Is low carb the best treatment for reversing diabetes?

Notepad and dietary food on light table.

The diabetes diet debate has shifted, and the result could save millions of people.

The question used to be, is a low-carb high-fat diet dangerous? Is it going to kill us?

Now the question has become, is a low-carb high-fat diet the best first-line treatment for reversing diabetes in millions of people?

According to a recent article in inews.co.uk, the answer is probably: Yes. That’s an impressive evolution.

The article referenced a review study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from July 2018. The authors reviewed 36 studies that measured HgbA1c (a marker of your average three-month blood sugar level) in response to the percentage of carbohydrates vs fats consumed. They defined low carbohydrate diets as <40% of calories from carbs. Compared to the standard American diet, <40% may be low carb. But in today’s health conscious low-carb circles, 40% is still an enormous amount of carbohydrates (many consume <5% from carbs).

Here’s the amazing part. Even with 40% carbs, even though the difference was small and tended to decrease over time, the low carb diets showed better efficacy than low-fat diets for reducing HgbA1c. To be honest, this was a fairly low-quality study with unimpressive results. Yet the take away for many was the same. Low carb works for improving diabetes.

While I agree that low carb diets should be first line interventions for those with diabetes, I do not believe this is the best trial to show that. Far better, in my opinion, are the 10-week and 1-year trial data from Dr. Hallberg and Virta Health. Their very low (<5%) carbohydrate intervention showed 83% compliance with a reduction of HbgA1c from 7.6 to 6.3%. That’s an incredible result. But here is the kicker. They achieved those results while eliminating or reducing insulin in 94% of the patients.

So, while we should appreciate The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, we also have to interpret it in light of the available evidence. Lower quality observational evidence is conflicting and is fraught with confounding variables, methodological problems, and the inability to prove causation.

Instead, we should be focusing on the higher quality intervention studies, such as that from Virta Health, to help guide us. This is the science that supports low-carb diets being the first-line treatment for individuals with diabetes. The time has come to change the paradigm for treating diabetes and science is showing us the way.

Thanks for reading.
Bret Scher, MD FACC

iNews: Low carb diet ‘should be first line of approach to tackle type 2 diabetes’ and prolong lifespan

Earlier

Britain’s NHS to fight diabetes with very low-calorie liquid diet

How Tom Watson reversed his type 2 diabetes

Guides

How to reverse type 2 diabetes

A low-carb diet for beginners

Type 2 diabetes

Low carb

4 comments

  1. Kenrick
    Is the tide turning ?...well maybe, but in order to fully establish a much needed paradigm change some if not most of the old guard need to die off ...both metaphorically and perhaps in some cases physically lol...

    However, in the meantime, I suspect the evidence will become so overwhelming that it would be near impossible to ignore ...and if it is maybe a few court actions will help install its efficiency when a few pharmaceuticals or Food Producers start getting hit ditectly where it hurts most ...their profits !

    Kenrick

  2. 1 comment removed
  3. Vishal
    I still see several articles every week that claim low carb is a killer and shaves many years off of one's life. Google feed. They keep popping up like clockwork.

    Long way to go yet.

  4. 1 comment removed
  5. Janet
    This Critical Review with a similar title, from January 2015 by 25 low carb experts, with almost 100 references, was ignored. Will the medical establishment reaction three years later be any different?

    Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: Critical review and evidence base

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900714003323

  6. Lori
    I believe it would help if we stopped calling it 'low carb diets' and used 'low carb way of eating'. This isn't a short term fix for T2D it is a way of eating for the rest of your life.

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