Diet could cut medication dependence for type 2 diabetes patients

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Nutrition

Australian researchers have developed a “life-changing” diet and exercise programme which they say has resulted in an average 40% reduction in medication levels for type 2 diabetes patients.

The diet, which bucks received convention, incorporates an eating pattern that is very low in carbohydrates and higher in protein and unsaturated fats than is commonly prescribed.

According to its developers at CSIRO, the government research organisation, the study’s findings show that traditional dietary approaches for managing type 2 diabetes are outdated.

Their research was based on the findings from a A$1.3m (US$920,00) study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which compared the low-carbohydrate eating pattern with the diet that is endorsed by the medical establishment.

"The results are groundbreaking​," said Grant Brinkworth, principal research scientist. “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​.”

Health professionals have been divided over the best dietary approach for managing type 2 diabetes, and the ongoing uncertainty is a hotly debated topic amongst clinicians and researchers.

Australian doctors currently recommend high-unrefined carbohydrate nutrition that is low in fat as a best-practice approach to managing type 2 diabetes.

"The most amazing benefit of the low-carbohydrate diet was the reduction in the patients’ medication levels, which was more than double the amount than the volunteers following the lifestyle program with the high-carbohydrate diet plan​,” said Associate Professor Brinkworth.

"Some of the participants managed to cease their medications altogether, and many described the study as life changing​.”

The two year research intervention was a collaboration between CSIRO and several South Australian universities, with the exercise programme delivered in partnership with community fitness centres.

Campbell Thompson, of the University of Adelaide, said the clinical outcomes were derived from cholesterol balance.

"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​," Professor Thompson 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​."

Type 2 diabetes is one of the greatest global health challenges of the 21st century, with more than 350m people suffering from the condition worldwide.

An estimated 800,000 Australian adults have type 2 diabetes, with many more undiagnosed. It is estimated that roughly one-third of spending on diabetes healthcare goes on medications.

The CSIRO results suggest that a lifestyle programme that incorporates the study’s effective eating pattern at a national level could save up to A$200m (US$142m) annually through a reduction in diabetes-related medication expenditure alone

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