Type 2 diabetes is one of the greatest global health issues of the 21st century. Across the world, there are an estimated 350 million people suffering from the condition.
“In Australia alone, an estimated 800,000 adults have type 2 diabetes with many more undiagnosed. In 2008-09, of the estimated $1507 million spent on the health care of diabetes in Australia, $490 million was spent on diabetes-related medications,” according to the CSIRO.
Findings from a $1.3 million National Health and Medical Research Council funded study have culminated in an effective new direction for diabetics.
The diet, incorporating low carbohydrates, higher amounts of protein and unsaturated fats, was compared with the current diet recommended for diabetics – a high unrefined-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.
“The research results are groundbreaking,” Associate Professor Grant Brinkworth, principal research scientist at the CSIRO said.
Proper nutrition for diabetics has been a hotly debated topic amongst medical professionals and as such, various diets and eating plans have been tested to find the best solution.
The “groundbreaking” results showed that traditional approaches to type 2 diabetes treatment could be outdated, according to principal research scientist at the CSIRO, Associate Professor Grant Brinkworth. “We really need to review the current dietary guidelines if we are serious about using the latest scientific evidence to reduce the impact of the disease.”
The two year study was conducted by CSIRO, Adelaide University, Flinders University and the University of South Australia as well as community fitness centres, who assisted the researchers with the exercise component.
“The most amazing benefit of the low carbohydrate diet was the reduction in the patient’s medication levels, which was more than double the amount than the volunteers following the lifestyle program with the high-carbohydrate diet plan.
Under the strict supervision of physicians some participants were able to cease their medications entirely.
Professor Campbell Thompson from the University of Adelaide said that the clinical trials also led to other positive outcomes.
“The very low carbohydrate diet presented greater improvements in the blood cholesterol profile, by increasing the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and decreasing triglyceride levels to a greater extent than the traditional high carbohydrate, low fat diet approach,” he said.
“Both diets achieved similar reductions in bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, often a concern with some low carbohydrate diets.
“The variability of blood glucose levels throughout the day is also emerging as a strong independent risk factor for diabetes complications. In our study the very low carbohydrate diet was more effective in reducing the number and levels of blood glucose spikes and dips, flattening the blood glucose profile over a 24-hour period.”
According to the findings, implementing a lifestyle program that incorporated the suggested low-carb eating plan with adequate exercise, could save up to “$200 million annually through reductions in diabetes-related medication expenditure alone.”