Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have found that a low-carbohydrate, vegetarian diet may help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels and improve their quality of life.
The research, which appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that subjects who consumed a diet that included low-glycemic index (GI) foods such as fruits and vegetables did not experience the same symptoms of type 2 as those who ate more refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta.
The study, conducted by Dr David Willetts, professor of clinical nutrition and dietetics at the University’s Department of Medicine, was funded by the Wellcome Trust.
It was published online in the journal Clinical Nutrition & Metabolism.
“People who ate a low GI diet tended to have a lot less blood sugar and a lower insulin level, so they were actually healthier than those who consumed the more refined diet,” Dr Willets said.
“They also had less insulin resistance and diabetes risk factors.”
Dr Willets said people should consider switching to a low carbohydrate diet when they are having diabetes.
“For people who have diabetes, it’s good to be able to eat less and exercise more,” he said.
Dr Willett said a number of factors may be involved in the impact of a low glycemic index diet.
“A high glycemic load is probably a big driver, as is a low body mass index [BMI] and low waist circumference, which is one of the things that’s associated with diabetes,” he explained.
“All of these things can have a very significant impact on the body and its response to diet.” “
Dr Andrew Jones, from the Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research, said the findings of the study were “interesting”. “
All of these things can have a very significant impact on the body and its response to diet.”
Dr Andrew Jones, from the Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research, said the findings of the study were “interesting”.
“We’ve known that there’s a lot more insulin in the body, but until now we haven’t known how the insulin signals affect the blood sugar, or how the body responds to different carbohydrates,” he told AAP.
“What we found in this study is that, as you change your diet, you can actually improve insulin sensitivity, which means that you’re less likely to develop type 2 and that is really good news for people with diabetes.”
Dr Jones said that for some people with pre-diabetes, a low carb diet might be ideal.
“We have a few people who are very sensitive to carbs, but we don’t really know how much they need, so it’s an interesting study to see what the impact would be if they started to eat a low calorie diet,” he added.
“However, we do know that it doesn’t have to be a diet with a lot carbs, so people with insulin resistance should try and reduce their carbs to less than 10 per cent of their daily calories.”
He said that low-calorie diets were becoming more popular with people.
“Low-caloric diets are starting to be more popular in the mainstream, so that’s probably why people are starting down this route,” he noted.
“Some people are still using the low-fat diet, which we’ve known for a while, but people are also getting their carbohydrates from more complex carbohydrates such a pasta, which they may be using a lot.”
Dr Dave Willethes, who is a researcher at the Centre of Diabetes and obesity Research, is a consultant nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic and a member of the Diabetes Advisory Group.
He said the study was the first to investigate how a diet rich in fibre might improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetic patients.
“The fibre in a low fibre diet, when you have a fibre intake of around 10 per-cent of your total daily calorie intake, it doesn�t affect the insulin levels in the blood,” he stated.
“So the idea here is that if you get a lot and have a healthy diet, it should be able control the blood glucose.”
The research was conducted with Dr Willes students and a team of scientists from the Mayo clinic, the University Medical Center of South Korea, and the University Hospital of South Dakota.
The University of Adelaide is also a co-investigator in the research.