigate risks. Adopting a healthy diet, rich in low sugar fruits and vegetables along with exercise, is known to benefit patients’ blood glucose levels and overall health.

"Clinical guidelines should be reviewed to consider including low carbohydrate diets as a diabetes management strategy but this does not mean that it will suitable, or beneficial, for everyone,” Illingworth concluded. “Changes to diet should only be undertaken after consulting with a qualified dietitian and taking into account individual medical needs."