Low-carb diets are usually effective for people with diabetes but sometimes there are factors that can prevent the diet working as well as it should.

In some cases, it might be that one or more common mistakes on a low-carb diet are being made. In other cases, though, it may be part of a wider issue that’s not so easy to control.

In this guide, we will look at:

  • Unrealistic expectations and not giving it enough time
  • Medications that hold back progress
  • Stress
  • Another medical problem

Unrealistic expectations or not giving it enough time

One problem can be coming into a new diet with unrealistic expectations.

Low-carb diets can sometimes have immediate success but effects can vary from person to person. Don’t be put off straight away if you’re not losing weight, or your blood sugars are not improving as fast as for someone else.

Also, be aware that typically low-carb diets result in significant initial weight loss, as a result of fluid loss, but then can often plateau for a little while.

Don’t be immediately put off if your weight-loss starts to level off. Weight loss plateaus are common and most of will go through at least one of these, and sometimes many, through our weight loss journey. Our advice is to give things time.

If you’re doing everything right and you’re not seen any results after two months, it could be that another factor is at play.

Medications that hold back progress

Some medications can hamper weight loss progress no matter which diet you are on.

Diabetes medications (such as insulin, sulphonylureas and glinides) that aim to increase the amount of insulin in your body can hold back progress. These drugs increase insulin levels in the body and this can sometimes make weight loss difficult to achieve.

Typically, doses of these medications should be reviewed before starting a low-carb diet to prevent hypos occurring and to help towards weight loss.

A number of non-diabetes medications such as steroids and certain antidepressants are also linked with weight gain and/or increased sugar levels.

It’s important to keep taking medications that have been prescribed for you. However, if there’s reason to believe some medications you are on may be leading to more difficulties than benefit, you can discuss the issue with your doctor.


Stress can play havoc with metabolism if it gets the chance.

The effects of stress can:

  • Increase hunger and likelihood of snacking
  • Lead to cravings for unhealthy food
  • Disturb sleep times

There’s also evidence to suggest that regular exposure to stress may increase the risk of putting on visceral fat, a dangerous form of fat which forms in and around the central organs of the body. [205]

If you are under significant stress, there are ways to reduce and minimise the effect it has.

See our guide to diabetes and stress

Other medical problems

There are other medical problems which can make weight loss and blood glucose control more difficult.

An underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, makes it harder for the body to burn calories and therefore it is harder to lose weight.

If you recognise the symptoms of hypothyroidism, speak to your doctor who will be able to run a test if hypothyroidism is suspected.

Other medical conditions linked with weight gain include:

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