Can Low-Carb Diet Benefit People with Type I Diabetes?



13-year-old Andrew Hightower loves bread, pizza, and desserts like most other kids of his age. But he can’t eat most of his favorite foods because Andrew was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1 when he was just a baby and his parents decided to put him on a low carb-diet.

For years, Andrew’s mother has been planning his diet very carefully in order to prevent his blood sugar level from spiking. So, instead of having regular pizza, the 13-year-old would eat a low-carb version made fresh at home from cauliflower or almond flour crust.

More than 1.25 million people suffer from Type 1 diabetes, a genetic disorder which inhibits pancreas from producing enough insulin to control blood sugar levels

A New Blood Sugar Management Approach for Diabetic Children

Andrew can’t have lunch from the cafeteria like other kids in his school either; he always brings his own low-carb meals prepared by his mother, and his strict diet has helped him keep his blood sugar level under control and avoid any medical complications related to his condition.

Many diabetes experts will not agree with Andrew’s eating approach and say that carb restriction in children with Type 1 diabetes can lead to a number of health risks including a dangerous drop in blood glucose level, stunted growth and a constant lack of energy. However, a new research featured in the Pediatrics journal suggests that low-carb diets could actually be beneficial for managing blood sugar levels in diabetic children.

The study, conducted over a period of 2 years, found that children suffering from Type 1 diabetes who maintained a high-protein, low-carb diet required smaller doses of the insulin drug that those who followed a regular diet. Moreover, reducing carb intake helped the children stay in control of their blood glucose levels and lower their risk of developing complications later on in life. Surprisingly, none of the diabetic patients who followed a low-carb diet showed signs of stunted growth.

A new study published in the journal of Pediatrics shows that children with Type 1 diabetes can have better control over their blood sugar levels by following a low-carb diet

Low-Carb Diet Reduced hemoglobin A1C levels

Belinda Lennerz, the lead researcher and author of the study, said that she was surprised by how well the children with low-carb diet were able to control their blood sugar levels. Lennersz conducted a hemoglobin A1C test on the participants, which is a recognized barometer used by doctors to determine blood sugar control in diabetic patients, and found out that those children who followed a low-carb diet had reduced their hemoglobin A1C levels to 5.67 per cent which is considered normal, and is much lower than the average threshold of 6.5 per cent for people with diabetes.

Lennerz, who is also a pediatric endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, described the young participants’ blood glucose levels as ‘too good to be true’ and something that she normally does not witness in the clinic with Type 1 diabetes cases.

However, the study does have its implications. For one, it is only an observational research instead of a clinical trial which lacks a control group and is conducted on a small group of 316 participants. Only 130 of the participants were underage children whose parents signed a consent form through a low-carb diabetes group on Facebook. The medical records from the study were sent to parents for reviewing and consulting with their physicians.

The paper argues that if diabetes patients don’t consume a lot of carbs, less insulin will be needed to keep their blood glucose level stable

The Study Could Revolutionize Therapy for Diabetes Patients

Many experts are shocked by the results of the study which proved that, contrary to popular belief, Type 1 diabetes patients can manage their blood glucose levels with a low-carb diet without suffering from hypoglycemia or poor growth. Dr. David M. Harlan from UMass Memorial Medical Center says that he’s excited to read the paper and see if it can revolutionize therapy for diabetic patients.

The author of the research clearly cautioned in the paper that he does not recommend low-carb eating approach as the best way to control blood glucose levels, and diabetic patients are advised to consult their medical care provider before altering their diet in any way.

The study has simply led the way for more researchers to conduct larger clinical trials in order to find solid proof that low-carb diet can actually be a useful approach for Type 1 diabetes patients in managing their condition.

A Serious Condition with No Cure

There is currently no treatment or prevention method for Type 1 diabetes, and patients must follow a strict management program which requires administrating insulin drug multiple times in a day – mostly around mealtimes when blood sugar level is at its peak due to carb consumption.

The argument made by the recent paper is that if diabetes patients don’t consume a lot of carbs, the blood sugar level will not be elevated during mealtimes, and hence, little insulin will be needed to keep the glucose level stable.