Further evidence of the benefits of low-carb diet for people with type 2 diabetes

Tue, 14 Apr 2015
New research provides further indication of the health benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet for people with type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, assessed the impact of diet on weight gain. Specifically, the researchers examined how changing the amount of protein and carbohydrate-rich foods we eat can prevent weight gain.

Obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for type 2 diabetes, although it is by no means the only one.

Low-carb diet and weight loss: The study

The researchers used three long-term studies of over 120,000 men and women to assess the impact of glycemic load on weight gain. They found that a diet high on the glycemic index - one which included foods like grains, starches, and sugars - increased the likelihood of long-term weight gain.

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a particular food raises blood glucose levels. A food high on the scale increases blood glucose levels more quickly than a food low on the glycemic index scale, so high GI foods have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Previous research has failed to establish a link between high GI diets and long-term weight gain.

Why is this study significant?

The study adds to the mounting evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet is effective for people with type 2 diabetes. Not only does it lead (in most cases) to lower blood glucose levels, but it may reduce the risk of obesity, which is one of the biggest risk factors for people with type 2 diabetes.

The study also debunked some of the myths about fat, which is often perceived as the biggest contributor to obesity. The study found that increasing the amount of dairy products in the diet - including full-fat cheese and whole milk - did not lead to long-term weight gain.

In fact, the researchers observed that people who avoided high-fat dairy products tended to make up for it with low-quality carbohydrates, which significantly increased the risk of long-term weight gain.

The low-carb diet and type 2 diabetes

Although the low-carb diet does not work for everyone, many people with type 2 diabetes find it hugely beneficial for diabetes management. The low-carb diet can improve weight loss(if the individual needs to lose weight) and improve blood glucose control.

But the low-carb diet is only recently receiving mainstream acceptance. This is largely because cutting down carbohydrates usually means increasing fat consumption. Fat has a bad reputation, with many people perceiving it as the main contributor to obesity.

What did the authors say?

"There is mounting scientific evidence that diets including less low-quality carbohydrates, such as white breads, potatoes, and sweets, and higher in protein-rich foods may be more efficient for weight loss," said Jessica Smith, first author of the study.

"We want to know how that might apply to preventing weight gain in the first place."

"The fat content of dairy products did not seem important for weight gain. In fact, when people consumed more low-fat dairy products, they actually increased their consumption of carbohydrates, which may promote weight gain.

"This suggests that people compensate, over years, for the lower calories in low-fat dairy by increasing their carb intake."

Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study, explained: "Our study adds to growing new research that counting calories is not the most effective strategy for long-term weight management and prevention.

"Our findings suggest we should not only emphasise specific protein-rich foods like fish, nuts, and yoghurt to prevent weight gain, but also focus on avoiding refined grains, starches, and sugars in order to maximise the benefits of these healthful protein-rich foods, create new benefits for other foods like eggs and cheese, and reduce the weight gain associated with meats."
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