Tag Archives: low-carb diet

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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Filed under Carbohydrate, Fat in Diet

Can You Manage Your Type 2 Diabetes Without Drugs?

David Mendosa says you can. I’m not quite that optimistic, but probably a majority can, if they have the knowledge, discipline, and willpower. Here are some snippets from David’s blog:

You can use drugs to bring your A1C level down to normal. That’s a good thing. But this strategy does have its costs, and those costs aren’t just money out of your pocket or your checkbook. The worst of those costs are the potential side effects of the drugs.

***

But some of us think we have a safer strategy of managing our diabetes without drugs. Back in 2007 I joined this group with the encouragement of a good friend of mine who is a Certified Diabetes Educator. Before that, I had 14 years of experience taking a wide range of diabetes drugs, including two different sulfonylureas (Diaßeta and Amyrl), Glucophage (metformin), and Byetta. For the past six years I haven’t taking any diabetes drugs, and yet I keep my diabetes in control with an A1C level usually about 5.4.

I had to make three big changes in my life when I went off the diabetes drugs, and they are hard at first. But now they are a routine part of my life, and I would never go back to my old ways. The changes that I had to make are those that almost everyone who has diabetes has to make. In order of importance, I had (1) to lose weight, (2) eat fewer carbohydrates, and (3) exercise more.

Read the whole enchilada. It’s brief.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

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Filed under Exercise, Fat in Diet

Radiologist With Type 1 Diabetes Thrives on Very Low Carb Diet

"Put down the bread and no one will get hurt!"

“Put down the bread and no one will get hurt!”

ABC Radio provides the audio and transcript of an interview with Dr. Troy Stapleton, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 41. Dr. Stapleton lives in Queensland, Australia. At the time of his diagnosis…

I was advised to eat seven serves of bread and cereals, two to three serves dairy, fruit, starchy vegetables, and to balance that intake with insulin. If you add up all those serves, they were recommending a diet of up to about 240 grams of carbohydrates a day, and to balance it with insulin. I was going to be the best patient, and there has been some important trials that show that if you do control your blood glucose well then you can reduce your incidence of the complications.

Dr. Stapleton believes we evolved on a very low carbohydrate diet; the Agricultural Revolution led to our current high carb consumption. He was concerned about the risk of hypoglycemia with standard diabetic diets.

There was a different approach where essentially you went on a very low carbohydrate diet, this made a little bit of sense to me. Why would I eat carbohydrates and then have to balance it with insulin?

Here’s what the diabetes educators told him:

What they say is you need to estimate the amount of carbohydrate you’re going to eat, and then you need to match that carbohydrate dose essentially with an insulin dose. So you sort of look at your food and you go, okay, I’m having 30 grams of carbohydrate and I need one unit of insulin per 15 grams of carbohydrate, so two units. It sounds really quite straightforward, except that it’s very, very difficult to estimate accurately the amount of carbohydrate you’re eating. The information on the packets can be out by 20%. Most people say that your error rate can be around 50%.

And then of course it changes with what you’ve eaten. So if you eat carbohydrates with fat and then you get delayed absorption, then that glucose load will come in, and then the type of carbohydrates will alter how quickly it comes in to your bloodstream. And then of course your insulin dose will vary, your absorption rate will vary by about 30%. Once you think through all the variables, it’s just not possible. You will be able to bring your blood glucose under control, but a lot of the time what happens is you get a spike in your glucose level immediately after a meal, and that does damage to the endothelium of your blood vessels…

Norman Swan: The lining.

Troy Stapleton: That’s correct, it causes an oxidative stress to your endothelium, and that is the damage that diabetes does, that’s why you get accelerated atherosclerosis.

Here’s what happened after he started eating very low carb:

It’s been amazing, it’s been the most remarkable turnaround for me and I just cut out carbohydrates essentially completely, although I do get some in green leafy vegetables and those sorts of things. My blood sugar average on the meter has gone from 8.4 [151 mg/dl] down to 5.3 [95 mg/dl]. My HbA1c is now 5.3, which is in the normal range. My blood pressure has always been good but it dropped down to 115 over 75. My triglycerides improved, my HDL improved, so my blood lipid profile improved. And I would now have a hypoglycaemic episode probably about once a month after exercise. [He was having hypoglycemia weekly on his prior high carb diet with carb counting insulin adjustments.]

He was able to reduce his insulin from about 27 units a day down to 6 units at night only (long-acting insulin)! He admits his low insulin dose may just reflect the “honeymoon period” some type 1s get early on after diagnosis.

Norman Swan: So when you talk to your diabetes educator now, what does he or she say?

Troy Stapleton: Look, they’re interested, but they’ll tell me things and I’ll say, well, that’s actually not true. I’m quite a difficult patient, Norman.

He says he’s eating an Atkins-style diet. Combining the transcript and his notes in the comments section:  1) he doesn’t eat potatoes or other starchy vegetables or bread, 2) he eats meat, eggs, lots of starchy vegetable, some berries and tree nuts, olives, and cheese, 3) an occasional wine or low-carb beer, 4) coffee, and 5) he eats under 50 g/day of carbohydrate, probably  under 30 g. This is a low-carb paleo diet except for the cheese, alcohol, and coffee.  Cheese, alcohol and coffee are (or can be) low-carb, but they’re not pure paleo.

He notes that…

There is an adaption period to a very low carbohydrate diet which takes 4-6 weeks (ketoadaption). During this time symptoms include mild headaches, lethargy, cramps, carb cravings and occasional light headedness. These symptoms all pass.

Read or listen to the whole thing. Don’t forget the comments section. All the blood sugars you see there are in mmol/l; convert them to mg/dl (American!) by multiplying by 18.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, Paleo diet

Chaz Bono Loses 65 Pounds in Six Months Eating Low-Carb

Examiner.com has the details:

“I really avoid grains and starches, so meats and vegetables and fruits are my diet,” he tweeted. “I make them all different ways to keep it interesting. What’s worked for me is no sugar, no grains, no dairy except goat cheese, no white starches, portion control, and high intensity workouts.”

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Kelly Schmidt, RD, Interviews Eric Pelletier (T1 Diabetes) On Diet and Exercise

Eric is a Crossfitter who owns a Crossfit gym (or box, as they say). Kelly asks him about low-carb eating (even ketogenic) and how to manage food and insulin in the setting of vigorous exercise.  Well worth a read, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.

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Periodic Tests, Treatments, and Goals for PWDs (Persons With Diabetes)

If you don't like your physician, find a new one

If you don’t like your physician, find a new one

So, you’ve got diabetes. You’re trying to deal with it or you wouldn’t be here. You’ve got a heck of a lot of medical information to master.

Unless you have a good diabetes specialist physician on your team, you may not be getting optimal care. Below are some guidelines you may find helpful. The goal is to prevent diabetes complications. Many primary care physicians will not be up-to-date on the guidelines. Don’t hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. Nobody cares as much about your health as you do.

Annual Tests

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the following items be done yearly (except as noted) in non-pregnant adults with diabetes. (Incidentally, I don’t necessarily agree with all ADA guidelines.) The complete ADA guidelines are available on the Internet.

  • Lipid profile (every two years if results are fine and stable)
  • Comprehensive foot exam
  • Screening test for distal symmetric polyneuropathy: pinprick, vibration, monofilament pressure sense
  • Serum creatinine and estimate of glomerular filtration rate (MDRD equation)
  • Test for albumin in the urine, such as measurement of albumin-to-creatinine ratio in a random spot urine specimen
  • Comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist (if exam is normal, every two or three years is acceptable)
  • Hemoglobin A1c at least twice a year, but every three months if therapy has changed or glucose control is not at goal
  • Flu shots

Other Vaccinations, Weight Loss, Diabetic Diet, Prediabetes, Alcohol, Exercise, Etc.

Additionally, the 2013 ADA guidelines recommend:

  • Pneumococcal vaccination. “A one time re-vaccination is recommended for individuals >64 years of age previously immunized when they were <65 years of age if the vaccine was administered >5 years ago.” Also repeat the vaccination after five years for patients with nephrotic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, other immunocompromised states (poor ability to fight infection), or transplantation.
  • Hepatitis B vaccination to unvaccinated adults who are 19 through 59 years of age.
  • Weight loss for all overweight diabetics. “For weight loss, either low-carbohydrate, low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to two years).” For those on low-carb diets, monitor lipids, kidney function, and protein consumption, and adjust diabetic drugs as needed. The optimal macronutrient composition of weight loss diets has not been established. (Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.)
  • “The mix of carbohydrate, protein, and fat may be adjusted to meet the metabolic goals and individual preferences of the person with diabetes.” “It must be clearly recognized that regardless of the macronutrient mix, total caloric intake must be appropriate to weight management goal.”
  • “A variety of dietary meal patterns are likely effective in managing diabetes including Mediterranean-style, plant-based (vegan or vegetarian), low-fat and lower-carbohydrate eating patterns.”
  • “Monitoring carbohydrate, whether by carbohydrate counting, choices, or experience-based estimation, remains a key strategy in achieving glycemic control.”
  • Limit alcohol to one (women) or two (men) drinks a day.
  • Limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of calories.
  • During the initial diabetic exam, screen for peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation). Strongly consider calculation of the ankle-brachial index for those over 50 years of age; consider it for younger patients if they have risk factors for poor circulation.
  • Those at risk for diabetes, including prediabetics, should aim for moderate weight loss (about seven percent of body weight) if overweight. Either low-carbohydrate, low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to 2 years). Also important is exercise: at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. “Individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to achieve the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendation for dietary fiber (14 g fiber/1,000 kcal) and foods containing whole grains (one-half of grain intake).” Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • “Adults with diabetes should be advised to perform at least 150 min/week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (50–70% of maximum heart rate), spread over at least 3 days/week with no more than two consecutive days without exercise. In the absence of contraindications, adults with type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to perform resistance training at least twice per week.”
  • Screening for coronary artery disease before an exercise program is depends on the physician judgment on a case-by-case basis. Routine screening is not recommended.
Steve Parker MD, low-carb diet, diabetic diet

Olive, olive oil, and vinegar: classic Mediterranean foods

Obviously, some of my dietary recommendations conflict with ADA guidelines. The experts assembled by the ADA to compose guidelines were well-intentioned, intelligent, and hard-working. The guidelines are supported by 528 scientific journal references. I greatly appreciate the expert panel’s work. We’ve simply reached some different conclusions. By the same token, I’m sure the expert panel didn’t have unanimous agreement on all the final recommendations. I invite you to review the dietary guidelines yourself, discuss with your personal physician, then decide where you stand.

General Blood Glucose Treatment Goals

The ADA in 2013 suggests these therapeutic goals for non-pregnant adults:

  • Fasting blood glucoses: 70 to 130 mg/dl (3.9 to 7.2 mmol/l)
  • Peak glucoses one to two hours after start of meals: under 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/l)
  • Hemoglobin A1C: under 7%
  • Blood pressure: under 140/80 mmHg
  • LDL cholesterol: under 100 mg/dl (2.6 mmol/l). (In established cardiovascular disease: <70 mg/dl or 1.8 mmol/l may be a better goal.)
  • HDL cholesterol: over 40 mg/dl (1.0 mmol/l) for men and over 50 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/l) for women
  • Triglycerides: under 150 mg/dl (1.7 mmol/l)

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) in 2011 proposed somewhat “tighter” blood sugar goals for non-pregnant adults:

  • Fasting blood glucoses: under 110 mg/dl (6.11 mmol/l)
  • Peak glucoses 2 hours after start of meals: under 140 mg/dl (7.78 mmol/l)
  • Hemoglobin A1C: 6.5% or less

The ADA reminds clinicians, and I’m sure the AACE guys agree, that diabetes control goals should be individualized, based on age and life expectancy of the patient, duration of diabetes, other diseases that are present, individual patient preferences, and whether the patient is able to easily recognize and deal with hypoglycemia. I agree completely.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Diabetes Complications, Exercise, Fat in Diet, Fiber, Mediterranean Diet, Overweight and Obesity, Prediabetes, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Moderate-Carb Diet No Better Than Standard High-Carb Diet In Gestational Diabetes

…according to a report at MedPageToday.

Women with gestational diabetes were randomized to either a 40% carb diet or 55% carb diet. The same numbers in each group ended up needing insulin therapy to control blood sugars.

Both groups ate the same amount of protein. The lower-carb group replaces some carbs with fat.

Pregnancy outcomes were similar in both groups.

Critics wonder if stricter carbohydrate restriction would have been more effective.

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One More Study Shows Low-Carb Beats Low-Fat Diet for Weight Loss

low-carb diet, low-carb fruits, Steve Parker MD

Low-carb isn’t meat-only: You can eat these low-carb fruits

A low-carb diet was superior to a traditional low-fat weight loss diet, and without adverse effects on markers of systemic inflammation, according to a report at ScienceDaily. Some medical professionals are still hesitant to accept the validity of low-carb dieting, fearing that relatively high fat and protein content may promote inflammation, leading to atherosclerosis.  The study at hand should be reassuring in that regard.

Some quotes from ScienceDaily:

The researchers measured the participants’ blood levels for three common markers of inflammation — C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha — at the beginning and end of the study. They also measured body weight, body mass index (BMI) and total body and belly fat. At the start, both groups were similar in the various measures, including elevated levels of inflammation markers.

The participants on the low-carb diet lost more weight, on average, than those on the low-fat diet — 28 pounds versus 18 pounds [over the six month trial.

“In both groups, there was a significant drop in the levels of all three measures of inflammation,” says [Kerry] Stewart, indicating that a diet higher in fat and protein doesn’t interfere with the ability to lower inflammation, as long as you are losing weight.

Despite reading several online articles on this study, I can’t determine which low-carb diet was used, nor the level of carbohydrate restriction. Both diet groups exercised three times a week. I expect full details to be published in a scientific journal within a couple years. The research was done at Johns Hopkins University and was not funded by Atkins Nutritionals. U.S. taxpayers funded it.

If you’re looking for a low-carb diet, consider the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet. Carb restriction starts at under 30 grams a day, but allows for increases over time as long as you’re making weight-loss progress. The typical American eats 250 to 300 grams of carbohydrate daily.

Read the rest at ScienceDaily.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Potential Problems With Major Carbohydrate Restriction

Caprese salad, naturally low-carb

Caprese salad, naturally low-carb

Ketogenic Diets

First, let’s define ketogenic diets.  For most folks, that means eating under 50 grams of digestible carbohydrate daily.

Your body gets nearly all its energy either from fats, or from carbohydrates like glucose and glycogen. In people eating “normally,” 60% of their energy at rest comes from fats. In a ketogenic diet, the carbohydrate content of the diet is so low that the body has to break down even more of its fat to supply energy needed by most tissues. Fat breakdown generates ketone bodies in the bloodstream. Hence, “ketogenic diet.” Also called “very-low-carb diets,” ketogenic diets have been around for over a hundred years.

What Could Go Wrong?

Long-term effects of a very-low-carb or ketogenic diet in most people are unclear—they may have better or worse overall health—we just don’t know for sure yet. Perhaps some people gain a clear benefit, while others—with different metabolisms and genetic make-up—are worse off.

If the diet results in major weight loss that lasts, we may see longer lifespan, less type 2 diabetes, less cancer, less heart disease, less high blood pressure, and fewer of the other obesity-related medical conditions.

Ketogenic diets are generally higher in protein, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than some other diets. Some authorities are concerned this may increase the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; the latest evidence indicates otherwise.

Some authorities worry that ketogenic diets have the potential to cause kidney stones, osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones), gout, and may worsen existing kidney disease. Others disagree.

Soon after adoption of very-low-carb eating, dieters may have headaches, bad breath, easy bruising, nausea, fatigue, aching, muscle cramps, constipation, and dizziness, among other symptoms. “Induction flu” may occur around days two through five, consisting of achiness, easy fatigue, and low energy. It clears up after a few days.

Very-low-carb ketogenic diets may have the potential to cause  low blood pressure, high uric acid in the blood, excessive loss of sodium and potassium in the urine, worsening of kidney disease, deficiency of calcium and vitamins A, B, C, and D, among other adverse effects.

Athletic individuals who perform vigorous exercise should expect a deterioration in performance levels during the first three to four weeks of any ketogenic very-low-carb diet. The body needs that time to adjust to burning mostly fat for fuel rather than carbohydrate.

Competitive weight-lifters or other anaerobic athletes (e.g., sprinters) will be hampered by the low muscle glycogen stores that accompany ketogenic diets. They need more carbohydrates.

What About Adherence to the Diet?

It’s clear that for many folks, compliance with very-low-carb diets is difficult to maintain for six to 12 months.  Some can’t do it for more than a couple weeks. Potential long-term effects, therefore, haven’t come into play for most users. When used for weight loss, regain of lost weight is a problem—but regain is a major issue with all weight-loss programs. I anticipate that the majority of non-diabetics who try a ketogenic diet will stay on it for only one to six months. After that, more carbohydrates can be added to gain the potential long-term benefits of additional fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Or not.

People with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes may be so pleased with the metabolic effects of the ketogenic diet that they’ll stay on it long-term.

The most famous ketogenic diet is Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.  I’ve put together one call the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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The Case For Carbohydrate Restriction in Diabetes

Dr. Rollo would recognize this

Dr. Rollo would recognize this

In 1797, Dr. John Rollo  published a book called An Account of Two Cases of the Diabetes Mellitus. Dr. Rollo was a surgeon in the British Royal Artillery. He discussed his experience treating a diabetic Army officer, Captain Meredith, with a high-fat, high-meat, low-carbohydrate diet. In case you don’t know, this was an era devoid of effective drug therapies for diabetes.

The soldier apparently had type 2 diabetes rather than type 1.

Rollo’s diet led to loss of excess weight (original weight 232 pounds or 105 kg), elimination of symptoms such as frequent urination, and reversal of elevated blood and urine sugars.  (Don’t ask me how they measured blood and urine sugar back then.)

This makes Dr. Rollo the original low-carb diabetic diet doctor. Many of the leading proponents of low-carb eating over the last two centuries—whether for diabetes or weight loss—have been physicians.

Carbohydrate Intolerance

Diabetes and prediabetes always involve impaired carbohydrate metabolism: ingested carbs are not handled by the body in a healthy fashion, leading to high blood sugars and, eventually, poisonous complications.

Diabetics and prediabetics—plus many folks with metabolic syndrome—must remember that their bodies do not, and cannot, handle dietary carbs in a normal, healthy fashion. In a way, carbs are toxic to them. Toxicity may lead to amputations, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, poor circulation, frequent infections, premature heart attacks and death, among other things.

What To Do About It

Diabetics and prediabetics simply don’t tolerate carbs in the diet like other people. If you don’t tolerate something, you have to give it up, or at least cut way back on it. Lactose-intolerant individuals give up milk and other lactose sources. Celiac disease patients don’t tolerate gluten, so they give up wheat and other sources of gluten. One of every five high blood pressure patients can’t handle normal levels of salt in the diet; they have to cut back or their pressure’s too high. Patients with phenylketonuria don’t tolerate phenylalanine and have to restrict foods that contain it. If you’re allergic to penicillin, you have to give it up.

Stretching actually doesn't do any good for the average person

Stretching actually doesn’t do any good for the average person

If you don’t tolerate carbs, you have to give them up or cut way back. I’m sorry. Alternatively, you could eat lots of carbs and take drugs to prevent the dangerous elevations in blood sugar they cause. We have 11 classes of drugs to treat diabetes. Unfortunately, the long-term side effects of most of them are not well-established. And they can get very expensive.

The American Diabetes Association recommends weight loss for all overweight diabetics. That tends to improve carbohydrate metabolism. The ADA’s 2011 guidelines suggest three possible diets: “For weight loss, either low-carbohydrate [under 130 g/day], low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to two years).”

If I were a diabetic eating over 200 grams of carb daily, I’d cut my carbs way below 130 grams initially, to 20–30 grams of digestible carb.  Then gradually increase carbs as tolerated, based on blood sugar readings. Ask your doctor what he thinks.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

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Filed under Carbohydrate