Low carb diets have been popular for some time now due to their proven substantial benefit to weight and/or fat loss.
But, recent findings have shown that the benefits may be even greater than once believed…even inducing remission in people with type 2 diabetes.
That’s right, aside from weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, potential boosts in brain health, and benefits to the health of your heart, low carb diets are now proving effective for diabetes patients as well.
So, what is it about restricting carbs that brings such great benefits to those with type 2 diabetes? And, can these results be sustained long term?
As low carb diets are often said to be difficult to maintain over long lengths of time, what can you do to ensure you don’t get burnt out?
Let’s take a look…
The Effects Of Carb Restriction On Type 2 Diabetes
The findings of a recent study have the diabetic world buzzing, and rightfully so!
Earlier this year, researchers at Texas A&M studied results from randomized trials assessing the effectiveness of low carb diets amongst those individuals with type 2 diabetes.
These studies found that participants who followed a low carb diet raised the likelihood of their diabetes going into remission by 32%.
Concerning 1,357 participants (spanning several studies), most of whom were between the ages of 47-67 and overweight or obese, those who saw such results followed a strict low carb eating regimen for 12 weeks.
Researchers checked in on participants at both 6 and 12 months, and the greatest benefits were seen at 6 months.
At 12 months, while some participants were still in remission, those rates were lower than the 6 month mark.
The hypothesis is that those individuals who remained diligent in their adherence to a low carb diet saw continued benefit, while those who were less consistent lost the benefits related to their type 2 diabetes over time.
So then, how exactly does restricting carbs benefit patients with type 2 diabetes?
Essentially, you can think of carbs to type 2 diabetes in a similar way that we think of milk to those with lactose intolerance.
With lactose intolerance, a person’s body can not accurately process lactose.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, a person’s body can not accurately process carbohydrates.
So, someone who can not process carbohydrates accurately or efficiently, when consuming foods rich in carbs will experience high levels of blood sugar (consistently) and even weight gain.
Normally, when we consume carbohydrates they get broken down into sugar. This sugar then enters our bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise.
This spike then tells your pancreas to produce insulin to help your cells to absorb that blood sugar for energy (both for storage and immediate usage).
In cases of type 2 diabetes, over time the body stops responding to that insulin which causes blood sugar levels to remain too high for too long. And, eventually that insulin production can stop altogether.
So, for type 2 diabetes patients, eating a low carb diet decreases the strain on the body and lessens the body’s propensity to produce too much insulin.
As eating fewer carbs helps the body to maintain healthy blood sugar (or blood glucose) levels, carb intolerance and insulin resistance improves as well.
Obviously then, maintaining a low carb lifestyle would be a crucial component in continuing to reap those rewards in one’s fight against diabetes, but many would argue this to be a difficult task.
So, how can you successfully restrict carbs long term?
Tips For Success While Cutting Down On Carbs
One of the biggest hurdles to successfully reaping the rewards of a low carb diet long term is the (often deemed) lack of sustainability of such diets.
Even registered dieticians and nutrition experts agree that cutting carbs long term can be difficult…but certainly not impossible!
So, what tips do the experts give regarding low carb success?
1- Slow And Steady Wins The Race
Low carb diets can be highly restrictive. And, one mistake that many make is to dive headfirst into the deep end…no looking back.
While such ambition is admirable, dietary restrictions of any kind that are fast and furious often fizzle out before they finish.
Therefore, the experts recommend an approach with a slow beginning.
Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City advises her patients to “start with one meal at a time.”
Dr. Sood recommends beginning with dinner as the meal to tackle first: “Aim to lower carb intake (at this meal) by about 50% by swapping out unhealthy, starch-packed carbohydrates for healthier sources such as healthy grains or lentils.”
From there, you can then begin to make similar healthy swaps at lunch, then breakfast, and snacks.
2- Stay On Track Through Tracking
Keeping a food diary or journal to keep track of not only what you eat, but how those foods affect your body is a proven method to help you stay on track.
I know that many people don’t like the idea of tracking food long term, but consider doing so as you begin your low carb eating regimen to see how your body reacts to various foods, track your gains in energy, and keep you motivated.
In time, you may find that you don’t need to track as often. And, you can always drop or pick up this healthy habit as needed. But, in the beginning, keeping track is a great way to foster success.
3- Talk To Your Doc
Keeping your physician in the loop when dealing with type 2 diabetes is very important.
Your doctor or specialist knows your situation and can recommend a plan best suited to your needs.
As different carbs affect different people in different ways, your doctor or a nutritionist can guide you to the best choices for your specific needs.
4- The Buddy System
As with any diet or healthy eating plan, there’s often help in numbers.
In fact, studies have shown people are more successful at adhering to dietary changes (and losing weight) when they have the support of a friend or buddy.
Sticking to any diet long term is difficult, but having a support system along the way can increase your chances of long term success.
5- Variety Is The Spice Of Low Carb Life
While there are plenty of delicious low carb food options available for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, not experiencing a variety of those options can hinder your ability to stay low carb long term, thereby missing the benefits to be had (especially regarding type 2 diabetes).
Many cultures have eaten low carb diets for centuries, so…we can do it…we’ve just got to stay out of boring ruts when it comes to our food choices.
Studies have proven that low carb diets can cause type 2 diabetes to go into remission.
The only problem is, these results aren’t sustained long term (post 12 months) if patients do not remain on a low carb diet. In other words, at this point, research suggests that low carb eating needs to become a lifestyle to reap long term healthy rewards.
So, if you have type 2 diabetes, consider talking to your doctor (first and foremost) about how a low carb diet may benefit your condition.
Then, once you get the green light and some direction from your physician or specialist, don’t forget to ease into this style of eating, keep track of your food intake and progress, incorporate a variety of foods, and enlist the support of a friend for long term success.
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