Overall, Brinkworth’s team found that low-carb diets gained after six months: People on these diets lost, on average, about 7.5 pounds more than those who followed. comparative diets, and their triglycerides (a type of blood fat) were lower.
In the diabetes remission trials, 57% of people on low-carb diets were in remission, compared to 31% of people on other diets. Remission meant that a person’s average blood sugar over the past three months was below the diagnostic threshold for diabetes.
By 12 months, however, most of the benefits of low-carb diets were gone.
“Despite the blood sugar control benefits that ultra low carb diets can offer, they can be very difficult to adhere to,” said Julie Stefanski, registered dietitian and diabetes educator. She was not part of the study.
The point is, foods high in carbohydrates are enjoyable, hard to avoid, and offer “emotional connections to our past,” said Stefanski, who is also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Beyond those barriers, Stefanski said, strict limits on carbohydrates can end up robbing people of certain nutrients, including fiber and certain vitamins.
“To be successful with a very low carb diet, people really need a game plan to tackle any issues that come up,” Stefanski said.
She agreed, however, that starting with a strict low-carb diet and then switching to a moderate diet may work. Stefanski also agreed that people with type 2 diabetes should talk to their doctor first – and possibly see a dietitian to work out a low-carb diet.
In all studies, low-carb diets seemed safe in the short term. The only red flag appeared after a year, when dieters tended to show an increase in their LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type).
It is not known, however, what this might mean for their health, Brinkworth said.
At the end of the day, Stefanski said, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for people with diabetes.
Nor are all carbohydrates created equal. Stefanski said a diet high in vegetables and other high-fiber foods can help relieve inflammation and benefit people with diabetes.