In April, the American Diabetes Association published a long-awaited consensus statement explaining that carbohydrate restriction is not only a safe and sustainable option for diabetes but also the most effective dietary intervention for lowering blood sugar.
A few months later, it was standing-room only during two low-carb presentations at the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference attended by dietitians, nurses, and other diabetes professionals.
Throughout the year, we’ve seen the publication of several studies about the benefits of low-carb for diabetes, including a recent one from a team of South African researchers that included Professor Tim Noakes:
DovePress 2019: Diet, diabetes status, and personal experiences of individuals with type 2 diabetes who self-selected and followed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet
Unlike many of the studies we’ve covered, this wasn’t a randomized controlled trial (RCT) where people were assigned to follow either a low-carb diet or control diet. Instead, the researchers recruited a small group of people with diabetes who were already following a carb-restricted diet on their own.
In fact, the criteria for participating in the study included having followed a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet for at least six months, along with a formal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes corroborated by lab work.
While slightly over one third of participants were eating very low carb (less than 50 grams per day) at their initial assessment, most were consuming somewhere between 50 and 115 grams of carbs per day. Additionally, their diets were mainly minimally processed foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, and coconut oil.
Of the 28 people who began the study, 24 completed follow-up 15 months later.
Their results were quite impressive at all points of the study:
The average HbA1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) was 7.5% prior to starting low carb. This had declined to 5.8% by the time the study began and remained stable at 5.9% at follow up,
Seven participants achieved complete remission of diabetes, defined as an HbA1c < 5.7% without any medication, three achieved “potential” complete remission (meeting the criteria at follow up but not the first assessment), and seven achieved partial remission, defined as an HbA1c < 6.5% without any medication other than metformin.
Of 11 people who took insulin prior to LCHF, eight had discontinued insulin altogether and two had significantly reduced their dosage.
The average self-reported weight loss on LCHF was 35 pounds (16 kg) at the first assessment, and weight remained stable 15 months later.
In people who started LCHF soon after their diabetes diagnosis, HbA1c had dropped dramatically from an average of 9.5% to 5.5% at the beginning of the study, declining slightly to 5.4% at follow up.
While changes in HbA1c were most striking in those who had been recently diagnosed, for those who’d had diabetes for a longer period of time, it still declined from an average of 7.1% prior to starting low carb to an impressive 6.1%, and remained stable at follow up. This is extremely encouraging! People with type 2 diabetes are often told that their disease is progressive and their blood sugar control will worsen over time. Yet this study clearly shows that this isn’t necessarily the case.
This blog brings a variety of articles and recipe ideas, and it is important to note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use a reliable meter.
All the best Jan