Struggling to reduce your stubborn blood sugar levels? Getting a hold of type 2 diabetes is challenging to say the least, as it requires major lifestyle changes that take time to implement. However, learning more about the condition and what triggers a spike in blood sugar can make a drastic difference in your day-to-day life. Knowledge is power, and even just a basic understanding of which foods to avoid and which foods to add to your diet will lead to big changes.
Fortunately, researchers have already done a lot of the work for us in determining what type of diet is best for type 2 diabetes. According to a paper recently published in The Boston Medical Journal, a low-carb diet may be one of the most efficient ways to ward off diabetes.
Researchers collected data from 23 different studies, which collectively followed 1,357 participants. The investigators found that participants who stuck to a 26 percent low-carb diet for six months were 31 percent more likely to go into diabetes remission, meaning they reversed the condition completely, than participants who maintained normal diets. Even better, the low-carb dieters experienced great improvements in weight loss and lower triglyceride levels in the blood. Insulin sensitivity also improved.
Interestingly, investigators discovered that very low-carb diets were not as effective as the less-restrictive low-carb diets. However, the research team stated that participants on the very low-carb diets had a much harder time adhering to the regimen. The few participants who did adhere strictly to the very low-carb diet experienced a significant amount of weight loss.
Other studies have also shown that low-carb diets are the key to success. In one investigation from the Nutrition & Metabolism Journal, researchers split patients into two groups: Those on a 20 percent carb diet and those on a 55 to 60 percent carb diet. Participants on the 20 percent diet performed much better in terms of weight loss and glycemic control than those in the 55 to 60 percent group. Then, researchers followed up with the participants 22 months later and 44 months later. They found that those who had stuck with the 20 percent diet had kept their diabetes well managed and under control.
So, what exactly does a low-carb diet do for a patient with type 2 diabetes? As explained by the Harvard School of Public Health, carbohydrates that contain mostly starch and few other nutrients, such as white bread and white potatoes, are quickly broken down into glucose in the body. This leads to a blood sugar spike. Normally, the release of insulin would cause the cells in the body to absorb the sugar for energy and storage. In patients with type 2 diabetes, however, the cells stop responding to insulin and blood sugar levels can remain high for long periods of time.
While it might be easier to avoid “simple carbohydrates” instead of “complex carbohydrates,” such a diet might not eliminate every blood sugar spike. It is better to categorize foods in terms of the glycemic index, which measures how quickly and by how much a food raises blood sugar levels.
Thus, a low-carbohydrate diet is one that typically includes carbohydrate-rich foods that are low on the glycemic index, such as oats and beans, because the body digests them more slowly. This diet also includes a high amount of protein, which further slows down digestion and keeps a person fuller for longer.
It should be noted that the study from the Boston Medical Journal does have its limits. For instance, the investigators noted that patients who went on low-carb diets and also used insulin were less likely to go into remission. Scientists also have varying opinions on what it means to be in diabetes remission.
Still, the body of research surrounding low-carb diets for diabetes is strong. If you are having a difficult time managing your diabetes on your current diet, it might be time to eliminate any high-carb foods in that cause blood sugar spikes. Just remember to talk to your doctor before switching up your diet, to make sure you are making lifestyle changes that are best for you.