When treating type 2 diabetes, in addition to anti-diabetic medication, doctors often recommend a lifestyle change, particularly a healthy diet with low carbohydrates due to their remissive effects on blood sugar levels. Occasionally, the question of whether this form of dieting can effectively function in the absence of medication arises and scientists from Tulane University believe it can. 

According to Professor Kristen Dorans and her team of researchers, a low carbohydrate diet would not only be a helpful intervention in the treatment of unmedicated type 2 diabetes but could also prevent the disease entirely in susceptible populations if sustained.  

In type 2 diabetes, the body suffers from insulin resistance, a condition that keeps it from utilizing insulin the way it should, necessitating external help to keep the blood sugar levels in check. For the most part, external help comes purely from lifestyle adjustments depending on factors like age, time of diagnosis, etc.  When this fails, anti-diabetic medications from different classes are deployed as reinforcements either alone or in combination depending on severity.  

The logic behind low-carb diets being a remedy for diabetes is a straightforward one. Upon digestion, carbohydrates beget sugar, too much of which presents the problem. Despite this, cynicism about its efficacy persists even among health professionals prompting the study’s authors to weigh in.

Study Methodology

To arrive at their findings, the researchers first randomly sorted the study’s 150 participants – individuals with untreated type 2 diabetes between the ages of 40 and 70- into two groups – the low-carb dietary intervention group and the usual diet group.

The members of both groups then maintained different diets during a 6-month observational period. The low-carb diet group maintained diets with a net carbohydrate intake of less than 60g daily, while the usual diet group maintained their regular feeding habits. 

Subsequently, the HbA1C levels (a marker for blood sugar levels) of participants were then analyzed from samples gathered at different stages of the six-month observational period to determine the effectiveness of a low-carb diet in managing type 2 diabetes. 

Results

Upon analysis, the results revealed a larger drop in HbA1C  levels for the low-carb diet group in six months compared to participants that maintained their usual diets. 

In addition, the results also revealed a larger decrease in HbA1C within the first 3 months for the low-carb diet group compared to the usual diet group.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the primary objective of all management approaches for diabetes is to lower blood sugar levels to the normal range and a strict low-carbohydrate diet can help with that. 

Low-carb diets not only aid with blood sugar management but also reduce medication needs and complications as well as induce healthy weight loss which gives the pancreas a chance to keep up with the body’s insulin needs. 

The study’s findings are particularly helpful for individuals at high risk of developing diabetes, commonly referred to as prediabetics. With low-carb diets, their blood sugar levels could be kept from ever reaching concerning levels.

Read the full study published in JAMA Network Open here.

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