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Do Low-Carb Diets Help Diabetes?

Small Study Shows Restricting Carbohydrates Reduces Need for Medications

Pills vs. Diet

Feinman acknowledges that many patients cannot stick to very low carbohydrate diets. But he adds that for those who can, restricting carbs could mean a life free from insulin and diabetesdiabetes drugs.

Feinman directs the Nutrition and Metabolism Society, a group founded in 2004 in part to further research on carbohydrate restriction. He is editor of the Society's journal Nutrition and Metabolism, in which the study appeared.

"Many patients would prefer taking a drug over changing their lifestyle, but that should be the patient's choice," he says. "Patients aren't being told that they can do with diet what they do with pills."

But Clark says diets that severely restrict carbohydrates are often high in fats and protein.

High-fat diets have been linked to cardiovascular disease and high-protein diets increase the risk of developing kidney diseasekidney disease. People with diabetes are at high risk for both diseases.

"If you restrict your carbohydrates to 20%, the other 80% of your calories have to come from somewhere," he says. "We know high-fat and high-protein diets pose a definite risk for diabetics."

Clark says people with diabetes, like everyone, should strive to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits fats and foods with little nutritional value.

The most important thing that most people with type 2 diabetes can do to improve their health is lose weight, he says. That means following a calorie-restricted diet they can live with.

"Diabetics definitely need to watch what they eat, but that is sound advice for everyone," Clark says.

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