Category Archives: Dietary Carbohydrate

The Low-Carb Diabetes Diet Revolution

Dr Maria Muccioli looks at low-carb diet approaches to type 1 diabetes in part 1 of a series at Diabetes Daily:

Not long ago, low-carbohydrate diets were considered to be on the fringes of medically-recommended strategies for diabetes control. Long regarded as a “fad diet” and with the health effects often called into question, many patients were routinely discouraged from attempting such an approach. However, in recent years, as more and more research demonstrated the potential benefits of a low-carbohydrate approach for people with diabetes and prediabetes, we have seen a rapid change in the nutritional guidelines and the professional recommendations for patients.

At the 79th American Diabetes Association (ADA) Scientific Sessions, we saw a symposium addressing the changes in the nutrition consensus report for adults with diabetes. Notably, a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer recommended, with experts suggesting now that various eating strategies and macronutrient distributions can work well for patients from a nutritional and glycemic control perspective. Moreover, low-carbohydrate diets were explicitly addressed as a relevant and effective strategy, that is “garnering more attention and support”, as per Dr. William S. Yancy, MD, MHS, who chaired the symposium titled “Providing Options – Using a Low-Carbohydrate or Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet with Adults with Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes”. In this series, we explore the research and surrounding conversations regarding low-carbohydrate approaches for these distinct patient subgroups.

RTWT.

Source: The Low-Carb Diabetes Revolution (Part I): Type 1 Diabetes (ADA 2019) – Diabetes Daily

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Many paleo diets are lower-carb than the standard American diet, and nearly all are low-glycemic index. The Paleobetic Diet provides approximately 60 grams/day of digestible carbohydrate.

Click pic to purchase book at Amazon in the U.S.

Verner Compares Dr David Unwin’s and Diabetes UK’s Diet Advice for T2 Diabetes

Shrimp Salad

Low-carb vs standard “diabetic diet”:

The most significant fact to emerge is that those who follow the advice of Dr [David] Unwin are so often successful.

In a paper published in 2016, Dr Unwin presents the results for 68 out of 69 patients who had completed an average of 13 months, in which they had complied with the lifestyle advice:

(1) Patient satisfaction was high from reports of feeling better and having more energy. Mean body weight fell by 9.0 kg [20 lb], waist circumference fell by 15 cm [6 inches], blood glucose (BG) control measured as HbA1c, fell by 10 mmol/mol or 19%, liver function measured as serum glutamyl transferase (GGT) improved by 39% and total cholesterol (TC) fell by 5%. Systolic and diastolic BPs dropped significantly too. Plasma triglycerides were not measured, but in common with prior observations for low-carbohydrate diets a significant improvement would have been anticipated.From the perspective of the practice, there has been a huge saving in the expenditure on drugs used for the treatment of diabetes. The actual figure is about £38,000 [$51,000 US dollars] per year against the regional average, which represents the lowest spend per 1000 patients in any of the 19 surgeries in the surrounding Southport (UK) and Formby area for which information was available. This saving should be seen against the extra costs of the Norwood Surgery diabetes intervention at just under £9,000 per year.

(2) There has also been an improvement in the obesity prevalence as determined by BMI. This has dropped from 9.4% before the initiative commenced to 8.4%. The National Health Survey for England shows that for adults there has been a steady increase in the prevalence of obesity in England between 2010 and 2015.

Source: 305. A Comparison between the approaches to Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) by Dr David Unwin and Diabetes UK | Verners Views

RTWT for diet details.

PURE Study: High Carb Consumption Increases Risk of Death

How many innocent lives will be cut short by this tasty but silent killer?

Here’s the abstract of a new epidemiological study that investigated the relationships between diet, cardiovascular disease, and death rates. I don’t have the entire article. My sense is that the 18 countries studied are mostly non-Western:

Background

The relationship between macronutrients and cardiovascular disease and mortality is controversial. Most available data are from European and North American populations where nutrition excess is more likely, so their applicability to other populations is unclear.

Methods

The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study is a large, epidemiological cohort study of individuals aged 35–70 years (enrolled between Jan 1, 2003, and March 31, 2013) in 18 countries with a median follow-up of 7·4 years (IQR 5·3–9·3). Dietary intake of 135 335 individuals was recorded using validated food frequency questionnaires. The primary outcomes were total mortality and major cardiovascular events (fatal cardiovascular disease, non-fatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure). Secondary outcomes were all myocardial infarctions, stroke, cardiovascular disease mortality, and non-cardiovascular disease mortality. Participants were categorised into quintiles of nutrient intake (carbohydrate, fats, and protein) based on percentage of energy provided by nutrients. We assessed the associations between consumption of carbohydrate, total fat, and each type of fat with cardiovascular disease and total mortality. We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) using a multivariable Cox frailty model with random intercepts to account for centre clustering.

paleo diet, paleolithic diet, caveman diet

“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”

Findings

During follow-up, we documented 5796 deaths and 4784 major cardiovascular disease events. Higher carbohydrate intake was associated with an increased risk of total mortality (highest [quintile 5] vs lowest quintile [quintile 1] category, HR 1·28 [95% CI 1·12–1·46], ptrend=0·0001) but not with the risk of cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular disease mortality. Intake of total fat and each type of fat was associated with lower risk of total mortality (quintile 5 vs quintile 1, total fat: HR 0·77 [95% CI 0·67–0·87], ptrend<0·0001; saturated fat, HR 0·86 [0·76–0·99], ptrend=0·0088; monounsaturated fat: HR 0·81 [0·71–0·92], ptrend<0·0001; and polyunsaturated fat: HR 0·80 [0·71–0·89], ptrend<0·0001). Higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of stroke (quintile 5 vs quintile 1, HR 0·79 [95% CI 0·64–0·98], ptrend=0·0498). Total fat and saturated and unsaturated fats were not significantly associated with risk of myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality.

Interpretation

High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.

Source: Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study – The Lancet

Official Diabetic Diet Takes a Hit in the U.K.

DailyMail.com has a few of the details. A snippet:

More than 120,000 people signed up to a ‘low-carb’ diet plan launched by the forum diabetes.co.uk in a backlash against official advice.
More than 80,000 of those who ditched a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet found their blood glucose level drop after ten weeks.
By rejecting official guidelines and eating a diet high in protein and low in starchy food – along with ‘good saturated fats like olive and nuts – more than 80 per cent of the patients said they had lost weight.

An article at The Times says, “The results have led doctors to call for an overhaul of official dietary guidelines.”

Regular readers here won’t be surprised by these findings.

The road to this revolution is paved with scientific studies showing that dietary saturated fat has little or nothing to do with causing cardiovascular disease. I crossed that Rubicon in 2009.

If you want the benefits of low-carb eating, check out my free Paleobetic Diet. The book is even better.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If you think carbs are bad, my books have zero digestible carbs. Unless you’re a termite.

Paleobetic Diet-FrontCover_300dpi_RGB_5.5x8.5

Increase in consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar may have led to the health decline of the Greenland Eskimos 

Not much edible carbohydrate this time of year...

Not much edible carbohydrate this time of year…

From Dr. James Dr. DiNicolantonio:

“In conclusion, an increase in the intake of refined carbohydrate and sugar paralleled the rise in atherosclerotic disease in the Greenland Eskimos. While the total carbohydrate intake of the Greenland Eskimos was just 2–8% of total calories in 1855, this increased to around 40% of calories by 1955.5 The Greenland Eskimos studied by Bang and Dyerberg in the 1970s no longer consumed a traditional healthy Eskimo diet. Indeed, the intake of refined sugar in the Greenland Eskimos increased by almost 30-fold from 1855 (6 g/person/day or around 1½ teaspoonful of sugar) to the 1970s (164–175 g or around 40–44 teaspoonful of sugar). Moreover, the intake of refined carbohydrate increased 5–7-fold from 1855 (18 g/day from bread) to the 1970s (84–134 g/day from bread, biscuits and rye flour).

In summary, the intake of refined carbohydrate and sugar by the Greenland Eskimos increased in parallel to the rise in atherosclerotic disease. Considering that a similar event occurred in the USA and that the overconsumption of refined sugar is a principal driver of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease, this most likely explains the health decline of the Greenland Eskimos.”

Source: Increase in the intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar may have led to the health decline of the Greenland Eskimos — DiNicolantonio 3 (2) — Open Heart

Is Insulin Making You Hungry All the Time?

So easy to over-eat!

So easy to over-eat! Is it the insulin release?

No, insulin probably isn’t the cause of constant hunger, according to Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Dr. G gives 11 points of evidence in support of his conclusion. Read them for yourself. Here are a few:

  • multiple brain-based mechanisms (including non-insulin hormones and neurotransmitters) probably have more influence on hunger than do the pure effect of insulin
  • weight loss reduces insulin levels, yet it gets harder to lose excess weight the more you lose
  • at least one clinical study (in 1996) in young healthy people found that foods with higher insulin responses were linked to greater satiety, not greater hunger
  • billions of people around the world eat high-carb diets yet remain thin

An oft-cited explanation for the success of low-carbohydrate diets involves insulin, specifically the lower insulin levels and reduced insulin resistance seen in low-carb dieters. They often report less trouble with hunger than other dieters.

Here’s the theory. When we eat carbohydrates, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high as we digest the carbohydrates. Insulin drives the bloodstream sugar (glucose) into cells to be used as energy or stored as fat or glycogen. High doses of refined sugars and starches over-stimulate the production of insulin, so blood sugar falls too much, over-shootinging the mark, leading to hypoglycemia, an undeniably strong appetite stimulant. So you go back for more carbohydrate to relieve the hunger induced by low blood sugar. That leads to overeating and weight gain.

Read Dr. Guyenet’s post for reasons why he thinks this explanation of constant or recurring bothersome hunger is wrong or too simplistic. I agree with him.

The insulin-hypoglycemia-hunger theory may indeed be at play in a few folks. Twenty years ago, it was popular to call this “reactive hypoglycemia.” For unclear reasons, I don’t see it that often now. It was always hard to document that hypoglycemia unless it appeared on a glucose tolerance test.

Regardless of the underlying explanation, low-carb diets undoubtedly are very effective in many folks. And low-carbing is what I always recommend to my patients with carbohydrate intolerance: diabetics and prediabetics.

Steve Parker, M.D.

front cover

front cover

One Man’s N=1 Experiment Comparing Lower- Versus Moderate-Carb Diet For His Diabetes

Use the search box to find the recipe for this low-carb avocado chicken soup

Use the search box to find the recipe for this low-carb avocado chicken soup

Read his amazingly detailed post at Diatribe. Adam, who has type 1 diabetes, figured out during his college days that eating no more that 30 grams of carbs at a time was “a complete gamechanger” for improving his blood sugars. He experimented on himself to see if there was a difference between his usual lower-carb diet (146 grams/day) versus 313 grams/day.

A quote:

To my utter surprise, both diets resulted in the same average glucose and estimated A1c. But there were major tradeoffs:

The higher-carb, whole-grain diet caused four times as much hypoglycemia, an extra 72 minutes per day spent high, and required 34% more insulin. (A less healthy high-carb diet would have been far worse.)

Doubling my daily carbs also added much more effort and produced far more feelings of exhaustion and diabetes failure. It was not fun at all, and the added roller coaster, or glycemic variation, from all the extra carbs made it more dangerous.

See more at: http://diatribe.org/low-carb-vs-high-carb-my-surprising-24-day-diabetes-diet-battle#sthash.pZOgCWVl.dpuf

I think the lower-carb approach is healthier over the long run. Check with your own healthcare provider before making any drastic change in your diabetic diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Long-Term T2 Diabetes Diet Trial: Low-Carb Edges Out High-Carb Eating

Paleo-compliant low-carb meal. I almost used this for my Paleobetic Diet book cover.

Paleo-compliant low-carb meal. I almost used this for my Paleobetic Diet book cover.

This is an important report because most diet studies last much less than one year. Details are in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Study participants were 115 obese (BMI 35) type 2 diabetics with hemoglobin A1c averaging 7.3%. Average age was 58. So pretty typical patients, although perhaps better controlled than average.

They were randomized to follow for 52 weeks either a very low-carbohydrate or a high-carbohydrate “low-fat” diet. Both diets were designed to by hypocaloric, meaning that they provided fewer calories than the patients were eating at baseline, presumably with a goal of weight loss. The article abstract implies the diets overall each provided the same number of calories. They probably adjusted the calories for each patient individually. (I haven’t seen the full text of the article.) Participants were also enrolled in a serious exercise program: 60 minutes of aerobic and resistance training thrice weekly.

Kayaking is an aerobic exercise if done seriously

Kayaking is an aerobic exercise if done seriously

The very low-carb diet (LC diet) provided 14% of total calories as carbohydrate (under 50 grams/day). The high-carb diet (HC diet) provided 53% of total calories as carbohydrate and 30% of calories as fat. The typical Western diet has about 35% of calories from fat.

Both groups lost weight, about 10 kg (22 lb) on average. Hemoglobin A1c, a reflection of glucose control over the previous three months, dropped about 1% (absolute reduction) in both groups.

Compared to the HC diet group, the LC dieters were able to reduce more diabetes medications, lower their triglycerides more, and increase their HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). These triglyceride and HDL changes would tend to protect against heart disease.

SO WHAT?

You can lose weight and improve blood sugar control with reduced-calorie diets—whether very low-carb or high-carb—combined with an exercise program. No surprise there.

I’m surprised that the low-carb group didn’t lose more weight. I suspect after two months of dieting, the low-carbers started drifting back to their usual diet which likely was similar to the high-carb diet. Numerous studies show superior weight loss with low-carb eating, but those studies are usually 12 weeks or less in duration.

diabetic diet, low-carb diet, paleobetic diet

Low-Carb Brian Burger and Bacon Brussels Sprouts (in the Paleobetic Diet)

The low-carb diet improved improved lipid levels that might reduce risk of future heart disease, and allowed reduction of diabetes drug use. Given that we don’t know the long-term side effects of many of our drugs, that’s good.

If I have a chance to review the full text of the paper, I’ll report back here.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Jeannie Tay, et al. Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial. First published July 29, 2015, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.115.112581    Am J Clin Nutr

Are Low-Carb Diets Lethal?

Adult life is a battle against gravity. Eventually we all lose.

Adult life is a battle against gravity.

Japanese researchers say low-carb diets are causing premature death. I’m skeptical.

It’s a critically important issue because many folks with diabetes restrict their carbohydrate consumption to keep their blood sugars under control. Maybe it’s crazy, but they think they’ll live longer and have fewer diabetes complications if their glucose readings are under 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l) most of the time.

The potentially healthful side effects linked to low-carb eating include reduced weight, higher HDL cholesterol, and lower triglycerides and blood pressure. The aforementioned Japanese investigators wondered if the improved cardiovascular risk factors seen with low-carb diets actually translate into less heart disease and death.

How Was the Study At Hand Done?

The best way to test long-term health effects of a low-carb diet (or any diet) is to do a randomized controlled trial. You take 20,000 healthy and very similar people—not rodents—and randomize half of them to follow a specific low-carb diet while the other half all eat a standard or control diet. Teach them how to eat, make damn sure they do it, and monitor their health for five, 10, or 20 years. This has never been, and never will be, done in humans. In the old days, we could do this study on inmates of insane asylums or prisons.

What we have instead are observational studies in which people voluntarily choose what they’re eating, and we assume they keep eating that way for five or 10+ years. You also assume that folks who choose low-carb diets are very similar to other people at the outset. You depend on regular people to accurately report what and how much they’re eating. You can then estimate how much of their diet is derived from carbohydrate and other macronutrients (protein and fat), then compare health outcomes of those who were in the top 10% of carb eaters with those in the bottom 10%. (We’ve made a lot of assumptions, perhaps too many.)

Of the observational studies the authors reviewed, the majority of the study participants were from the U.S. or Sweden. So any true conclusions may not apply to you if you’re not in those countries. In looking for articles, they found no randomized controlled trials.

The observational studies estimated carb consumption at the outset, but few ever re-checked to see if participants changed their diets. That alone is a problem. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had significant changes in my diet depending on when I was in college and med school, when I was a bachelor versus married, when my income was higher or lower, and when I had young children versus teenagers. But maybe that’s just me.

The researchers looked at all-cause mortality, deaths from cardiovascular disease, and incidence of cardiovascular disease. They don’t bother to define cardiovascular disease. I assume heart attack, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. (But aren’t aneurysms, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism vascular diseases, too?) Wouldn’t you think they’d carefully define their end-points? I would. Since they were going to all this trouble, why not look at cancer deaths, too?

What Did the Investigators Conclude?

Very low-carbohydrate dieters had a 30% higher risk of death from any cause (aka all-cause mortality) compared to very high-carb eaters. The risk of cardiovascular disease incidence or death were not linked with low-carb diets. Nor did they find protection against cardiovascular disease.

Finally, “Given the facts that low-carbohydrate diets are likely unsafe and that calorie restriction has been demonstrated to be effective in weight loss regardless of nutritional composition, it would be prudent not to recommend low-carbohydrate diets for the time being.”

If Low-Carb Dieters Die Prematurely, What Are They Dying From?

The top four causes of death in the U.S. in 2011, in order, are:

  1. heart attacks
  2. cancer
  3. chronic lower respiratory tract disease
  4. stroke

You’ll note that two of those are cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stroke). So if low-carb diets promote premature death, it’s from cancer, chronic lung disease, or myriad other possibilities. Seventy-five percent of Americans die from one of the top 10 causes. Causes five through 10 are:

  • accidents
  • Alzheimer disease
  • diabetes
  • flu and pneumonia
  • kidney disease
  • suicide

Problem is, no one has ever linked low-carb diets to higher risk of death from any specific disease, whether or not in the top ten. Our researchers don’t mention that. That’s one reason I’m very skeptical about their conclusion. If you’re telling me low-carb diets cause premature death, tell me the cause of death.

Another major frustration of mine with this report is that they never specify how many carbohydrates are in this lethal low-carb diet. Is it 20 grams, 100, 150? The typical American eats 250-300 grams of carb a day. If you’re going to sound the alarm against low-carb diets, you need to specify the lowest safe daily carb intake.

For most of my career—like most physicians—I’ve been wary of low-carb diets causing cardiovascular disease. That’s because they can be relatively high in total fat and saturated fat. In 2009, however, I did my own review of the scientific literature and found little evidence of fats causing cardiovascular disease.

If you’re looking for a reason to avoid carbohydrate-restricted diets, you can cite this study and its finding of premature death. I’m not convinced. I’ll turn it around on you and note this study found no evidence that low-carb diets cause cardiovascular disease. The risk of cardiovascular disease had been the traditional reason for physicians to recommend against low-carb diets.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Noto, Hiroshi et al. Low-Carbohydrate diets and all-cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. PLoS One, 2013; 8(1): e55050

Listen to Low-Carb Diet Proponents Franziska Spritzler and Dr. Troy Stapleton

Who says low-carb paleo diets are mostly meat?

Who says low-carb paleo diets are mostly meat?

Jimmy Moore posted an interview with Dr. Troy Stapleton and Franziska Spritzler, R.D. These two wouldn’t consider themselves paleo diet gurus by any means. They advocate carbohydrate-restricted diets for management of blood sugars in diabetes, consistent with my approach in the Paleobetic Diet. Dr. Stapleton might argue I allow too many carbohydrates. By the way, he has type 1 diabetes; I’ve written about him before. Franziska is available for consultation either by phone, Skype, or in person.

Steve Parker, M.D.