Low-Carb Diet May Reduce Diabetes Risk Regardless of Weight Loss

A low-carb diet may help reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes in people with metabolic syndrome even if they don’t lose weight, according to a new study from The Ohio State University.

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Metabolic syndrome typically is characterized by conditions including insulin resistance (in which the body’s cells do not use insulin efficiently), high blood pressure, obesity, and abnormal levels of blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides, and affects about a third of American adults. Researchers worked with 16 obese participants with metabolic syndrome, providing them with a low-carb diet designed to have enough calories to prevent weight loss.

After about a month on the low-carb diet, about half of the participants experienced a reversal of their metabolic syndrome despite their weights remaining stable. Additionally, although the low-carb diet included 2.5 times more saturated fat than a high-carb diet used for comparison, it decreased saturated fat in the participants’ bloodstreams, along with lowering triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and improving cholesterol readings. The researchers additionally found increased fat-burning efficiency and improvements in blood sugar.

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“There’s no doubt that people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes do better on low-carb diets, but they typically lose weight and one of the prevailing thoughts is that the weight loss is driving the improvements. That was clearly not the case here,” said researcher Jeff Volek, PhD, RD.

“Our view is that restricting carbs even without weight loss improves a host of metabolic problems. Obviously, quality of diet matters because quantity is locked down in this experiment.”

Future studies on people with metabolic syndrome, the researchers suggest, should include low-carb diets.

Want to learn more about low-carb diets and diabetes? Read “Low-Carb Myths and Facts,” “Carbohydrate Restriction: An Option for Diabetes Management” and “Low-Carb Diabetes: What You Need to Know,” then try one of our top seven low-carb recipes.

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