People with diabetes are generally encouraged to eat a nutritionally balanced, low-fat diet. But now, a small new study out of Sweden is lending support to the idea that a higher-fat, low-carbohydrate diet may work best for some people with diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes have the same nutritional requirements as those without diabetes. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a diet composed of 45% to 65% carbohydrate, 20% to 35% fat, and 10% to 35% protein for adults age 19 and older.
To compare the effects of a low-fat diet and a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet on various health markers such as weight, blood glucose level, and blood cholesterol level, researchers at Linköping University recruited 61 adults with Type 2 diabetes, randomly assigning them to one of the two diets.
Those on the low-fat diet aimed to eat 55% to 60% of their calories as carbohydrate, 30% of their calories as fat, and 10% to 15% of their calories as protein. Those on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet aimed to consume roughly 20% of their calories as carbohydrate, 50% as fat, and 30% as protein. The participants got together for four group meetings during the first year of the study, and all were available for follow-up at the end of two years.
The researchers found that both diets resulted in an average weight loss of 4 kilograms (roughly 9 pounds). In the high-fat, low-carbohydrate group, blood glucose control had improved at the six-month mark, with HbA1c levels dropping from an average of 7.5% down to 7.1% and insulin levels decreasing by 30%. This group also saw an increase in their levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. In the high-carbohydrate group, meanwhile, no statistically significant improvements were seen in either blood glucose or blood fat levels, despite the weight loss.
“You could ask yourself if it really is good to recommend a low-fat diet to patients with diabetes, if despite their weight loss they get neither better lipoproteins nor blood glucose levels,” noted study author Fredrik Nyström, professor of Internal Medicine at Linköping University.
Have you ever tried a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate diet? If so, how did it affect your blood glucose levels compared to a standard meal plan? Let us know with a comment below!