There are a number of benefits of low carb diets which can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.
We take a look at why low carbohydrate diets have become popular amongst a significant number of people with diabetes.
Improved blood glucose levels
Generally speaking, the more carbohydrate we eat, the higher our blood glucose levels are going to be following eating.
If your after meal numbers are higher than you’d like them to be, reducing the carbohydrate content of meals can help to lower your post prandial (after meal) blood test readings
Reducing risk of complications
Research studies have consistently found that low carbohydrate diets provide significant improvements in blood glucose control.
By reducing hyperglycemia, short term symptoms such as thirst and needing to frequently urinate can be minimised and if strong diabetes control can be maintained.
The risks of developing diabetic complications can also be reduced.
Carbohydrate is often viewed as an energy giving macronutrient but that’s only the case if your insulin can keep up.
If insulin can’t keep up, and this is more likely in people with type 2 diabetes, then our blood glucose levels go too high and we can end up feeling tired and lethargic.
By starting a low carbohydrate diet, you may also be lowering your daily calorie intake.
As a result, some people may experience more tiredness than usual shortly after starting a low carb diet, but this effect usually passes after the first 2 weeks of the diet as the body adapts to the new diet.
Improved clarity of thinking
If a low carb diet achieves the desired effect of improving blood sugar levels, it can help to relieve brain fog which can occur when blood sugar levels are too high.
Brain fog is characterised by an inability to think clearly. Many people following a low carb diet report having improved clarity of thinking after starting the diet.
Reduce reliance on medication
By taking in less carbohydrate, we can reduce the body’s demand for insulin and this can allow people with diabetes to reduce and, in some cases, come off medication Reducing reliance on medication can be particularly helpful for people with type 2 diabetes to reduce exposure to the side effects of medication.
People on insulin and tablets need to be aware that lowering carbohydrate intake must be done with care to avoid hypoglycemia which can be very dangerous. Consult your doctor for advice on how to adapt your medication before changing your cabohydrate intake.
Reduced severity of hypoglycemia
If your medication is appropriately adjusted to a low carb diet, you should find that your exposure to severe hypoglycemia is reduced. This can be particularly beneficial for people who take insulin.
A low carb diet will ultimately mean taking a decreased amount of insulin at meals and therefore the severity of any dips in blood sugar levels should also be decreased.
More room for vegetables
A healthy low carb diet will be strongly based around vegetables, particularly non-starchy vegetables as these carry less carbohydrate. The American Diabetes Association recommends that half our plate at main meals is made up from non-starchy vegetables.
Vegetables offer a wide range of nutrients for our body and have been shown to be a very important factor in decreasing the risk of health problems, including heart disease and cancers.
Reduced strain on our insulin producing beta cells
One of the world’s leading pancreatic beta cell researchers, John Leahy MD, states that the up to date understanding is that western lifestyles, including diet, place stress on our pancreas’ beta cells which lead to them being overworked and causing these cells to start to fail.
Eating a lower amount of carbohydrate means less insulin is required from the pancreas, thus taking strain off the pancreas. It is hypothesised that this could help to better preserve your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin.
Insulin levels and cancer
Higher levels of insulin circulating in the blood are associated with higher blood pressure, higher risk of heart disease and increased risk of cancers Researchers hypothesise that increased circulating insulin results in increased secretion of insulin-like growth factor which can lead to increased growth of cancer cells.
Lower blood pressure and triglycerides
A study carried out in 2007 showed that a low carb diet in overweight premenopausal resulted in reduced blood pressure and triglycerides over 12 months than diets with larger carbohydrate intakes. Lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels are associated with better heart health.