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A Low Carb, "Healthy Fat' Diet Shown to Aid People with Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

Posted by Jessica Brown CA, ND on

Studies have shown us that reversing and even curing the ravages of Type 2 diabetes can be accomplished through diet.  In large part those diets incorporate what many might consider common sense approaches.  Such as removing highly processed foods, sugars and transfers.  Often it was thought that caloric restrictions would lend themselves to improving Type 2 diabetes  What became more apparent though was that a diet lower in carbs and inclusive of healthy, unprocessed fats resulted in a measurable improvement in many cases.  

But diabetes type one was another story, or so some thought.  Yet is it really a surprise that a diet designed to improve digestive health and to eliminate chronic inflammation-causing foods would provide positive results even for Type 1 diabetes ?  

A recent, long-term study has shown just that, measurable improvement in conditions related to Type 1.  Results that, in effect, have eliminated the diabetes.  

In an article regarding the study found in The New York Times health section:

Andrew has Type 1 diabetes, and six years ago, in order to control his blood sugar levels, his parents put him on a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. His mother makes him recipes with diabetic-friendly ingredients that won’t spike his blood sugar, like pizza with a low-carb, almond-flour crust; homemade bread with walnut flour instead of white flour; and yogurt topped with blueberries, raspberries and nuts.

Andrew’s diet requires careful planning — he often takes his own meals with him to school. But he and his parents say it makes it easier to manage his condition and, since starting the diet, his blood sugar control has markedly improved and he has not had any diabetes complications requiring trips to the hospital.

Most diabetes experts do not recommend low-carb diets for people with Type 1 diabetes, especially children. Some seemingly wrongly worry that restricting carbs can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia, and potentially stunt a child’s growth. But a new study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday suggests otherwise.

It found that children and adults with Type 1 diabetes who followed a very low-carb, high-protein diet for an average of just over two years — combined with the diabetes drug insulin at smaller doses than typically required on a normal diet — had “exceptional” blood sugar control. They had low rates of major complications, and children who followed it for years did not show any signs of impaired growth.

The study found that the participants’ average hemoglobin A1C a long-term barometer of blood sugar levels, fell to just 5.67 percent. An A1C under 5.7 is considered normal, and it is well below the threshold for diabetes, which is 6.5 percent.

“Their blood sugar control seemed almost too good to be true,” said Belinda Lennerz, the lead author of the study and an instructor in the division of pediatric endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “It’s nothing we typically see in the clinic for Type 1 diabetes.”

The standard approach for people with Type 1 diabetes is to match carb intake with insulin. But the argument for restricting carbs is that it keeps blood sugar more stable and requires less insulin, resulting in fewer highs and lows. The approach has not been widely studied or embraced for Type 1 diabetes, but some patients swear by it.

TypeOneGrit has about 3,000 members on Facebook who ascribe to a program devised by Dr. Richard Bernstein, an 84-year-old physician with Type 1 diabetes. His book, “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution,” recommends limiting daily carb intake to about 30 grams, the amount in a sweet potato or about four or five cups of cooked broccoli.

Dr. Bernstein argues that the fewer carbs consumed, the easier it is to stabilize blood sugar with insulin. He recommends foods like nonstarchy vegetables, seafood, nuts, meat, yogurt, tofu and recipes made with almond flour, sugar substitutes and other low-glycemic ingredients. His plan emphasizes protein intake, which he says is especially important for growing children.

While it was not a clinical trial, the study is striking because it highlights a community of patients who have been “extraordinarily successful” at controlling their diabetes with a very low-carb diet, said Dr. David M. Harlan, the co-director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence at the UMass Memorial Medical Center, who was not involved in the study. “Perhaps the surprise is that for this large number of patients it is much safer than many experts would have suggested.”

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