Research out of Linkoping University found that undertaking a low-carbohydrate diet — not necessarily a low-fat one — helps diabetics in reducing inflammation. People who suffer from type 2 diabetes tend to have higher levels of inflammation, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
In the study, participants were divided up randomly and given either a low-carb or low-fat diet. The researchers compared the low-carb diet to a “traditional” low-fat one over the course of 2 years, examining 61 patients who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They also studied the diets’ impacts on inflammation with the help of a cardiologist, who checked inflammation levels in the blood. Interestingly, both diets had a similar effect on weight loss: Whether patients were on a low-fat or low-carb diet, they all managed to lose weight by the end of the study (up to 4 kg).
But the low-carb diet was shown to drop glucose levels more significantly, and after six months inflammation levels dropped more than those on the low-fat diet. “The clinical trial resulted in a similar weight loss comparing low-carbohydrate diet and low-fat diet, but only the low-carbohydrate diet had a favorable impact on inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes,” the researchers said.
But diabetes diets have actually been controversial in the past, with many claiming that low-carb diets don’t do any good for diabetics. It was fairly recent that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) accepted low-carb diets as a viable option for diabetes patients; previously, they had claimed that there wasn’t enough evidence showing that low-carb diets were healthy and effective, and instead suggested low-fat diets.
"We recognize that people are looking for realistic ways to lose weight," Ann Albright, president of health care and education for the ADA said in a statement. "The evidence is clear that both low-carbohydrate and low-fat calorie restricted diets result in similar weight loss at one year. We're not endorsing either of these weight-loss plans over any other method of losing weight. What we want health care providers to know is that it's important for patients to choose a plan that works for them, and that the health care team support their patients' weight loss efforts and provide appropriate monitoring of patients' health."
Overall, the general consensus is that diabetes patients ought to stick to a balanced diet of whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables. Some doctors actually believe that a low-carb diet is detrimental, as carbs are a good source of energy. “Like gasoline powers a car, glucose powers your body,” Dr. Neal Barnard, adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, told Diabetes Forecast. “The idea that carbohydrate is a problem is, in my opinion, a mistaken one.” Indeed, blood glucose is determined by the balance between carbs and insulin — not necessarily the amount of carbs you eat. So stick to moderation, whether you’re a fan of the low-carb or low-fat diet.