New research from the University of Copenhagen has shown that the conventional wisdom around nutritional therapies for type 2 diabetics may not be so wise after all.
The study, part of CutDM, funded in part by a DKK 4 million grant from Arla Food for Health, involved 28 patients who were studied over 12 weeks. The conclusion? A low carbohydrate, higher fat and protein diet is better than standard type 2 diabetes nutrition protocols.
As many as 85% of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics are overweight, according to the Danish Health Authority. Because of this, dietary recommendations (when any are made at all) have been focused on weight loss. These diets have normally been high in low glycemic index carbohydrates (believed to help regulate blood sugar, since they are absorbed more slowly,) low in fat and keyed in on reducing calories.
However, there is a better way, according the University of Copenhagen researchers. Their results support a diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fat as a percentage of total calories in the effort to give patients a better outcome as it relates to regulating blood sugar.
Each participant was given a diabetes diet high in low glycemic index carbohydrates for 6 weeks. For the other 6 weeks, they got a diet with reduced carbohydrates, high protein and moderately increased fat intake. The patients had their diets switched randomly.
Regulating blood sugar levels is essential to the effective treatment of type 2 diabetes. This research appears to offer not only a better dietary tool for achieving that end, but other benefits, too. The lower carb/high protein/moderately high fat diet also reduced liver fat content and improved fat metabolism among the study participants.
In order to ensure that they could determine if this diet was effective for blood sugar regulation improvements, weight loss was removed as the principle goal.
“The purpose of our study was to investigate the effects of the diet without ‘interference’ from a weight loss. For that reason, the patients were asked to maintain their weight. Our study confirms the assumption that a diet with a reduced carbohydrate content can improve patients’ ability to regulate their blood sugar levels — without the patients concurrently losing weight,” explains Senior Consultant, DMSc Thure Krarup, MD, from the Department of Endocrinology at Bispebjerg Hospital, where the study was conducted.
He continues: “Our findings are important, because we’ve removed weight loss from the equation. Previous studies have provided contradictory conclusions, and weight loss has complicated interpretations in a number of these studies.”
There is a growing body of evidence that the traditional dietary intervention for type 2 diabetes should be replaced a diet like the one used in the study. Krarup agrees with this assertion.
“The study shows that by reducing the share of carbohydrates in the diet and increasing the share of protein and fat, you can both treat high blood sugar and reduce liver fat content. Further intensive research is needed in order to optimize our dietary recommendations for patients with type 2 diabetes.” Krarup also stressed that the findings should be confirmed in large-scale, long-term controlled trials.
To summarize the study and it’s results:
- A diet with a reduced carbohydrate content, high protein content and moderately increased fat content improves glycemic control (the ability to regulate blood sugar) by reducing blood sugar after meals and ‘long-term blood sugar’ (measured by ‘HbA1c’, which is a blood test used to measure the average blood sugar level over approximately the past two months).
- A diet with a reduced carbohydrate content, a high protein content and a moderately increased fat content reduces liver fat content.
- A diet with a reduced carbohydrate content may be beneficial to patients with type 2 diabetes — even if it does not lead to weight loss.
With all that we know about the effectiveness of lower carbohydrate diets in weight loss, this news should lead to changes in the recommendations made to type 2 diabetes patients, especially those who are overweight. With science repeatedly disproving claims of physical complications from low carbohydrate diets, little reason remains to not apply the recommendations of this and other studies like it in treating type 2 diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.
Keep the faith and keep after it!
Journal Refernce – Thure Krarup, et al., A carbohydrate-reduced high-protein diet improves HbA1c and liver fat content in weight stable participants with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial. Diabetologia, 2019
Source – Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen