Landmark diabetes report says low-carb is a top option
A recent Western Australia government inquiry may result in a huge public health breakthrough for treatment of type 2 diabetes. The result of the inquiry, a report titled, “The Food Fix: The role of diet in type 2 diabetes prevention and management,” calls for low-carbohydrate diets to be one of three options formally offered to patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The report, submitted by the Education and Health Standing Committee of Western Australia’s parliament, also says that remission, not just management, should be the goal of type 2 diabetes interventions.
As part of the inquiry, a team of policymakers from Western Australia traveled to the UK to meet Dr. David Unwin, tour his clinic, meet a number of his patients, and enjoy a low-carbohydrate dinner.
The report notes that Dr. Unwin learned about the value of a low-carbohydrate diet for treating type 2 diabetes by working with patients in his clinic. He found that his patients did not understand that starchy foods, such as potatoes and rice, end up breaking down into sugar in the body. He created a graphic showing that eating a five-ounce serving of rice has a similar effect on blood glucose as consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Dr. Unwin has been able to save the UK public health system thousands of dollars in diabetes drug prescriptions through the use of a low-carb diet.
The other interventions recommended in the report were a very-low-calorie diet (800 calories or less per day) and gastric bypass surgery. The report pointed out that advocates of the two dietary interventions acknowledged the value of each other’s approach and were in favor of people with type 2 diabetes using the diet that best suited them.
What frustrated those in favor of dietary interventions, however, is that too often people with diabetes are told to follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines (which are very similar to the U.S. ones). The report noted that these guidelines recommend bread, rice, and pasta, the very foods that Dr. Unwin showed raise blood sugar. In the report, the committee agreed that the Australian Dietary Guidelines “should not be used for people with diabetes,” adding that “they do not apply to people with a medical condition who need special dietary advice.”
Another problem that the report pointed out is that a number of healthcare professionals in Australia have been deregistered or silenced as a result of recommending a low-carb diet to patients with type 2 diabetes, including orthopedic surgeon, Gary Fettke. One doctor in Perth, Australia, who ignored the possible danger of prescribing a low-carb diet to his patients, is Dr. Sanjeev Balakrishnan. In the report, Dr. Balakrishnan states that he thought it was important to treat his patients with a low-carb diet, but had to do so without any help from official organizations who are supposed to support doctors in clinical care.
The report concluded that a low-carbohydrate diet is a valuable treatment option and should be offered to people with type 2 diabetes and should be considered for women with gestational diabetes. Patients should be offered the opportunity to avoid life-long medication and progressive worsening of their condition, even if a healthcare provider thinks the patient will not be able to stick to the diet.
The report repeatedly emphasizes that many people with type 2 diabetes thrive on a low-carb diet and deserve to have the opportunity to choose diet over medication as a first line of therapy. The report passes on a message from Dr. Unwin, that a low-carbohydrate lifestyle is “not one of deprivation but one of replacement, rebalancing and flourishing through food choices that ensure blood sugar levels remain stable, putting consumers in control.”
We applaud the Western Australian parliment’s proactive plan to give patients the power to choose food over medicine!
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