Reducing Carbs & Upping Protein May Help Regulate Blood Sugar, According to a New Study

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If you have Type 2 diabetes, you’re familiar with the dietary guidelines that have been recommended for years. Doctors say to eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods and focus on weight loss. Certain diet plans also focus on avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (GI) or a high glycemic load. (The GI number assigned to foods with carbohydrates indicates how much each food may spike blood sugar levels, with higher numbers indicating more of a spike.) But now, a new study says reducing carbohydrate intake and upping protein could help regulate blood sugar on their own — and it totally left weight loss out of the equation.

The previous focus on weight loss may have played a part in hindering researchers from fully understanding other ways of regulating blood sugar. Researchers from Bispebjerg Hospital, along with Aarhus University and the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, decided to have a different objective. Instead of building a diet geared toward weight loss, they looked at what goes into the diet – namely the number of carbs, proteins, and fats eaten. “Our findings are important, because we've removed weight loss from the equation,” Senior Consultant, DMSc Thure Krarup, MD, from the Department of Endocrinology at Bispebjerg Hospital, told Science Daily. “Previous studies have provided contradictory conclusions, and weight loss has complicated interpretations in a number of these studies," he said.

The Diet 

The Bispebjerg Hospital study examined 28 patients living with Type 2 diabetes over the course of 12 weeks. Participants were divided into two groups that ate the typical diabetic diet for six weeks (except without an emphasis on weight loss) and a new diet for six weeks, which was designed for the study. The study diet was lower in carbohydrates (30 percent compared to 50 percent), higher in protein (30 percent compared to 17 percent), and higher in fat (40 percent compared to 33 percent). Half of the participants started with the typical diet and half of the participants started with the study diet.

After the 12-week period, researchers found that the reduced carbohydrate and upped protein/fat diet improved participant’s ability to regulate blood sugar. They also had reduced liver fat content. Though the diet didn’t particularly lead to weight loss, the findings of this study have researchers wondering how important weight loss is to managing health in those with Type 2 diabetes. If the goal is to regulate blood sugar, these findings shake up what doctors previously thought about Type 2 diabetes care, pointing out that the content of the diet is also important.

There have been previous studies on reducing carbohydrate intake to test out regulating blood sugar, but this is the first one that completely eliminated weight loss from the testing. Researchers point out that you might lose weight naturally from this process anyway, but even if you don’t, you may still see beneficial effects from your diet. The being said, overweight and obesity are two of the most concerning epidemics in society today, and being overweight or obese can lead to a series of health issues. If you have Type 2 diabetes, are overweight, or obese, talk to your healthcare provider about what dietary changes may be best for you. 

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