A Guide to Healthy Low-Carb Eating with Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has reached epidemic proportions.

It currently affects over 400 million people worldwide (1).

Although diabetes is a complicated disease, maintaining good blood sugar control can greatly reduce the risk of complications.

One of the ways to achieve better blood sugar levels is to follow a low-carb diet.

This article provides a detailed overview of low-carb diets for managing diabetes.

What is Diabetes, and What Role Does Food Play?

If you have diabetes, your body cannot process carbohydrates effectively.

Normally, when you eat carbs, they are broken down into small units of glucose, which end up as blood sugar.

When blood sugar levels go up, the pancreas responds by producing the hormone insulin. This hormone allows the blood sugar to enter cells.

In healthy people, blood sugar levels remain within a narrow range throughout the day. In diabetes, however, this system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to.

This is a big problem, because having both too high and too low blood sugar levels can cause severe harm.

There are several types of diabetes, but the two most common ones are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both of these conditions can be diagnosed at any age.

In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune process destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Diabetics must inject insulin several times a day to ensure that glucose gets into the cells and stays at a healthy level in the bloodstream .

In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells at first produce enough insulin, but the body’s cells are resistant to its action, so blood sugar remains high. To compensate, the pancreas produces more insulin, attempting to bring blood sugar down.

Over time, the beta cells lose their ability to produce enough insulin

Of the three nutrients — protein, carbs and fat — carbs have the greatest impact on blood sugar control. This is because the body breaks them down into glucose.

Therefore, diabetics may need to take large dosages of insulin and/or diabetes medication when they eat a lot of carbohydrates.

BOTTOM LINE:

Diabetics are deficient in insulin, or resistant to its effects. When they eat carbs, their blood sugar can rise to potentially dangerous levels unless medication is taken.

Can Low-Carb Diets Help Manage Diabetes?

Many studies support low-carb diets for the treatment of diabetes .

In fact, prior to the discovery of insulin in 1921, very-low-carb diets were considered standard treatment for people with diabetes.

What’s more, low-carb diets seem to work well in the long term, as long as patients adhere to the diet.

In one study, type 2 diabetics followed a low-carb diet for 6 months. Their diabetes remained well controlled more than 3 years later if they stuck to the diet .

Similarly, when people with type 1 diabetes followed a carb-restricted diet, those who followed the diet saw a significant improvement in blood sugar levels over a 4-year period.

BOTTOM LINE:

Research has shown that people with diabetes experience long-term improvements to blood sugar control while on a low-carb diet.