Type 2 diabetes: A low-carb, high-fat diet may help

Type 2 diabetes: A low-carb, high-fat diet may help

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Vegetables are an important part of most diets. Stefa Nikolic/Getty Images
  • Researchers say a low-carb, high-fat diet helped study participants with type 2 diabetes lose weight and improve blood sugar levels.
  • However, they noted that participants had difficulty maintaining this diet at a 3-month follow-up.
  • Experts say it’s important to assess your current eating habits before starting any diet.
  • They also advise incorporating physical activity into your overall daily plans.

People with type 2 diabetes can lose more weight if they follow a low-carb, high-fat diet.

That’s the conclusion of a new study published today in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, randomly assigned low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) and high-carb, low-fat (HCLF) diets to 165 people with type 2 diabetes for 6 months.

The researchers designed the study as follows:

  • The amount of calories participants could eat was not limited, although participants were advised to eat as many calories as they expend.
  • Their daily calories would be divided into three nutrient groups.
  • The LCHF diet allows 20% of daily calories from carbohydrates, 50% to 60% from fat sources, and 25% to 30% from protein.
  • The HCLF diet allows about 50% to 60% of daily calories from carbs and splits the rest between fat and protein.

After 6 months, the researchers said the participants had greater weight loss and better blood sugar control with the LCHF diet than with the HCLF diet.

On average, people on the LCHF diet reduced hemoglobin A1c by 0.59% more and also lost 3.8 kg more weight than people in the HCLF group.

Researchers say that compared to the HCLF diet, people consuming LCHF also experienced greater improvements in their “good” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as greater reductions in waist circumference and body fat percentage. bodily. However, they also had increases in “bad” cholesterol levels compared to people on the HCLF diet.

Notably, eating habits and benefits were not maintained through the 3-month follow-up. The researchers also found no difference in the amount of liver fat or inflammation between the two groups.

The study authors suggest that longer-term dietary interventions may be needed for sustained success.

An expert interviewed by Healthline said there needs to be a balance of carbohydrates in the diet.

“Carbohydrates matter,” says Amy Bragagnini, MS, RD, CSO, oncology nutrition specialist at Trinity Health Lacks Cancer Center in Michigan and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Carbohydrates are our brain’s and body’s preferred source of energy.”

She notes that the problem is that people eat too many carbohydrates, especially highly processed simple carbohydrates such as those found in breads and sweets.

“Eating too many highly processed or simple carbohydrates can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, unwanted weight gain, and diabetes,” Bragagnini said.

Still, Bragagnini says she doesn’t want customers to be “afraid” of carbs.

Instead, she recommends choosing complex carbs (whole grain bread, brown rice, beans) and then becoming familiar with portion sizes.

Julie Cunningham, dietician and author of 30 days to tame type 2 diabetessays that her biggest concern with using a low-carb, high-fat diet for weight loss and/or blood sugar control is whether a client will be able to maintain that eating pattern at long term.

“As the authors pointed out, people in the study were not able to maintain their dietary changes or improved health 3 months after the study ended,” he said. she stated.

“I don’t want my patients to temporarily change their diets and then experience worsening blood sugar levels, weight gain, and accompanying depression when they stop following a low-carb, high-carb diet. fat,” Cunningham told Healthline.

And while a high-fat diet may seem appealing at first, Cunningham says it gets boring, especially when carbs are restricted. Imagine, for example, your baked potato with sour cream, cheese and bits of bacon… but no potato.

Bragagnini and Cunningham offered a number of tips for successful dieting.

Assess your current diet and barriers to success

One of the biggest hurdles to eating a balanced diet is having the knowledge and preparation to do it, Braganini says.

Knowing where your starting point is can help you understand where to make changes.

She says one of the most important things people can do is figure out exactly what they’re really eating on a daily basis.

Talking to a registered dietitian is a great place to start.

Bragagnini says working with a dietician can help you gain the knowledge to start implementing small changes to make them sustainable over time.

Add some physical activity

Consistent physical activity is another way to help optimize metabolism and reduce inflammation, Bragagnini says.

“A lot of people tell me they’re too busy to join a gym, or that cost is a big factor. I urge them to find brief periods of time during the day to just get moving,” he said. she stated.

You can try:

  • Take a walk during lunchtime (or any other break in the day)
  • Do weight resistance exercises during commercials or commercials (push-ups, squats, lunges)
  • Build fixed time periods each day to move and try to make it a habit that lasts

Together, these changes can help increase lean body mass, decrease anxiety, and improve metabolism, which, along with a balanced diet, can lead to weight loss,” says Bragagnini.

Remember what is under your control

“We have direct control over the foods we choose to eat and the physical activities we choose to do,” says Cunningham, “but we don’t have direct control over the number on the scale.”

This means that two people can eat the exact same diet and exercise the exact same amount, but end up with different weights.

That, explains Cunningham, is OK.

“Measure success by choosing to eat well and give your body the activity it needs, and don’t worry about the number on the scale,” she said.

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