Research indicates that not all low-carb diets are created equal, and that quality is more important than quantity.
If you want what you eat (and don’t consume) to help avoid diabetes, you’ve probably heard that you should adhere to a low-carbohydrate diet. A recent research reveals, however, that not all low-carb diets have the same impact on reducing the risk of this illness.
According to Merck Manuals, the research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference sought to establish a link between low-carbohydrate diets and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes. They discovered that the total quality of carbs, fats, and proteins may be more important than their amount.
The study’s findings on low-carb diets and diabetes
Between 1984 and 2017, 203,541 non-diabetic persons who participated in the Nurses’ Health Research, Nurses’ Health Study II, or Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who did not originally have diabetes were interviewed for the study. The research followed people for up to thirty years, asking them to fill out dietary questionnaires every four years.
When attempting to quantify the quantity of carbs consumed, the researchers considered the proportion of daily total energy that came from carbohydrates, as well as protein and fat. Although the U.S. Dietary Guidelines state that 45% to 65% of a person’s energy consumption should come from carbohydrates, there were research participants whose meals included just around 40% carbs.
In addition, those who had diets low in carbs and rich in animal protein and fat had a 35% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes. This number increased to 39% when they were also deficient in whole grains. In contrast, people who had a low-carb diet that contained plant-based sources of protein and fat had a 6% decreased chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. In addition, their risk decreased by 15% when they consumed less refined carbs and less sugar.
Expert opinions on these facts
“For generally healthy adults without prediabetes or diabetes, the amount of carbohydrates may not be as important as the quality of the protein, lipids, and carbohydrates,” said Yeli Wang, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Justine Chan, MHSc, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, tells Eat This, Not That! This is because the quality of the meals you consume is also significant.
Chan argues that “saturated fats might enhance insulin resistance, which plays a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes” as the reason why an animal-based, low-carb diet may raise the risk of diabetes.
Chan suggests a plant-based, low-carb diet “I assume that the fiber and resistant starch contained in plant foods have anti-inflammatory properties that lessen the chance of developing diabetes. Additionally, fiber inhibits the release of glucose into the system, decreasing blood sugar levels.”
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