It seems like a pretty simple question, but alas, it is not. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) admits that low carbohydrate diets would help patients manage their blood sugars, but the organization still recommends a high carbohydrate dietary approach. Why?
According to Regina Wilshire, science writer, the ADA feels that low carb diets are too difficult for people to follow. This is obvious if you pick up any diabetes publication off the supermarket shelf. Most of them have a picture of a chocolate cake or plate of cookies right on the front cover.
The over-riding position is that patients can’t or won’t do it, so we shouldn’t deprive them unnecessarily. There are new drugs and medications approved and many more in the pipeline to control blood sugar, so why ask people to give up their favorite foods?
This type of thinking, of course, is dangerous and narrow-minded. And, it’s led us to the position of having a run away train destroying the health of our country and the developed world. Diabetes is beyond epidemic already, and it’s predicted to triple in the next 35 years.
Other so-called experts tell patients that low carb diets can even be dangerous. That if they don’t get enough carbs, their brain will starve, that it will put them in a state of keto-acidosis, or that too much protein will destroy their kidneys. None of this is true.
“Carbohydrates, whether derived from gluten-containing foods or other sources, including fruit, sweetened beverages, and starchy vegetables, are dangerous as they relate to brain health in and of themselves” – David Perlmutter
The Nurses Health Study, a large study conducted using over 1600 nurses found that a high protein diet was not dangerous or harmful in women with normal kidney function. They also found no detrimental effect of animal protein in comparison to vegetable protein. That said, the diet we recommend is not high protein and it is important to limit protein consumption for other reasons.
These same experts warn that fat is the real enemy and that the ideal diet for diabetics is low in saturated fats and high in whole grains. Again, this is simply not true. In fact, the Women’s Health Initiative, an eight year, $415 million study, showed that a low fat diet had no reduction in risk for diabetes or heart disease.
“The new research suggests that it’s not the fat in your diet that’s raising your risk of premature death, it’s too many carbohydrates – especially the refined, processed kinds of carbs – that may be the real killer”.
In contrast, several studies have shown a benefit to low carb diets in diabetes management. One such study, published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, showed an average reduction in HgA1c from 7.5, down to 6.3 in the group eating a low carbohydrate diet.
Is it really that hard to eat low carb? Well, that may depend on your brain function, physiology, hormone balance, and addictions. Carbohydrate addiction is really real and it’s a powerful force that can be difficult to resist. Insulin resistance leads to a relative lack of sugar in the cells, which triggers the body to crave more carbohydrates. Extra adipose tissue, or fat, over produce leptin which makes you resistance and takes away your body’s natural protection against over-eating.
To overcome all of these obstacles, you need a plan, a good system, and you need support. You need strategies to overcome your carbohydrate cravings and/or addiction, and you need to address the root cause of diabetes, rather than just trying to suppress sugar levels with medications.
“Insulin is not a cure for diabetes; it is a treatment. It enables the diabetic to burn sufficient carbohydrates so that proteins and fats may be added to the diet in sufficient quantities to provide energy for the economic burdens of life” – Frederick Banting
Traditional medical care and endocrinology does not address these things. Most conventional medical practices follow the ADA guidelines and recommend a diet high in whole grains, wheat bread, fruit, vegetable oils, and unnatural products, like artificial sweeteners. Carbs turn to sugar. Sugar in the diet raises blood sugar.
This all seems so logical, it’s hard to imagine or rationalize why the mainstream, conventional diabetes community is still recommending a diet high in carbohydrates for anyone, especially those with diabetes. Regardless, the evidence is clear that low carbohydrate diets are more effective at reducing blood sugar and preventing post-meal glucose spikes. Perhaps it’s true that common sense is not so common.