Has Low-Carb Eating Been Good for YOU?

Just add steamed broccoli and a spinach salad!

Just add steamed broccoli and a spinach salad!

Low-carb or carbohydrate-restricted eating has been very beneficial to many people with type 2 diabetes, judging by what I hear from my patients and read on the Internet.  By “beneficial,” I mean has this eating style helped you to control your glucose levels, lower your hemoglobin A1c, ameliorated complications, helped you lose weight,  energized you, or just plain made you feel better?

I would love to hear about your experiences with carb-restricted eating, both good and bad.  How much did you restrict your carb intake?  How did you go about it?  Did you go “full Atkins,” and restrict carbs to 20 or less grams a day?   Or were you more moderate, restricting carbs to 30% of total calories, as in The Zone Diet?  [The typical American diet derives 55-60% of all calories from carbohdrates.]  If you don’t care to share with the world, please send me an email to steveparkermd (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’ll keep all all personal responses to my email address private and confidential.

Thanks!

Steve Parker, M.D.

14 Comments

Filed under Carbohydrate

14 responses to “Has Low-Carb Eating Been Good for YOU?

  1. lessofmimi

    I do sub-20 grams LC. It has literally saved my life. I’m a 35-year old T2 diabetic with a degree of beta-cell burnout, hypertensive, have PCOS, PMDD, had early-stage kidney issues, am disabled from a back injury, arthritic, etc etc. My highest weight was 330. I currently weigh 259. Since going sub-20, I have been able to eliminate my diabetes medication (A1C gone from 8.3 to 5.6), my BP is now normal on 1/2 my previous med dosage, my periods have normalized/I’m ovulating again, no more odd hair growth on my face, my pre-menstrual emotions are under control, my kidneys are back to normal, I can walk up to 3 miles per day without back pain, though I am increasing my distance and hope to work up to 5, and my arthritis is gone. I’ve done 10+ years of research and am 100% confident in the validity of low-carb for good health, especially for those with insulin issues/metabolic disorders. No, I will probably not continue sub-20 for the rest of my life, but for now, because of my sensitivity to carbs, I do – it is the only way I can stay off meds, lose weight, and regain health. I have come to terms with the possibility that I may have to remain sub-20 for life, however, and I am more than fine with that – however, regardless of how my pancreas behaves in the future, I will never go back over 100 grams per day. I do not believe that is healthy – for me, and for many others who have my same sensitivity to carbs and health issues. Even at sub-20, I have so many options for meal choices that I don’t ever see myself becoming bored or unsatisfied with my lifestyle.


  2. That’s what I’m talking about, lessofmimi!

    Fantastic.

    I’d be surprised if your physician recommended that way of eating to you. More of us are recommending it these days, after seeing results like yours, AND the published research on low-carb eating.

    Thanks for sharing.

    -Steve

    • lessofmimi

      My current doctor did not support nor recommend low-carb for me. She doesn’t doubt it now, though, having seen for herself the improvement in my blood work. Whether that means she’s changed her viewpoint on it is another matter. I can only hope. 🙂

  3. Vivian

    I too believe going low carb saved my life. I was diagnosed as a T2 almost 4 years ago. At that time I had been a low-fat veg for 12 years as I got sicker and heavier. I was 220lbs when I was diagnosed and had been on high BP meds for about 5 years. I was developing arthritis and gum disease, experiencing almost daily headaches, early menopause and a list of minor ailments almost too long to describe. I had zero energy and had a hard time getting myself off the couch at the end of the workday.

    I gave up being a low-fat carboholic veg and first tried moderate carb restriction a la The Zone, but found that wasn’t enough. I went full-on Atkins induction for a period of time found it to be a minor miracle. The weight dropped off effortlessly, headaches disappeared. My energy levels increased dramatically. After about 6 months I increased my carbs by including some more fruit in my diet and find that I tolerate it ok, as long as I stick to berries and citrus.

    I would describe my eating plan as lower-carb paleo. The elimination of food ‘products’ being the last step to restoring health.

    My A1c is now 4.9, without any medication. My blood pressure has normalized while coming completely off medication. Arthritis, gum disease and headaches have disappeared. My lipid levels are also normalized. I lost 75 pounds and my weight has stabilized at a normal BMI and % bodyfat for nearly 4 years now.

    I no longer count carbs, because I know what’s in the food I eat. By avoiding all grains and added sugars, industrial oils and food products, low carb happens ‘naturally’. And there is nothing boring about this eating pattern. I actually have more variety in my diet now that I did before. And I still have loads of energy and maintain a fairly intensive exercise routine.

    It’s a new life.

    There has been no bad.

  4. Steve Parker, M.D.

    Thanks for that testimonial, Vivian.

    You and lessofmimi remind me that very low-carb eating often lowers blood pressure, separate from any effect on excess weight.

    [Loss of excess weight through any method tends to lower blood pressure.]

    Lowering blood pressures below systolic 90-94 mmHg (the first or top number) can cause weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and fainting. That’s one reason overweight people on blood-pressure-lowering pills contemplating very low-carb eating should work with a physician – to make sure their blood pressure doesn’t go too low.

    Or at least self-monitor blood pressure appropriately.

    -Steve

  5. Robin

    About six years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes T2. We were attending a church where the sanctuary was upstairs. Every Sunday morning and evening, I would struggle up the stairs with each step a step of real pain. When on vacation or an unusual amount of walking was required, I would load up on a high-powered painkiller each day. I would search for a parking place as close as possible. I would not participate in many activities. I was afraid to sit in a lawn chair thinking it might break. My knees were “bad,” my back was “bad,” and my neck was “bad.” I had trouble breathing and had to sleep in a chair for almost two years. I could not continue my self destructive ways.

    I great reduced my carbohydrates by eliminating sugar and high starch foods. It has been a journey for me that has lead me to a more stable low carb lifestyle. I probably eat about 50 – 75 carbs most days, although I sometimes only eat about 30.

    A Few of My Personal Benefits Experienced by Embracing a Healthier Low Carb Lifestyle:
    1. Lost 75 lbs (and maintained).
    2. Decreased body mass index out of the obese area in the BMI chart.
    3. Decreased body mass/fat % ratio by 10-15%.
    4. Extreme increase in physical stamina and endurance.
    5. Extreme decrease in joint pain.
    6. Stopped talking medication for diabetes and lowered blood pressure medication.
    7. Maintained very good blood work numbers.
    8. Buy clothes in Misses sizes instead of looking for largest Women’s Plus sizes.
    9. Reduced Closter phobia feelings.
    10. Breathing Problems are gone. (I slept in a chair for 2 years.)

    I just started reading your blog and have found your site very helpful.

    Thanks,
    Robin

  6. Robin

    The above message is the good news. The bad news is that I still need to lose about 20 pounds and have not been able to do so. This has been very frustrating for me. I keep reading books and learning new things but the scales don’t move (except for the 10 pounds I gained last year.) When I lost my weight initially, it seemed simple: eliminate the white stuff and high starch vegetables and processed foods. I didn’t really think about it that much. The difference is that it was a radical change in the way I had been eating, with hugh baked potatoes and lots of bread and pasta. Now that I have been eating healthy, it has become more difficult to know what adjustments to make to lose those extra pounds.

    Could the keto mediterranean diet be the answer?

    Thanks again for caring about people and prevention as well as lasting cures and not just treating symptoms.

    Robin

    • Incredible results, Robin! You’ve done more for yourself than many physician’s could.

      Stalling on loss of excess weight is a common topic of discussion on the message board at Low Carb Friends and the Active Low Carber Forum.

      Switching to a different low-carb way of eating does the trick for some. Others add on some exercsise, or intensify their current program, or add some weight-training if they only do aerobice exercise currently.

      Still others find they have to actually start counting calories and cut back some. Best to count all food calories on three or so regular (baseline) days. Then reduce calorie intake by 300-500 from that baseline for a week or two and see if that does the trick.

      Some people track their calories online at About.com or FitDay.

      You’ll find many more ideas at those first two websites.

      Best wishes,
      -Steve

  7. Wren

    It certainly has been good for me. I was told by my doctor that I was “prediabetic” with “metabolic syndrome” in September of 2008. I weighed 219 pounds (I’m a 5’4″ tall female), the most I’ve ever weighed in my life, and I’ve been dieting off and on since I was a teenager. I’m 53 now.

    I started with the South Beach Diet, as it had worked (temporarily) for me before. It wasn’t long before I wasn’t really following the diet word-for-word, but I did continue to cut all “white” foods out of my diet — white rice, pasta, potatoes, bread — and stopped eating any sort of sweets or salty snacks. I replaced those foods with brown rice and whole grain pastas and bread. And I cut all “processed” foods out of my diet, as there wasn’t a single one I could find that didn’t include high fructose corn syrup or sugar in it. I began cooking everything fresh, and when I’m at the grocery store, I buy only from the produce, meat and dairy sections. I get a great whole grain bread in unsliced loaves from Costco.

    Today I weigh 166 and I’m still eating that way. I have an occasional piece of fruit, but not often. The weight loss has been very slow (maddeningly slow, at times) and I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times, mainly during the holidays. I also enjoy a very occasional meal out without ordering items that fit the diet. But getting back on the wagon is easy — my tastes have changed drastically and I find I don’t crave “bad” foods anymore.

    The best part is that my blood glucose levels have been normal ever since starting this new and better way of eating. And while I have about 40 more pounds to lose, my doc says I’m no longer in danger from the bad effects of metabolic syndrome. I feel great. I look much, much better. I’m able to work for hours in my garden and walk several miles each week. And I’m pleased with my progress, slow as it is.

    I wish I’d known about the benefits of a low-carb diet back in the 80s, when my real weight gain began. Instead, I thought I should be eating low-fat foods and plenty of carbs. Sheesh.

  8. Thanks for contributing, Wren.

    That low-fat, high-carb way of eating (so prevalent back in the 1980s) may have contributed to the high rates of overweight and obesity we find in most developed countries.

    -Steve

  9. I was diagnosed with Diabetes II in February this year (after a terribly mismanaged pre-diabetic period) and from March switched to a know carb diet: about 100 grams of carbohydrate a day.

    I’m losing about 700 grams per week in weight — after losing nothing despite exercise and low GI diet — and my blood sugars have currently settled to around 6.1-6.7 mmol. I’m on Diaformin x 2 per day.

    I’m sure I can get these readings lower as my weight drops. I am amazed how much impact the dietary change has had on my life so I’m looking for a goal blood sugar reading so I can make what adjustments are necessary.

    While I say “I can eat anything”, I mean that I carefully choose what I eat as I make it a point to know how carbohydrate dense any food is. But generally I eat no pasta, noodles,rice, potatoes, legumes or corn. Among the fruits I only eat some low carb berry fruits and cantaloup. But I do eat my own homemade sourdough bread and drink my home brewed beer (made on a low GI sugar)– but I’m aware enough to restrict and monitor my intake. I can eat 2 slices of the bread and not be overwhelmed by the carb content.

    I eat much more dairy than I did before — not milk, but cheese and Greek yogurt.

    All this was so easy…and I eat less/enjoy my food more/am never hungry….

  10. Dave-
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    [For U.S. readers, those blood sugars Dave mentions are 110-120 mg/dl.]

    I’ll have to look into sourdough bread. Fermented by bacteria or yeast that destroy some of the lactose?

    Dr. Richard Bernstein has no problem with a few beers in people with diabetes, but he recommends the lower-carb beers. That’s not always easy to determine for a commercial beer in the U.S. That sort of labelling is not mandated by law.

    My thoughts on acceptable blood sugars for diabetics are summarized here:
    https://diabeticmediterraneandiet.com/what-is-normal-blood-sugar/

    -Steve

  11. gottarun

    Low carb eating saved my life. I had two broken feet, in a wheel chair, and wound up in the emergency room with to be diagnosed with sever pcos. I was 100 pounds overweight and bedridden. Over the course of about 9 months I lost all that weight by eating low carb, felt healthier than I’ve ever felt and apparently restored my fertility because at 40 against all odds with cysts on my ovaires and years of infertile I released an egg and surprisingly became a mommy!! 🙂 since the baby I went back to low carb eating in July, 2010 and in one month lost 20 pounds not eating bread etc just protein and veggies. When I eat bread products it makes me feel foggy and sick. I am certainly healthier for eating low carb!