Low-Carb Lifestyle’s Effect on Diabetes Control
Caution: Consult your diabetes care team before starting a lower-carbohydrate meal plan. Diabetes medications such as insulin or oral drugs that stimulate insulin production (sulfonylureas or meglitinides) will need adjustment to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) when carbohydrate intake is decreased. In addition, blood glucose levels need to be checked more often.
Although a person almost always leaves the doctor’s office after a type 2 diagnosis with a fistful of prescriptions, according to a recent survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 7 percent of diabetics are meeting treatment goals for blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In the past two years, nine published studies have shown that type 2s who follow an Atkins-type plan can see dramatic improvement in blood glucose control, insulin resistance, blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors. In addition, it has been found that they can also reduce or eliminate the need for certain medications.
We’ll look briefly at four of these studies; for a complete listing, go to www.atkins.com/science/researchsupportingatkins.html.
In one study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, overweight people with type 2 diabetes ate according to the induction phase of the Atkins plan (no more than 20 grams of carbs) for 16 weeks.
Body weight, A1C levels, triglycerides and fasting glucose all decreased significantly.
Moreover, 13 out of 19 patients were able to reduce or discontinue their diabetes medications.
Atkins Versus the ADA Diet
In a 2004 study funded by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) presented at the June 2004 Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida, obese type 2s followed the induction phase of Atkins for just two weeks. Participants lost an average of 5.3 pounds, fasting blood glucose and A1C levels decreased and insulin sensitivity significantly improved. Additionally, subjects showed significant improvements in cholesterol and triglycerides.
Low Carb Versus the American Heart Association Diet
In a third study published in Diabetes, a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet was compared to dietary recommendations by the American Heart Association and the USDA. Eight men with untreated type 2 tested each diet over a five-week period. Subjects in the low-carb group experienced significant improvement in blood glucose control compared to those in the other group.
Big Results, and Fast
In just two years, this body of research— nine published studies—shows that a lowcarbohydrate program such as Atkins can significantly help control type 2 diabetes and even produce improvements in cholesterol and markers of inflammation, often without—or with lower doses of— medications. These were short-term studies, but longer-term studies are underway to evaluate the effectiveness of the lowcarbohydrate approach to diabetes control and weight management over time.
Where the Research Was Conducted
The studies referred to in this article were conducted at prestigious universities and hospitals across the globe, including:
- The Division of General Internal Medicine, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
- Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia
- Departments of Food Science and Nutrition and Medicine, University of Minnesota- Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center, Minneapolis
- Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem