A low carb diet could still be beneficial to people at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke even if they do not lose any weight, US researchers have said.

Low carb diets have been shown to help people with existing type 2 diabetes and those at risk of type 2 diabetes lose weight, with other benefits including improved blood glucose levels, mood and greater energy.

In this US-led study, scientists tested the effects of a low carb diet on people with metabolic syndromen, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Ohio State University (OSU) study involved 16 men and women who all had metabolic syndromen, which is characterised by high blood pressure, high blood glucose and excess body fat around the waist.

Three types of diet were used in the study: a high carb diet, moderate carb diet and low carb diet. Each participant was required to eat each of the diets for four weeks, separated by a two-week washout period featuring a standard US diet. The diets’ calorie contents were tailored to each individual’s needs to maintain weight throughout the study.

After eating a low carb diet, more than half of the volunteers no longer had metabolic syndrome even though there were no significant changes to their weight.

The study’s senior author, Jeff Volek, a professor of human sciences at OSU, said: “There’s no doubt that people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes do better on low carb diets, but they typically lose weight and one of the prevailing thoughts is that the weight loss is driving the improvements. That was clearly not the case here.

“Our view is that restricting carbs even without weight loss improves a host of metabolic problems. Obviously, quality of diet matters because quantity is locked down in this experiment.”

After eating a low carb diet, participants also experienced improved blood glucose, cholesterol readings and lower triglyceride levels, improvements which lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Three participants no longer had metabolic syndrome after eating moderate carb, and one was free of the condition after eating high carb. Volek suggested these results could be explained by the diets representing a shift towards lower carbs for these participants.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight.

Diabetes Digital Media’s Low Carb Program has helped one in four users put their type 2 diabetes into remission at the one-year mark. The 10-week, evidence-based structured behavioural change programme has also helped people lose weight and improve their health and wellbeing.

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