Low-carb diet improves sugar control in diabetics

Following a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for five weeks led to a marked reduction in blood sugar levels in patients with untreated type 2 diabetes, according to the results of a small study published in the September issue of Diabetes.

This could potentially be a way for diabetes type 2 patients to control their blood sugar, or “glucose,” without drugs, co-authors Dr. Mary C. Gannon and Dr. Frank Q. Nuttall, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, note. However, further studies are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of such a diet, they add.

The findings stem from a study of eight men with type 2 diabetes. For five weeks, the subjects consumed a diet with a carbohydrate to protein to fat ratio of either 20:30:50 (test diet) or 55:15:30 (comparison diet). After a five-week break, the subjects then switched to the other diet for five weeks.

At follow-up, the average 24-hour glucose level and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) percentages were lower after the test diet than after the control diet. HbA1c levels, a marker for long-term increases in blood sugar, were still falling at the end of the test-diet phase.

Another change associated with the test diet included decreased insulin levels. However, no changes in cholesterol levels were observed.

Overall, the study findings suggest that this high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can “dramatically reduce” 24-hour glucose concentrations people with type 2 diabetes, the investigators conclude.

SOURCE: Diabetes, September 2004.

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Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD