Readers Exchange Opinions on Whether Low-Carb Diets Can Hurt Children

(Editor’s Note: When we recently published “The ‘Fat-Free Fallacy’: Is It Obesity's Great Enabler?” on our website (#5658 in the search feature), it generated dozens of spirited responses. Two of them, reprinted below, struck us as representative of the differing opinions people hold on the topic.)

Low-carb diet proponents would say that the real culprit in this hamburger is the bun, not the meat.

| Apr 28, 2008

Does Low-Carb Cheat Young Children of Their Needs?

KheurserRD wrote us to say, “From a dietitian's perspective, 30 grams of carbs doesn't allow for much. It would not allow for the recommended amounts of milk/milk equivalents or fruit a child needs. Not to mention the lack of fiber. Whatever happened to balance, portion control, physical activity, and eating within your calorie needs? ...If such extreme restrictions are being made, how can very young children meet their requirements for calcium and other vitamins and minerals present in milk or fruit and some carbohydrate-containing vegetables?  Were these children monitored for nutritional deficiencies, or have the long-term effects of such a diet been studied when the diet was started at such a young age? Even if there are no recommendations for fiber, diets rich in fiber are associated with the prevention of many diseases.”

So, What Exactly Is Wrong?

An anonymous reader responded to kheuserRD’s statement that 30 grams of carbs “doesn’t allow for much” by writing, “The [following diet] meets and exceeds recommendations for children for calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B-6 and B-12, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, selenium, niacin, and copper, and provides complete and adequate protein (amino acids) and omega-6 and omega-3. So, what exactly is wrong with a carbohydrate-restricted approach for children again?”

1 egg with 1/4 cup spinach and 1-ounce cheddar omelet
1/4 cup blueberries
3 medium slices of tomato
1 teaspoon cod liver oil

3 small celery stalks with 2 tablespoons almond butter

2-ounce ham + 1-ounce cheddar
3/4 cup cooked spinach
1/4 cup strawberries + 1/4 cup blueberries and 1/2 cup plain yogurt
homemade iced tea with lemon slice

Hard-boiled egg

2-ounces white roasted chicken
1/2 cup cooked broccoli

Total carbs = 43g
Fiber = 13g
Net carbs = 30g

Does DH's Left Hand Know What Its Right Hand is Doing?


What a disconnect and what a disappointment!  On page 32 of your February/March issue, there is a warning that Byetta can cause acute pancreatitis. Then, on page 36, there is an interview with a representative of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Byetta, extolling Byetta’s virtues in an interview with Scott King. I hope your magazine wasn't bought off by a paid ad for a medication that can cause serious side effects. I expect better from Diabetes Health.

Marcyl Seidscher
San Mateo, CA

(Editor’s Reply: Marcyl, thank you for your attentive reading. We hope you’ll see that we are committed to covering both the good and the bad aspects of Byetta. The truth is that Byetta has been closely connected with a few cases (30) of pancreatitis, and we duly reported it. We made no attempt to soft-pedal or hide that news.

But the truth is also that in thousands of cases, Byetta has produced some astonishing results, including lowered A1c’s and notable weight loss and appetite control. Investment expert David Kliff, highly respected for his forthright, play-no-favorites advice, recently said, “When you keep in mind how rare even 30 reported cases are in comparison with the number of people who are taking Byetta, this is a non-issue. There are more than 700,000 patients using Byetta, and 30 reports of pancreatitis. That’s 0.00428 percent, or 1 case per 23,364 patients. That’s rare.”

We printed reports on both aspects of Byetta because we know that printing only negative reports about the drug would be just as biased as printing only good news about it. If we had been bought off by an ad, we would have never run the article you read on page 32.  We want to thank you for holding us to a high standard and hope that this will assure you that we hold ourselves to it, too.)

Readers Sound Off:

“My sister was put on Byetta in spite of the fact that she has had two operations for bowel obstruction. When she became very ill, even her doctor could not believe how bad she looked when she went in. After he took her off the Byetta, and she improved, he ended up dismissing her as a patient. Byetta may be a good medicine for a lot of people, but those who have intestinal problems should not be on it, and a lot of them do not know that.”

“Excellent and reassuring reply from the Editor.”

“Speaking as a diabetes educator and type 1 for 30+ years, Byetta is a godsend to 99 percent of patients who use it. The astounding results, including decreased appetite, no longer obsessing about food, and [reducing] the fear of long-term complications because of elevated A1c’s, have improved the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of those who suffer with this complex disease. To make a sweeping judgment based upon the rarity of acute pancreatitis [is like throwing] the baby out with the bath water! Just yesterday I learned that a man who had just started Byetta one month ago had reduced his A1c from 8.8% to 7.4% and had a 10-pound weight loss. He was so grateful for how he felt that when he learned his new drug insurance plan would not pay for his new Byetta prescription, he paid $280 out of pocket because he did not want to live without it.”

“I’ve been on Byetta for one year now with no outward signs of pancreatitis. However, I agree with the writer regarding your magazine’s two articles. Studies with 25, 50, or 75 people never seem to be an accurate test of a product. I usually disregard any such studies, and maybe you should consider not reporting them either.”

“Readers should be reminded that all drugs have risk of side effects, some common and some rare (such as pancreatitis). Drug manufacturers know this and so do physicians, and thus patients are made aware of all possibilities. We know that there is always a risk of getting in a car accident every time we get in a car, but we still use this mode of transportation despite its risks. The same goes for pharmacologic management of diseases.”

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Categories: A1c Test, Diabetes, Diabetes, Diets, Food, Letters to the Editor, Losing weight, Low Carb

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Posted by kmct10 on 1 May 2008

The question should not be so much about the danger of the low carb diet for kids, but the clear danger of the typical American high carb diet for kids. Kids don't need to be on strict low-carb diets, but they do need to get off the extreme high carb bandwagon pushed by our mass-market economy which does not care a fig about kids' health. The damaging effects of high-carb on kids are plentiful: obesity, diabetes, cholesterol buildup and eventual heart disease. Reducing carbs to lower levels immediately produces weight loss, dramatic lowering of triglycerides, reversal of type 2 diabetes, and much easier control of blood sugars without the need for insulin. If the dangers of high carb intake are obvious, then the benefits of controlling carbs for kids is just as obvious.

Posted by Anonymous on 2 May 2008

Getting rid of the non-nutritional carbs is the first step. Children do not need soda, punch, sport drinks or juice. This helps aid in weight loss because it lowers total caloric intake. This is just common sense.

Posted by kchinoy on 3 May 2008

Low carb-diet for children or anyone does not make my opinion as long as, you are physically active you can eat everything under the sun. Yes, i do agree with the overindulgence in marketed junk food, which can lead to obesity and other complications. Therefore, the best way is to keep a balance, specially with kids....after all they are KIDS. Remember, you should be the master of your diabetes and not the other way enjoy and yet be sensible with chpoices you make.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 May 2008

One of the ways Byetta works is by delaying the absorbtion of your foods. Therefore it is not recommended for people with gastroporesis or other gastrointestional such as bowel obstruction.

Steve Freed, R.Ph., CDE, Publisher

Posted by Anonymous on 11 May 2008

NO LOW-CARB DIETS! I'm a diabetic Type I and thirteen years old. I agree with some of the earlier responses- I eat healthy food, but a strictly low-carb diet is crazy for someone my age. I would hate it and eat sugary, high-carb food MORE.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 May 2008

Go to your grocery store, and for anyone with any knowledge of what our bodies truly needs, you have no doubt why 60% of this country is obese and suffering from any number of intestinal ailments. How can we not be? When 75% of the grocery isles are crammed with foods that bear little or no resemblence to what was put on this earth naturally. If consumers were to buy and consume ingredients that have little or no processing whatsoever there wouldn't be near as many health problems. But that isn't where the money is. Food producers have us all hooked on sugar, starch and convienence. Face it, it is just easier to buy that box of Hamburger Helper and let it cook on the stove after we have worked all day. And there is nothing remotely nutritious in that box at all. I am one who is guilty of this crime myself. It is also cheaper to buy for those of us who have to watch our pennies. But there comes a time when we have to say no to it. I have a 4 year old son who weighs 50 lbs. His father is diabetic (type 1), both his grandmothers(type 1&2) are diabetic and I have choosen (because I am the adult)that for his life, LIFE, I have to make better choices for him. We're the adults and we make their decisions until they are old enough to do it on their own, if we show them good choices now then it will help them make good choices when it is their turn. I took out all sugary drinks, it took a couple of weeks but he now drinks water, which is a first, stopped bringing in sweets and now they are only a treat. We have the ability to choose what they eat, make it good choices. Food in it's natural state has benefits and nutrients for our bodies. We just have to make sensible choices. My body runs better on low carbs. And for you who say it is bad for your heart. I live on red meat and bacon and dropped my cholesterol from 546 to 95 in 12 weeks. My cholesterol goes up when I stop eating low carb. But it isn't for everyone. But my daughter does well with the carbs it is an individual thing. Just make good food choices.

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