Tag Archives: carbohydrate restriction

Should Carbohydrate Restriction Be the Default Diet for Diabetes?

Yes….according to a manifesto to be published soon in Nutrition. It may be published already since this post has been sitting in my draft stack for a while. The abstract:

The inability of current recommendations to control the epidemic of diabetes, the specific failure of the prevailing low-fat diets to improve obesity, cardiovascular risk or general health and the persistent reports of some serious side effects of commonly prescribed diabetic medications, in combination with the continued success of low-carbohydrate diets in the treatment of diabetes and metabolic syndrome without significant side effects, point to the need for a reappraisal of dietary guidelines.

The benefits of carbohydrate restriction in diabetes are immediate and well-documented. Concerns about the efficacy and safety are long-term and conjectural rather than data-driven. Dietary carbohydrate restriction reliably reduces high blood glucose, does not require weight loss (although is still best for weight loss) and leads to the reduction or elimination of medication and has never shown side effects comparable to those seen in many drugs.

Low-Carb Spaghetti Squash With Meat Sauce

Low-Carb Spaghetti Squash With Meat Sauce

The lead author is Richard Feinman. Others include Lynda Frassetto, Eric Westman, Jeff Volek, Richard Bernstein, Annika Dahlqvist, Ann Childers, and Jay Wortman, to name a few. Some of them disclose that they have accepted money from the Veronica and Robert C. Atkins Foundation. That doesn’t bother me. I’m familiar with most of the supporting literature they cite, having read it over the last decade. I agree with these guys wholeheartedly.

Read the whole enchilada.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The linked article is preliminary and may undergo minor revision over the coming months.

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New Podcast Episode Features Professional Low-Carb Diet Proponents

Jimmy Moore posted an interview with Dr. Troy Stapleton and Franziska Spritzler, R.D. They both advocate carbohydrate-restricted diets for management of blood sugars in diabetes. Dr. Stapleton, by the way, has type 1 diabetes; I’ve written about him before. Franziska is available for consultation either by phone, Skype, or in person.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Consider Carbohydrate Restriction for Your GERD

Dr. Michael Eades has a post on gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and it’s treatment with carbohydrate-restricted eating versus drugs. GERD is relatively severe and/or frequent heartburn caused by stomach acid backing up in to the esophagus. The lining of your stomach is designed to be resistant to a high-acid environment; your esophagus not so much. A quote from Dr. Eades:

Most people who have GERD, have it for the long term. It’s not something that comes and goes. So these folks go on GERD therapy for the long term, and the most prescribed medications for long-term GERD treatment are PPIs [proton pump inhibitors], which, you now know, keep stomach acid neutralized for the long term, and, as you might imagine, creates a host of problems.

The scientific literature has shown long-term PPI therapy to be related to the following conditions:

  • Anemia
  • Pneumonia
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Impaired calcium absorption
  • Impaired magnesium absorption
  • Increased rate fractures, especially hip, wrist and spine
  • Osteopenia [thin brittle bones]
  • Rebound effect of extra-heavy gastric acid secretion
  • Heart attacks

Read the rest if you or someone you love has GERD.

Here’s a scientific report supporting Dr. Eades’ clinical experience. Carbs were reduced to 20 grams a day.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Some studies find no association between PPI use and pneumonia. It makes sense that we have stomach acid for good reasons, and that suppressing it may well have adverse effects.

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Low-Carb Diet Improves Glucose Control in Japanese Type 2 Diabetics

Mt. Fuji in Japan

Mt. Fuji in Japan

I don’ know anything about Japanese T2 diabetes. I’ve never studied it. Their underlying physiology may or may not be the same as in North American white diabetics, with whom I am much more familiar.

For what it’s worth, a small study recently found improvement of blood sugar control and triglycerides in those on a carbohydrate restricted diet versus a standard calorie-restricted diet.

Only 24 patients were involved. Half were assigned to eat low-carb without calorie restriction; the other half ate the control diet. The carbohydrate-restricted group aimed for 70-130 grams of carb daily, while eating more fat and protein than the control group. The calorie-restricted guys were taught how to get 50-60% of calories from carbohydrate and keep fat under 25% of calories. At the end of the six-month study, the low-carbers were averaging 125 g of carb daily, compare to 200 g for the other group. By six months, both groups were eating about the same amount of calories.

Average age was 63. Body mass index was 24.5 in the low-carb group and 27 in the controls. (If you did the research, I bet you’d find Japanese T2 diabetics have lower BMIs than American diabetics.) All were taking one or more diabetes drugs.

The calorie-restricted group didn’t change their hemoglobin A1c (a standard measure of glucose control) from 7.7%. The low-carb group dropped their hemoglobin A1c from 7.6 to 7.0% (statistically significant). The low-carb group also cut their triglycerides by 40%. Average weights didn’t change in either group.

Bottom Line

This small study suggests that mild to moderate carbohydrate restriction helps control diabetes in Japanese with type 2 diabetes. The improvement in hemoglobin A1c is equivalent to that seen with initiation of many diabetes drugs. I think further improvements in multiple measures would have been seen if carbohydrates had been restricted even further.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Link to reference.

h/t Dr Michael Eades

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What’s the Best Diet for Type 2 Diabetics?

DietDoctor has some ideas based on a recent scientific study:

new exciting Swedish study provides us with strong clues on how a person with diabetes should eat (and how to eat to maximize fat burning). It’s the first study to examine in detail how various blood markers change throughout the day depending on what a diabetic person eats.

The study examined the effects of three different diets in 19 subjects with diabetes type 2. They consumed breakfast and lunch under supervision in a diabetes ward. The caloric intake in the three diets examined was the same, but the diets differed in the following manner:

  1. A conventional low-fat diet (45-56% carbs)
  2. A Mediterranean diet with coffee only for breakfast (= similar to 16:8 intermittent fasting) and a big lunch (32-35% carbs)
  3. A moderate low-carbohydrate diet (16-24% carbs)

All participants tested all three diets, one diet each day in randomized order.

Click through for results. Hint: Carbohydrate restriction works.

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Do Clinical Studies Support Carbohydrate-Restricted Eating in Type 1 Diabetes?

Sweden has lots of blondes

Sweden has lots of blondes

Yes, there are a few. We’ll take a close look at one today. (See the references below for more.)

In the introduction to the study at hand, the authors note:

The estimation of the amount of carbohydrates in a meal has an error rate of 50%. The insulin absorption may vary by up to 30%. It is therefor virtually impossible to match carbohydrates and insulin which leads to unpredictable blood glucose levels after meals. By reducing the carbohydrates and insulin doses the size of the blood glucose fluctuations can be minimized. The risk of hypoglycemia is therefore minimized as well. Around-the-clock euglycemia [normal blood sugar] was seen with 40 g carbohydrates in a group of people with type 1 diabetes [reference #2 below].

The immediate resulting stable, near-normal blood glucose levels allow individuals to predict after-meal glucose levels with great accuracy.

For individuals with type 1 diabetes one year audit/evaluation of group education in this regimen has shown that the short-time lowering of mean hemoglobin A1c by 1 percentage unit and the reduction in mean rate of symptomatic hypoglycemia by 82% was maintained [reference #3].

***

There is no evidence for the use of the widely recommended high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in type 1 diabetes.

Study Set-Up

Swedish investigators educated study participants on carbohydrate-restricted eating from 2004 to 2006 [reference #1]. They recently audited their medical records for results accumulated over four years. At the outset, participants were given 24 hours of instruction over four weeks. My sense is that they all attended the same diabetes clinic. The subjects’ mean age was 52 years and they had diabetes for an average of 24 years. Seven had gastroparesis. Fourteen used insulin pumps. Of the 48 study subjects, 31 were women, 17 were men. The diet regimen restricted carbohydrates to a maximum of 75 grams a day, mainly by reducing starchy food.

Results

As measured three months after starting the diet, HDL-cholesterol rose and triglycerides fell to a clinically significant degree (p<0.05). Average weight fell by 2.7 kg (a little over a pound); average baseline weight was 77.6 kg (171 lb). Hemoglobin A1c fell from 7.6 to 6.3% (Mono-S method).

As measured one year after start, meal-time insulin (rapid-acting, I assume) fell from 23 to 13 units per day. Long-acting insulin was little changed at around 19 units daily.

By two years into the study, half the participants had stopped adhering to the diet. The remainder were adherent (13 folks) or partly adherent (10). We don’t know what the non-adherents were eating.

Four years out, the adherent group had hemoglobin A1c of 6.0%, and the partly adherents were at 6.9% (p<0.001 for both). The non-adherent group had returned to their baseline HgbA1c (7.5%). Remember, at baseline the average HgbA1c for the group was 7.6%.

The authors don’t say how many participants were still adherent after four years. From Figure 2, adherence seems to have been assessed at 60 months: 8 of the 13 adherent folks were still adherent, and 5 of the 10 partly adherent were still in the game. So, of 48 initial subjects, only 13 were still low-carbing after five years later. By five years out, half of all subjects seem to have been lost to follow-up. So the drop-out rate for low-carbers isn’t as bad as it looks at first blush.

Conclusion

The authors write:

An educational program involving a low-carbohydrate diet and correspondingly reduced insulin doses for informed individuals with type 1 diabetes gives acceptable adherence after 4 years. One in two people attending the education achieves a long-term significant HbA1c reduction.

They estimate that this low-carb diet “may be an option for 10-20% of the patients with type 1 diabetes.” Only 17% of their current diabetes clinic population is interested in this low-carb diet. They didn’t discuss why patients abandon the diet or aren’t interested in the first place. Use your imagination.

Major carbohydrate restriction in type 1 diabetics significantly improves blood sugar control (decreases HgbA1c), lowers insulin requirements, and improves cardiovascular disease risk factors (increases HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides).

Low-carb eating wasn’t very appealing to Swedes in the mid-2000s. I wonder if it’s more popular now with the popularity of LCHF dieting (low-carb, high-fat) in the general population there.

Steve Parker, M.D.

References:

1.  Nielson, J.V., Gando, C., Joensson, E., and Paulsson, C. Low carbohydrate diet in type 1 diabetes, long-term improvement and adherence: A clinical audit. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 2012, 4:23. http://www.dmsjournal.com/content/4/1/23

2.  O’Neill, D.F., Westman, E.C., and Bernstein, R.K. The effects of a low-carbohydrate regimen on glycemic control and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, 2003, 1(4): 291-298.

3.  Nielsen, J.V., Jönsson, E. and Ivarsson, I. A low carbohydrate diet in type 1 diabetes: clinical experience – A brief report. Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 2005, 110(3): 267-273.

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Carbohydrate Restriction Improve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

MedPageToday reports that women cutting carbs from 55 to 41% of total calories see improved insulin sensitivity, lower testosterone levels, lower blood sugar levels, and improved lipid numbers.

Learn more about PCOS at UpToDate.com. It affects 5 to 10% of U.S. women.

From MedPageToday:

“A moderate reduction in dietary carbohydrate reduced both insulin and testosterone,” Gower told MedPage Today. “There is no reason not to recommend reduction in dietary carbohydrate, particularly processed carbohydrate, for women with PCOS. It may have tremendous benefit, and there is certainly no downside.”

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