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Can This “Fad Diet” Help Control Diabetes?


A new patient survey of children and adults by Boston Childrens Hospital has found promising results for controlling blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes as long as they are committed to following very low carbohydrate diets.

The survey found few complications and low rates of hypoglycemia, which is good news for those with type 1 diabetics. The researchers at Boston Childrens Hospital are now calling for controlled clinical trials following this observational study.

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So, ExactlyWhat is a Low-Carb Diet?

Very low-carb diets avoid or limit bread and grains, some fruit, starchy vegetables, pasta and cereal. The new online patient survey released this month by lead researchers Belinda Lennerz, MD, PhD, and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, reported their findings May 7 to the Pediatrics Journal. Nearly 500 people took the online survey, a group that is part of a Facebook community of people with type 1 diabetes who follow advice from Dr. Richard Bernstein in his book Diabetes Solution that maintains a philosophy of adhering to a very low-carb diet. 57 percent of the participants were female. 42 percent of the studys participants were children.

The average daily intake of carbohydrates for this group was 36 grams, or five percent of their total calories; in contrast, the American Diabetes Association recommends 45 percent of calories to come from carbohydrates, so this is a very low-carb diet.

The primary measure of blood sugar control was self-reported by the participants and averaged 5.67 percent, which falls as part of the normal range. The low-carb diets biggest controversy is one of safety for type 1 diabetics because they can increase the risk of dangerous drops in their blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The rates of complication, however, in this study were lower than for the general population of type 1 diabetics.

Plans to Widen Research on Effects of Restricting Carbs

While 80 percent of the patient survey respondents claimed to have been satisfied with their diabetes management, about 25 percent reported they did not discuss the very low-carb diet with their doctor or diabetes care provider.

The lead authors of the study said that it used to be a common practice to severely restrict carbohydrates before the discovery of insulin; but in later years, doctors changed their approach with the advent of insulin. The researchers would like to further study this approach with randomized clinical trials to test the low-carb diets long-term safety and generalizability in a controlled environment.


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