High-fat, low-carb diet reduces HbA1c, weight and medication in US study

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A new non-randomised trial, conducted by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek, offers further evidence that a low-carb diet, as opposed to standard dietary advice, is effective in managing type 2 diabetes.
The new study had 262 overweight participants with type 2 diabetes restrict their carbohydrate intake to 30g or less daily, increase fat, and maintain a modest but not high protein intake to induce a state referred to as “nutritional ketosis”.
Previous studies have shown that such ketogenic diets can improve insulin sensitivity and bring many other benefits. However, most studies done to date using them involved much smaller groups of people and often excluded those on insulin.
In the current study, participants whose average HbA1c at baseline was 59.6 mmol/mol, stayed on a low-carb, ketogenic diet for ten weeks without making any other change or increasing their physical activity.
Researchers checked that they were in ketosis the whole time through measuring a compound the liver can make – out of fat – called beta-hydroxybutyrate, one of the three ketone bodies produced when reducing carbs.
After ten weeks on a low-carb, ketogenic diet, participants saw their HbA1c levels drop to 48.6 mmol/mol and over half of them were able to achieve near-normal (47.5 mmol/mol or over was considered abnormal) HbA1c levels of about 47 mmol/mol.
Most of them were taking at least one diabetes medication before starting out. By week 10, nearly 60 per cent of participants had one or more of their medications reduced in number and dosage or, in some cases, discontinued altogether.
In terms of weight loss, participants lost about 7.2 per cent of body mass. There were no reports of severe hypoglycemia during the time the study lasted for. Another positive finding is that some had their triglycerides significantly reduced by 20 per cent.
There was a good compliance throughout with a relatively small dropout rate (10 per cent), suggesting that most found the diet easy to live with. Another research, testing the efficacy and sustainability of this diet over two years, is in the pipeline.
A growing number of researchers, doctors and nutritionists around the world are backing low-carb and reporting similar findings, i.e., that most patients with type 2 diabetes who follow this advice are getting their blood sugar levels back under control.
Diabetes.co.uk has long promoted lowering carb intake as an effective way of improving diabetes management for people with type 2 diabetes. You can find out more by visiting our Low Carb Program page.