Are Low-Carb Diets a Solution for People with Diabetes?

June 3, 2020 , ,

In 2019 the American Diabetes Association (ADA) released a consensus report on the nutritional treatment of diabetes based on the most recent evidence.

Here are the main recommendations from this report:

SOSCuisine: Meal Plans for Diabetes

The ADA stated that multiple dietary approaches can be considered to prevent or improve the control of diabetes. Among the included options are low-carb diets, either the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet, and diets that are very low in carbs*, such as the Ketogenic diet.

In light of the growing popularity of low-carb diets, in May 2020, Diabetes Canada has also issued a report outlining their position on this type of diet as a nutritional treatment for people with diabetes. Through this report, which is based on the latest evidence, Diabetes Canada aims to provide recommendations to health practitioners and to inform people with diabetes in the best possible way in order to guide them in their choices. It should be remembered that several avenues are possible for better management of diabetes and that a Mediterranean, Vegetarian and Vegan diet have proven their effectiveness.

Here is the main information contained in this report:

Research Summary

Research shows that following a low-carb diet when you have type 1 or 2 diabetes can reduce levels of glycated hemoglobin (meaning a better blood glucose control over the course of three months), reduce insulin requirements, decrease blood glucose variability and help with weight loss. This allows diabetes to be better controlled.

Some studies of people with type 2 diabetes even suggest higher rates of diabetes remission, better triglycerides levels and a reduced need for short-term medications.

Some reservations remain

  • Long-term studies are currently missing. It is therefore difficult to say whether improvements in blood glucose control and weight loss will be maintained over the long term, and whether there will be a reduction in the complications of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality in diabetics who follow low-carb diets.
  • It is important to note that many people have difficulty following a low-carb diet over the medium and long term.
  • It is difficult to know whether the improvements reported in the studies are directly related to low-carb diets or whether other factors are involved. It is not known what specific mechanisms underlie the benefits of low- or very low-carb diets.
  • In addition, gaps in some research make it difficult to generalize the recommendations.

Diabetes Canada’s recommendations

1- People with diabetes should be accompanied in their approach to changing their eating habits so that it can be done in a healthy way and adapted to the values, objectives and preferences of one’s health.

2- Low-carb diets, if well planned, can be considered a healthy option for people with diabetes. If properly followed, these diets allow for weight loss, improved blood glucose control and reduced medication or insulin intake.

3- Diabetes Canada reiterates the importance of informing your doctor and other health care professionals of the dietary changes being considered in order to adapt medical treatments. In effect, diabetics who are following low-carb diets might need to reduce or even stop insulin and/or medications in order to avoid the risks of hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis.

4- People who wish to adopt a low-carb diet should be accompanied by a dietitian who will ensure the quality of the fats, proteins and carbohydrates consumed as well as ensuring an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and fibre. In effect, a low-carb diet can make it more difficult to achieve the recommendations for fibre and other nutrients. For more information, on the nutritional deficiencies possible with a very low carbohydrate diet, specifically the ketogenic diet, please click HERE.

A dietitian will also be able to adapt the diet according to the values, preferences, needs and objectives of each individual.

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Jennifer Morzier
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

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