Tag Archives: low-carb diet

Does a New Diabetes Drug Reduce Heart Disease Risk?

diabetic mediterranean diet, Steve Parker MD

Pharmacist using her advanced degree to count pills

Larry Husten writing at CardioBrief mentions a recent press release alleging that empagliflozin reduces cardiovascular disease risk.

Larry points out a problem with diabetes drugs that I’ve been harping on for years: we don’t know the long-term outcomes and side effects of most of our drugs. As long as a diabetes drug reduces blood sugar and seems to be relatively safe in the short term, it will be approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Larry writes:

Until now the best thing anyone could say for sure about all the new diabetes drugs was that at least they didn’t kill people. That’s because although these drugs have been shown to be highly effective in reducing glucose levels, a series of large cardiovascular outcomes trials failed to provide any evidence of significant clinical benefit.

Cardiovascular disease is a major stalker of diabetics. I’m talking about heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, sudden cardiac death.

The aforementioned press release touts reduced cardiovascular disease risk in patients taking empagliflozin. What’s missing is any mention of overall death reduction. Even if the drug really prevents heart attacks and strokes, which I doubt, don’t you want to know about overall death rates? I do. For all we know, the drug could promote illness and death from infections and cancer while reducing heart attacks and strokes. The drug’s net effect could be premature death. 

I’m 99% sure the researchers doing the work have the mortality data. Unless they don’t want to know.

By no means am I against drug use. But if I had type 2 diabetes, I’d do all I can with exercise, weight control, and low-carb eating before resorting to new or higher doses of drugs.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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New Study Suggests Low-Carb Diet Healthier Than Low-Fat in T2 Diabetes

This is an important report because most diet studies last much less than one year. Details are in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Study participants were 115 obese (BMI 35) type 2 diabetics with hemoglobin A1c averaging 7.3%. Average age was 58. So pretty typical patients, although perhaps better controlled than average.

They were randomized to follow for 52 weeks either a very low-carbohydrate or a high-carbohydrate “low-fat” diet. Both diets were designed to by hypocaloric, meaning that they provided fewer calories than the patients were eating at baseline, presumably with a goal of weight loss. The article abstract implies the diets overall each provided the same number of calories. They probably adjusted the calories for each patient individually. (I haven’t seen the full text of the article.) Participants were also enrolled in a serious exercise program: 60 minutes of aerobic and resistance training thrice weekly.

Kayaking is an aerobic exercise if done seriously

Kayaking is an aerobic exercise if done seriously

The very low-carb diet (LC diet) provided 14% of total calories as carbohydrate (under 50 grams/day). The high-carb diet (HC diet) provided 53% of total calories as carbohydrate and 30% of calories as fat. The typical Western diet has about 35% of calories from fat.

Both groups lost weight, about 10 kg (22 lb) on average. Hemoglobin A1c, a reflection of glucose control over the previous three months, dropped about 1% (absolute reduction) in both groups.

Compared to the HC diet group, the LC dieters were able to reduce more diabetes medications, lower their triglycerides more, and increase their HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). These triglyceride and HDL changes would tend to protect against heart disease.

SO WHAT?

You can lose weight and improve blood sugar control with reduced-calorie diets—whether very low-carb or high-carb—combined with an exercise program. No surprise there.

I’m surprised that the low-carb group didn’t lose more weight. I suspect after two months of dieting, the low-carbers started drifting back to their usual diet which likely was similar to the high-carb diet. Numerous studies show superior weight loss with low-carb eating, but those studies are usually 12 weeks or less in duration.

The low-carb diet improved improved lipid levels that might reduce risk of future heart disease, and allowed reduction of diabetes drug use. Given that we don’t know the long-term side effects of many of our drugs, that’s good.

If I have a chance to review the full text of the paper, I’ll report back here.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Jeannie Tay, et al. Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial. First published July 29, 2015, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.115.112581    Am J Clin Nutr

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Heart Disease, Weight Loss

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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David and Goliath: Dr. Briffa Versus National Health Service on Low-Carb Diets

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service last year published guidelines favoring low-fat weight-loss diets over low-carb ones. Dr. John Briffa objects:

See here for a comprehensive review of 23 studies which demonstrates superior results achieved by low-carb diets with regard to weight loss and disease markers. To my mind, dietician Sian Porter and the NHS Choices website have done a bad job of communicating the facts and summarising the evidence. I wish to formally complain about the inaccuracies in this article and its (to me) clear bias and lack of balance.

Read the whole enchilada (plus this update).

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Recipe: Apple, Pecan, Blueberry Lunch Bowl

paleobetic diet, diabetic diet, low-carb diet

So simple even a redneck like me can make it

My wife and I initially put this together for the Paleobetic Diet, but since I provide the nutritional analysis you can easily incorporate it into the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.

Ingredients:

2.5 oz (70 g) apple, diced (“red delicious” variety works well) (this is half a medium-sized apple)

2.5 oz (70 g) pecans, crumbled into small pieces

2.5 oz (70 g) raw blueberries

Instructions:

Mix all together in a bowl, then enjoy.

Servings: 1

Nutritional Analysis:

76% fat

20% carb

4% protein

570 calories

30 g carbohydrate

10 g fiber

20 g digestible carb

1.4 mg sodium

421 mg potassium

Prominent features: Quick and easy. Rich in copper, manganese, and thiamine. Inadequate protein to get you through the day, but you’ll make up for it at breakfast or dinner.

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Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

 

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Meaty low-carb spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash

Making a wholesale switch from the Standard American Diet or most diabetic diets to a very low-carbohydrate diet can be difficult for some under the best of circumstances. For those used to eating carb-heavy pasta, I thought it might be comforting to offer something similar to pasta but with a lower carb count. Hence, spaghetti pasta. The tomatoes in the sauce are an additional source of blood glucose-elevating carbohydrates. So I’ve tried to minimize them by creating a meat-heavy sauce. Nevertheless, a reasonable portion size—two cups 0f squash—tipped me over my usual “20 grams of carbohydrate per meal” limit. In contrast, a single cup of cooked spaghetti pasta by itself—no sauce—has 40 grams of digestible carbohydrate and 220 calories. Add some sauce and the combo could wreck your blood sugar control for a few hours. 

 

paleobetic diet, spaghetti, squash, low-carb diet, diabetic diet, paleo diet

Cooked spaghetti squash partially teased apart with a fork

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (240 ml) low-carb spaghetti sauce

2 cups (480 ml) cooked spaghetti squash

Instructions:

Prepare the ingredients after clicking on links above. Assemble as in the photo. Enjoy.

Number of Servings: 1

Nutritional Analysis: 

52% fat

33% carbohydrate

15% protein

408 calories

36 g carbohydrate

7 g fiber

29 g digestible carbohydrate

1,398 mg sodium

1,201 mg potassium

Prominent features: Rich in B12, copper, iron, niacin, thiamin, B6

I think you’ll find the two cups of spaghetti squash filling and satisfying. If that’s not enough calories for you, munch on some leftover high-protein food such as chicken or steak.

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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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