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A low-carb diet has been shown to decrease type 2 diabetes medication levels by 40 per cent, a result which outperformed a high-carb, low-fat diet of the same calories.

The study was carried out by a research team that included researchers from Adelaide, Australia and Durham, North Carolina.

The study compared a low-carbohydrate diet, which was low in saturated fat but high in unsaturated fat, with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Both diets had an equal energy intake of 1,433 kcal per day.

The low-carb diet was under 50g of carbohydrate per day. The fat content of the diet was made up largely from nuts and avocado and low-fat dairy. The diets were maintained over 52 weeks. All of the 115 participants in the study were obese with type 2 diabetes. The high-carb diet included around 180g of carbohydrate per day.

Both the low carb and high carb diets resulted in a strong weight loss of around 22 lbs (10kg) and a drop in A1c of 1%. This is to be expected, given that both diets were low in calories.

Improvements were also recorded for both diets in terms of cholesterol for both diets. The low carb diet was greater for reducing triglyceride levels and improving HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) levels. The high carb, low fat diet was stronger in terms of reducing LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) levels.

The stand out result of the study was that the low carb diet group reduced their level of medication by 40%. Level of medication usage was measured by the diabetes medication score. The low carb dieters experienced a reduction of 0.5 arbitrary units compared to a smaller reduction of 0.2 units in the high carb, low fat group.

Professor Grant Brinkworth, from the School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, stated: “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.”

Adding that: “This research shows that traditional dietary approaches for managing type 2 diabetes could be outdated, we really need to review the current dietary guidelines if we are serious about using the latest scientific evidence to reduce the impact of the disease.”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 reduction in diabetes medication is a strong benefit as it not only reduces the burden side effects but is likely to prevent type 2 diabetes from progressing as quickly.

An additional benefit of the low-carb diet was that it enabled more participants to complete the study. 71% of the low carb diet were able to complete the study whereas 65% of the high carb dieters completed.