The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can You Improve Blood Sugar Control by Cutting Carbs?

Research shows that cutting carbs can reduce fluctuations in blood glucose and lower the amount of medication people with diabetes need.

A century ago, before insulin was discovered in 1921, the way people with diabetes controlled their blood sugar was by not eating carbohydrate-rich foods. Could cutting carbs help improve your blood sugar control today?

Cutting Carbs Reduced Insulin Requirements:

Q. I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 36 years, and for the past five years I have cut back on carbs and processed foods. I had struggled for years trying to keep my blood sugar from going to extremes despite being on an insulin pump or multiple daily injections.

When I went low-carb (25 grams or less per meal), it made such a difference in my control. I had spoken with my former endocrinologist about going low-carb, but she discouraged it. When I decided to try this anyway, she was absolutely furious with me and told me I was going to get sick. That was the last time I saw her.

My HbA1c measurements are lower and my blood sugars are more controlled than they have ever been. I’ve not been sick, and I use less insulin. Cutting carbs may not work for everyone, but it has certainly been good for me.

Research on Cutting Carbs in Type 1 Diabetes:

A. A survey published in the journal Pediatrics (May, 2018) found that children and adults with type 1 diabetes following a very low-carb diet had exceptionally good blood sugar control.  This flies in the face of conventional dietary recommendations.

People with Type 2 Diabetes Also Benefit from Cutting Carbs:

Although type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, it seems that the same low-carbohydrate diet benefit both. Researchers compared low- and high-carbohydrate diets for managing type 2 diabetes (Tay et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Oct. 2015). People who followed a low-carb diet (<50 g/day) for a year had more stable blood glucose and better blood lipids than those on a high-carb diet. They also needed fewer diabetes medicines. Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a measure of blood sugar over several weeks, improved on both diets.

A two-year study compared an energy-restricted low-carb diet high in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat to a high-carb low-fat diet for people with type 2 diabetes (Tay et al, Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, April 2018). Here too, the group following the low-carb diet reduced the medicine they needed, stabilized their blood sugar and lowered their blood lipids more than the group on the high-carb diet.

How Can You Start Cutting Carbs?

You can learn more about how to follow a low-carbohydrate diet in our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies. In it you will learn which foods to avoid and which should be staples in such an eating plan.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Pre-diabetes levels motivated me to cut carbs nine months ago. A1C is now 5.1. Weight down to 155. Surprisingly LDL fell to 84, HDL rose to 50. I began with my hospital’s Lipid Clinic Low Glycemic Diet, supplied by my GP, and modified it with fats to curb hunger between meals. Moderate exercise of 30 to 60 minutes per day when possible. Worked very well for me.

As an RN who has helped her husband change from “pre-diabetic” to “non-diabetic,” I highly recommend the book “Conquer Type 2 Diabetes with a Ketogenic Diet” by Ellen Davis, MS and Keith Runyan, MD. He is a doc with Type 1 diabetes who followed all the regular “rules” about diabetes but finally found blood sugar stability with the keto diet. She, an expert in the keto diet, has also written another excellent book “Fight Cancer with a Ketogenic Diet” that is very well researched and thorough.

As a cancer survivor of five years and a person who has been on the low carb, high good fat, moderate protein Keto diet for two years, I have never felt better and my blood work shows this dramatically, especially my A1C, fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, cancer markers, heart ratios etc.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence out there (including helping children with seizures) the demonstrates the benefits of the ketogenic diet. You just most likely won’t hear about it from your average medical doctor.

If this interests you, check out authors David Ludwig, MD PhD, Eric Westman, MD, Nina Teicholz, Gary Taubes, Travis Christoferson, Jimmy Moore, Mark Hyman, MD, or Joseph Mercola, DO. Wonderful resources.

As a diabetes educator for 20 + years, I learned the only way to control diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2 is to control your carbs. Low carb diets are probably good for most people too. We wouldn’t have the high incidence of diabetes, obesity and heart disease which we are seeing in alarming numbers. If we ate more unprocessed foods, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about carbs. Even good carbs become more of a problem once they are processed. Our bodies were meant to break down carbs slowly so we don’t get a quick spike in blood sugar necessitating a spike in insulin levels to clear the rise in sugar from the bloodstream. It’s these spikes in blood sugar and insulin followed by lows which create havoc with blood sugar balance.

I’ve controlled my pre-diabetes by going ketogenic with my diet and by 16/8 fasting which I started three months ago. I finally got my A1C from 6.2 to 5.9 after the three months of fasting. Going to continue this for a year and see how it goes.

Good for you. I think you’re doing the right thing. My husband’s numbers are markedly improved after going lower carb, and his meds cut to 4 days from 7. He could probably go without meds if he’d do more, but that is not in the cards.

The medical and pharmaceutical industries don’t want to cure type 2 diabetes even though it is 100 percent reversible. They want to manage it. That’s where the money is!

I’ve been reading The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, MD. He presents a very thoughtful review of the causes of obesity and diabetes and provides research evidence to support his claim that much of what is taken for granted in both areas is misguided and just downright wrong. He has a related book, The Diabetes Code, but I haven’t read it yet.

I think it’s appalling that any doctor discourages diabetics of any stripe (T1, T2 or what they now call Alzheimers: T3) from trying low carb. For those out there who want to find the science supporting the idea, google Jason Fung, Ivor Cummins, Dave Feldman – the list is long and the science they cite is much better than anything the American Diabetes Assoc. can offer.

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