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A Very-Low-Carb Diet Could Actually Help People With Type 1 Diabetes


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

A study has found that very-low-carb diets may improve blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes, something that had previously been thought controversial.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study was led by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital. In total 316 people were analyzed, who had been found on a Facebook group that advocates a very-low-carb-diet for type 1 diabetes.


In the study 138 had their diabetes diagnosis confirmed, with 42 percent of participants being children. They had an average daily carbohydrate intake of 36 grams, which was just 5 percent of their total calories. That’s much less than the 45 percent recommended by the American Diabetes Association.

But the results were promising. The participants reported hemoglobin A1c values, which are the primary measure of blood-sugar, of just 5.67 percent. The target is to keep that below 7 percent in people with Type 1 diabetes, meaning they needed lower-than-average insulin doses.

“Their blood sugar control seemed almost too good to be true,” Belinda Lennerz from the Boston Children’s Hospital, and lead author of the study, told The New York Times. “It’s nothing we typically see in the clinic for Type 1 diabetes.”

The idea of a low-carb diet to combat type 1 diabetes is somewhat controversial, as it’s generally thought it could increase the risk of dangerous drops in blood sugar known as hypoglycemia. But in this study, the rates of hospitalization due to hypoglycemia were just 1 percent, lower than the norm.


There were limitations in the study though as it was observational, not controlled, with the participants recording much of their own data. So the authors note that a randomized clinical trial will be needed to see if this diet is as successful as claimed, and also that it is safe.

In their paper, they also caution that people should not use this study as evidence for changing their diet just yet, without further testing. “In light of study limitations, these findings by themselves should not be interpreted as sufficient to justify a change in diabetes management,” they wrote.

It does show some promise though, and if further testing corresponds with the results so far, then it might just be a viable option for people with type 1 diabetes.


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