New research suggests that limiting carbohydrate intake while engaging in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be one of the most effective strategies to improve markers of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Exercise plays a central role in the management of metabolic problems because it increases the number of glucose transporters (GLUT-4) in muscle cells, improves insulin sensitivity and burns visceral fat.
Physical activity also impacts the circulatory system by improving cholesterol, promoting stronger and more elastic blood vessels and lowering blood pressure, all of which help to lower CVD risk.
Previous research suggested that HIIT may provide even more benefits for blood sugar control and CVD function, especially in combination with a healthful diet.
Now, Canadian researchers from the University of British Columbia Okanagan and the University of Toronto have reviewed the latest evidence regarding HIIT and low-carb diets with special consideration for how both may help in type 2 diabetes.
They argue that the general approach consisting of a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet and 150 min of weekly moderate-intensity exercise isn’t helpful enough to prevent or reduce CVD risk in people with type 2 diabetes.
The researchers believe there is now sufficient evidence from research and population-based lifestyle initiatives, like our Low Carb Program, to support low-carb diets as a primary treatment strategy adjunct to standard medical therapy in type 2 diabetes.
The scientists cite data showing that lowering carbs to about 30 per cent of caloric intake per day (approximating 130 g/day) results in greater reductions in HbA1c and weight as well as better cholesterol levels, compared to standard low-fat diets.
As for exercise, small trials of HIIT in people with type 2 diabetes have reported superior improvements in glucose control, HbA1c levels, liver fat, vascular function and body composition, than with moderate-intensity exercise.
According to researchers, a single session of low-volume HIIT performed after breakfast can lead to more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
HIIT also leads to improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness that are associated with up to a 15 per cent greater risk reduction for CVD mortality, compared to those achieved with moderate-intensity exercise.
Combining a low-carb diet with HIIT may promote better insulin sensitivity and help preserve lean mass in people with type 2 diabetes, which is important in light of the link between higher lean muscle mass, metabolic health and functional capacity.
In sum, adding HIIT to a low-carb diet could be particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes looking to lower their risk of CVD, as these together lead to better blood sugar control, higher vascular function and greater cardiorespiratory fitness.

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