Carbohydrates have been seen as an essential part of our diet for some time. Recently however, some research has challenged our thinking, and this has made some healthcare professionals a little uneasy.
We need carbohydrates for energy, there is no doubt about that, but do we need the amount of carbohydrates most of us consume?
Okay, so what is this new research suggesting? A pilot study was conducted and published in 2013. This demonstrated that it is possible for people with type 2 diabetes, when given a carefully controlled diet of 800 calories a day for eight weeks, to improve their diabetes control radically.
Professor Roy Taylor (who carried out the original pilot study) is now conducting a huge research study, with the backing of Diabetes UK, to find out whether the outcomes of this pilot study can be replicated across a wider diabetes population.
Michael Moseley wrote a book called the ‘8-week blood sugar diet’, which explains the science behind this diet and makes this type of diet accessible to the average person with type 2 diabetes. Although it is not recommended by NICE for type 2 diabetes, Diabetes UK is currently backing this research.
Some colleagues feel that because we don’t know what will happen long term, we should not encourage people to try this. Their concern is that a reduction of carbohydrates may mean loss of fibre, vitamins and minerals through reduced fruit and vegetable intake. They also feel that a higher intake of fats may be promoted in the form of dairy foods and coconut oil. They prefer a more measured approach, with reducing portion size a key factor.
I think they feel that the ‘blood sugar diet’ is really just a current version of the Atkins-type diet, but this very low carbohydrate diet comes from a far more scientific approach.
People with type 2 diabetes feel empowered to try this diet. Several patients I work with have tried this diet under supervision. Some have reduced their HbA1c, lost weight and been able to come off all diabetes medications. Others have reduced their HbA1c significantly, reduced their medications and lost weight. All were at different stages with their diabetes. As an aside, I have spoken to far more men than women who have been interested to try the diet.
If we look back at the drive over the past 20 or more years to reduce fats significantly from our diets in the western world, do we see a leaner and healthier population? No, with the reduction of fats and increase in intake of carbohydrate foods, our waistlines have increased and there has been a huge increase in numbers diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and obesity. It is surely not by chance, that all this has happened during the same time period.
Dr Taylor may be providing a huge service to the world with this research, especially if the findings show that for some with type 2 diabetes they may go into remission by this dramatic reduction in carbohydrates over the course of eight weeks.