Diabetics appear to be very interested in low-carb eating

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Back in March I was invited as a guest on the BBC Radio 4 consumer affairs programme You and Yours to discuss diabetes. Up against me was a spokesperson/dietician from Diabetes UK (the UK’s largest diabetes charity). My issue is that Diabetes UK gives diabetics incomplete and misleading information that is likely to make their blood sugar control harder and their risk of complications higher than they need be. I argued for a diet lower in carbohydrates that cause spikes in blood sugar, including many starchy carbohydrates. The Diabetes UK spokesperson trotted out the same, tired, nonsense about the essential nature of carbohydrate in the diet and the supposed hazards of ketosis (a natural state where fat is broken down to give rise to ‘ketone’ bodies which we can use for fuel – a process which probably occurs through the night in most of us, whether we’re on a diet or not). You can read more about these issues here.

The idea that each meal should include starchy carbohydrate (as Diabetes UK posits) is ridiculous and dangerous, in my opinion. When individuals eschew this advice and eat meals comprised of say meat, fish, eggs and non-starchy vegetables (e.g. green leafy vegetables) then their blood sugar control is usually very good. There are many diabetics who have proved this for themselves by self-testing blood sugar levels before and for a couple of hours, say, after eating. Individuals adopting a low-carb diet will also generally see an improvement in levels of HbA1c (also known as glycosylated haemoglobin) which is a marker of overall blood sugar control over the last 3 months or so. Many diabetics, with the right diet, are able to get their HbA1c level into what would be regarded as the normal range. Don’t be expecting such results by following the dietary advice dished out by Diabetes UK, though.

Recently, I came across what looks like a whole better on-line resource for individuals with diabetes known as diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes.co.uk (not to be confused with Dabetes UK) describes itself as: “your resource for diabetes, diabetics, diabetes research and education; the leading community website and forum for people with diabetes”.  On the homepage, it states: “Diabetes.co.uk is growing as a community of diabetics and non-diabetics alike, offering their own support and first hand knowledge.” I like this last bit, because I’m a great believer in listening to what people who have had success in controlling their diabetes have to say. I don’t have diabetes so I’m not in the best place to judge what works. However, I’ve seen countless individuals report excellent results on adopting a low-carb diet, and it’s these experiences (plus some science) which has led me to conclude this way of eating is, overall, the best for people with diabetes.

Like any website, I can’t say I endorse every piece of information on it. However, I did take a browse through the forum (which looks lively) and took this screenshot from it today. Under ‘Diet and Nutrition’ the site has areas for individuals who are and are not interested in low-carbohydrate diets for controlling their diabetes

Just look at the figures here: Activity in the low-carb section is many times greater than the non-low-carb area. Have a look in the low-carb area and you’ll find plenty of first-hand stories about success with lower-carb eating.

None of this proves anything of course. What it shows, though, is that there is considerable appetite for information on low-carb eating among diabetics, and many are discovering the benefits of this way of eating. As this happens, of course, more and more individuals will come to realise that conventional dietary advice for diabetics if often misleading and dangerous, and I think the people at Diabetes UK should take note.

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