Low-carb diet 'life changing' for type 2 diabetics

CSIRO Food and Nutrition

Tuesday, 23 February, 2016

A low-carbohydrate diet and exercise program has proven to be highly effective for people with type 2 diabetes, with an average 40% reduction in medication levels, according to CSIRO scientists.

A $1.3 million study compared the eating pattern — which is very low in carbohydrates and higher in protein and unsaturated fats — with the current best practice approach of a high-unrefined-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.

“The research results are groundbreaking,” Associate Professor Grant Brinkworth, principal research scientist at the CSIRO, said.

“The most amazing benefit of the low-carbohydrate diet was the reduction in the patient’s medication levels, which was more than double the amount than the volunteers following the lifestyle program with the high-carbohydrate diet plan.

“Some of the participants managed to cease their medications altogether, and many described the study as life changing.

“This research shows that traditional dietary approaches for managing type 2 diabetes could be outdated; we really need to review the current dietary guidelines if we are serious about using the latest scientific evidence to reduce the impact of the disease.”

The two-year research intervention was a collaboration between CSIRO, Adelaide University, Flinders University and the University of South Australia, with the exercise program delivered in partnership with community fitness centres.

Type 2 diabetes is considered one of the greatest global health challenges of the 21st century, with more than 350 million people suffering from the condition.

In 2008–09, of the estimated $1507 million spent on the health care of diabetes in Australia, $490 million was spent on diabetes-related medications. The researchers say that based on the findings from this study, implementing a lifestyle program incorporating this eating pattern could save up to $200 million annually through reductions in diabetes-related medication expenditure.

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