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Could Proteins be the Key to Cutting Diabetes Medication?

Recent research points to a resounding “yes!” An Australian randomized trial showed very positive results for individuals with type 2 diabetes. This year-long study compared the effects of a very low carbohydrate, high-protein and high unsaturated fat diet with a high, unrefined carbohydrate diet. One of the criticisms of high-protein diets has been that they can stress the kidneys. However, that was not reflected in this study. In fact, researchers noted that the high protein diet followed in this study did not adversely affect renal function in those with type 2 diabetes and no history of kidney disease. In fact, while both diets helped participants lose weight and reduce blood sugar levels, individuals in the high-protein diet saw better lipid profiles, more stable blood sugar, and reduced medication levels. The good news here is that food may indeed be the best medicine and that high-protein diets – far from being risky – could be one of the best ways to fight against the epidemic of diabetes.


The Study: Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial.

Tay J, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Thompson CH, et al. Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct;102(4):780-90.

BACKGROUND: Few well-controlled studies have comprehensively examined the effects of very-low-carbohydrate diets on type 2 diabetes (T2D).

OBJECTIVE: We compared the effects of a very-low-carbohydrate, high-unsaturated fat, low-saturated fat (LC) diet with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat (HC) diet on glycemic control and cardiovascular disease risk factors in T2D after 52 wk.

DESIGN: In this randomized controlled trial that was conducted in an outpatient research clinic, 115 obese adults with T2D [mean ± SD age: 58 ± 7 y; body mass index (in kg/m(2)): 34.6 ± 4.3; glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c): 7.3 ± 1.1%; duration of diabetes: 8 ± 6 y] were randomly assigned to consume either a hypocaloric LC diet [14% of energy as carbohydrate (carbohydrate <50 g/d), 28% of energy as protein, and 58% of energy as fat (<10% saturated fat)] or an energy-matched HC diet [53% of energy as carbohydrate, 17% of energy as protein, and 30% of energy as fat (<10% saturated fat)] combined with supervised aerobic and resistance exercise (60 min; 3 d/wk). Outcomes were glycemic control assessed with use of measurements of HbA1c, fasting blood glucose, glycemic variability assessed with use of 48-h continuous glucose monitoring, diabetes medication, weight, blood pressure, and lipids assessed at baseline, 24, and 52 wk.

RESULTS: Both groups achieved similar completion rates (LC diet: 71%; HC diet: 65%) and mean (95% CI) reductions in weight [LC diet: -9.8 kg (-11.7, -7.9 kg); HC diet: -10.1 kg (-12.0, -8.2 kg)], blood pressure [LC diet: -7.1 (-10.6, -3.7)/-6.2 (-8.2, -4.1) mm Hg; HC diet: -5.8 (-9.4, -2.2)/-6.4 (-8.4, -4.3) mm Hg], HbA1c [LC diet: -1.0% (-1.2%, -0.7%); HC diet: -1.0% (-1.3%, -0.8%)], fasting glucose [LC diet: -0.7 mmol/L (-1.3, -0.1 mmol/L); HC diet: -1.5 mmol/L (-2.1, -0.8 mmol/L)], and LDL cholesterol [LC diet: -0.1 mmol/L (-0.3, 0.1 mmol/L); HC diet: -0.2 mmol/L (-0.4, 0.03 mmol/L)] (P-diet effect ≥ 0.10). Compared with the HC-diet group, the LC-diet group achieved greater mean (95% CI) reductions in the diabetes medication score [LC diet: -0.5 arbitrary units (-0.7, -0.4 arbitrary units); HC diet: -0.2 arbitrary units (-0.4, -0.06 arbitrary units); P = 0.02], glycemic variability assessed by measuring the continuous overall net glycemic action-1 [LC diet: -0.5 mmol/L (-0.6, -0.3 mmol/L); HC diet: -0.05 mmol/L (-0.2, -0.1 mmol/L); P = 0.003], and triglycerides [LC diet: -0.4 mmol/L (-0.5, -0.2 mmol/L); HC diet: -0.01 mmol/L (-0.2, 0.2 mmol/L); P = 0.001] and greater mean (95% CI) increases in HDL cholesterol [LC diet: 0.1 mmol/L (0.1, 0.2 mmol/L); HC diet: 0.06 mmol/L (-0.01, 0.1 mmol/L); P = 0.002].

CONCLUSIONS: Both diets achieved substantial weight loss and reduced HbA1c and fasting glucose. The LC diet, which was high in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, achieved greater improvements in the lipid profile, blood glucose stability, and reductions in diabetes medication requirements, suggesting an effective strategy for the optimization of T2D management. This trial was registered at as ACTRN12612000369820.





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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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