The report of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), co-chaired by Diabetes UK, suggests that a low-carbohydrate diet is an effective option for adults with type 2 diabetes who are overweight or obese for up to 6 months.
The report is based on a solid assessment of existing knowledge on weight change, blood sugar management, blood lipids and medication use.
SACN concludes that in adults with type 2 diabetes and being overweight or obese, a low-carb diet for up to 6 months has beneficial effects for some of the outcomes considered, including improving blood sugar management.
People on a low-carb diet lost more weight in the first 3 months than people on a high-carb diet, but not afterwards. Therefore, it is unclear whether the benefits of a low-carb diet were due to this early weight loss.
Overall, the quality of the evidence was not strong enough to recommend a low-carb diet for more than 6 months.
Douglas Twenefour, Co-Chair of the Joint Working Group and Deputy Head of Care for Diabetes UK, said:
We know that for most people with type 2 diabetes, weight management is key to managing their condition.
Healthcare professionals should support any evidence-based dietary approach that contributes to long-term weight loss. This can include a low-carb diet.
It is important that people have the support of their health team so that the effects on diabetes management or medication can be closely monitored.
Dr. Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE said:
SACN and Diabetes UK have thoroughly analyzed the evidence for this complex problem.
It’s not clear whether a low-carb diet will be effective in the long term. We also don’t know if it would work for all adults with type 2 diabetes, and not just those living with overweight or obesity.
Adults living with type 2 diabetes and opting for a low-carb diet should include whole grains or high-fiber foods, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and a limit on saturated fats.
In the short-term studies, reported diets were classified as low-carb when they were about 37% carbohydrate, compared to 50% for higher-carbohydrate diets.