This is a guest expert article written by Kelley Pounds RN. Kelley is a low-carb diabetes educator, registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and certified insulin pump trainer to celebrate world diabetes day
Medical Disclaimer -Before embarking on any change in diet, lifestyle or activity, you may need to be under the supervision and care of your primary healthcare provider. This article should not be construed as medical advice, nor should it be substituted for medical advice from your healthcare provider. By continuing to read this article, you assume all responsibilities and risks for instituting lifestyle management. If you are taking any medications do not start a low-carb diet without medical supervision.
Low Carb For Diabetes - all types
Many with diabetes are confused by the conflicting dietary advice they receive. And no wonder. The dietary advice given to those with diabetes has been extremely poor.
For decades, people with diabetes have been told center their diet around carbohydrates, many being counseled to consume 250+ grams of carbohydrates per day.
No person needs to consume 250+ grams of carbohydrates per day, let alone the very people who are unable to effectively process them, those with diabetes.
Eating this many carbohydrates daily would mean that one would HAVE to be consuming a great deal of sugar or refined, processed foods. It would be extremely difficult to consume this amount of carbohydrates while EATING REAL FOOD.
Further, many are told “calories from sugar can be substituted equally for other carbohydrates as part of a healthy balanced diet for diabetes.” In other words, you can skip the broccoli or salad for a calorically-equal portion of candy. Really?
This advice has not only worsened diabetes and made it harder to manage, but it has also increased the risk of other chronic conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, strokes and cancer as well as contributing to blindness and amputations.
Pre-Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
Due to the significant correlation between (Pre-Diabetes and) Type 2 diabetes and obesity, people with Type 2 Diabetes are often told to eat a low-fat diet, under the mistaken assumption that eating fat, makes people fat. This could not be further from the truth.
Eating fat does not make you fat, eating sugar and poor quality carbohydrates do.
This is why low carbohydrate diets consistently out-perform low-fat diets in weight loss, improvement in blood glucose control and in cardiovascular markers. (1,2).
These facts are also acknowledged by the American Diabetes Association. Note these findings in their most recent position statement (3):
- “Published studies comparing lower levels of carbohydrate intake to higher carbohydrate intake levels indicated improved markers of glycemic control and insulin sensitivity with lower carbohydrate intake.”
- “Studies comparing lower levels of carbohydrate intake to higher carbohydrate intake levels revealed improvements in serum lipid/lipoprotein measures, including improved triglycerides, VLDL triglyceride and VLDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.”
- “In a systematic review and in four studies and in a meta-analysis published since the systematic review, lowering total fat intake did not consistently improve glycemic control or cardiovascular disease risk factors.”
They admit: “Monitoring carbohydrate intake remains a key strategy in achieving glycemic control".
Low Carb for Pre-Diabetes and Type 2
Low-carb is essential for those with Type 2 diabetes wishing to achieve normal blood glucose control, to assist in achieving a healthy weight and improve cardiovascular risk factors.
Those with Type 2 have two distinct problems going on.
- First, if the body is still making sufficient insulin, the insulin cannot work efficiently due to a condition called insulin resistance.
- Second, if the body is not making sufficient insulin, and insulin has to be injected, the injected insulin still cannot work efficiently due to insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can become so severe that some with Type 2 can take hundreds and hundreds of units of insulin per day and still not achieve normal blood glucose numbers.
The most effective, natural way to reverse insulin resistance is by following a low-carbohydrate diet. Therefore, insulin needs will decrease, insulin resistance can be diminished, and the body can heal.
This often allows many with Type 2 to decrease or eliminate their diabetes medications.
Type 1 Diabetes
Many with Type 1, when diagnosed in youth, are told not to change their diet.
Parents are advised, “just allow the child to eat like a “normal child” and cover with insulin.” Blood glucose and A1c targets are then set SO high so as to ensure that the child will not suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) from the HUGE doses of insulin needed to allow them to eat a Standard American Diet.
These high blood glucose and A1c targets leave those with Type 1 open to constantly unstable blood glucose and severe diabetes-related complications.
A significant number of those with Type 1 can also then develop insulin resistance as well from the high carbohydrate intake, necessitating the use of large amounts of insulin.
Low-Carb for Type 1
Some people are concerned that eating fewer carbs will leave those with type 1 at risk or more hypoglycaemic episodes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, those using a low-carbohydrate approach have much more stable blood glucose, some nearly eliminating hypoglycemic episodes altogether. It really makes perfect sense. Think about it…less (fast-acting, blood-sugar-spiking) carbs, less insulin, less hypoglycemia.
Why this reasoning is shunned, defies logic.
A low-carb approach can allow those with Type 1 to significantly reduce insulin needs.
The reduced insulin needs and normalized blood glucose can help those with Type 1 to reduce or avoid the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Benefits of a Low Carb Approach
One major benefit of the low-carbohydrate approach is the attention to carbohydrate (and food) quality.
A low carbohydrate diet is focused around real, whole foods, including nutrient-dense carbohydrates, along with eliminating processed and refined carbohydrates that contain no nutritional value and are not healthy for any persons (even those without diabetes.)
And nothing is more delicious than real, whole foods. Not only will blood glucose be normalized, but with a low carbohydrate way of eating, improved quality of life, vitality, energy and wellness can be expected and achieved.
The preponderance of nutritional research points to low carbohydrate eating as the best approach for diabetes. Unfortunately, it is often said that “medical PRACTICE is often 20 years behind medical SCIENCE.” I urge those of you out there with pre-diabetes, Type 2 or Type 1 diabetes not to wait until this is accepted as the standard recommended diet for diabetes.
This is my favourite video. Lisa Scherger, mother of a Type 1 diabetic, and how she has normalised his blood sugar control by ignoring the standard dietary advice for diabetes management - Ditch The Carbs.
References and citations:
1. Annals Of Internal Medicine - Effects of low carbohydrate and low-fat diets: A randomised trial
2. The New England Journal Of Medicine - Weight loss with low carbohydrate, Mediterranean or low-fat diet
3. Professional Diabetes Position Statement - Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes.
American Diabetes Association - Management of hyperglycemia in Type 2 Diabetes.
Low-Carb Practitioners - you can now find a low-carb practitioner near you and access more resources to support you on your low-carb journey. If you are taking any medications do not start a low-carb diet without medical supervision.
Recipes - for all your low carb recipes which have no sugars, no grains and are wholesome real ingredients, take a look at our recipe finder. When you ditch the carbs, you are opened up to a whole new world of real food. Eating healthy low carb food is an important part of effective diabetes management. Start today and make a change for tomorrow.
Dr Bernstein's Diabetic Solution: A complete guide to achieving normal blood sugars. This is a 'must-have' book for all types of diabetes. Dr Bernstein believes those with diabetes have just as much right to normal blood sugars as anyone.
Diabetes programs - In order to reach a wider audience and help as many as possible to prevent, manage or reverse diabetes, she has recently launched her online diabetes programs. These self-directed courses are designed to give you all the tools to successfully manage your diabetes. (One-on-one consultation is also available.) She is interested not only helping those with Type 1 and 2, but also very much so, helping those with pre-diabetes. She feels that the pre-diabetic population is a very overlooked, under-served group that needs significant support with early detection, reversal and prevention. She has used the tools taught in her programs to reverse her own pre-diabetes, lose 80 pounds and rid herself of other health concerns. She would be glad to help you with your diabetes and wellness goals. For more information, please visit her website.
TypeOneGrit - join their community Facebook page They are Type 1 and parents who follow Dr Bernstein's low carb approach to stabilise their blood glucose control.
Diabetic University - watch Dr Bernstein's series of videos to learn how to gain control and achieve normal blood sugars.
Further videos - Dr Sarah Hallberg - reversing Type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines