Study Finds Low-Carb, High-Protein, High-Fat Diet Associated with Lowered Diabetes Risk

Low Carb, Sugar FreeChalk yet another one up for low-carb, high protein diets: A study in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that a vegetable-based, low-carbohydrate diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

To assess the impact of diet on type 2 diabetes risk, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined the dietary habits of 85,059 women participating in the Nurse’s Health Study. The women were then assigned a score based on their diet, with higher scores going to the women who consumed a diet rich in animal fats and protein and low in carbohydrates and lower scores assigned to women following a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

After analyzing the data – which spanned roughly 20 years – the researchers determined that women with the highest scores did not have an increased risk of diabetes. In fact, women in this category whose diets consisted of higher amounts of fat and protein primarily from vegetable sources actually had a slightly lower risk of developing diabetes.

Commenting on the findings, the study’s lead author notes that he was “surprised that total carbohydrate consumption was associated with type 2 diabetes, and that the relative risk for the glycemic load was so high.” Presumably these findings are surprising to the doctor precisely because they run counter to the general recommendations of nutritionists, who advise people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes to follow a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. In our estimation the only surprising thing here is that the findings are at all surprising.

Meanwhile, an assistant professor of medicine at New York University Medical School notes that “in general, carbs should be limited just like saturated fat needs to be limited,” adding that “if you eat too much of anything, you’re bound to get into trouble.” However, he does say that implementing the diet does present some challenges, especially for people who “don’t understand how to eat well.”

The MDA solution? Rather than just adding this study to the long list of evidence suggesting that low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets are good for us, it’s time to share the wealth with the American Public. Specifically, Americans need to be taught not only how to adopt the low-carb lifestyle but why it will benefit their health to do so. To help make this journey simpler, perhaps its time to take the case all the way to the top and campaign for the USDA food pyramid – which is used as the basis for most nutrition education – to literally be turned upside down to reflect the healthier lifestyle choice!

Now it’s your turn – tell us what do you think it will take for the U.S. public to finally embrace the low-carbohydrate lifestyle?

via Washington Post

mtsofan Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Whose Food Pyramid is it Anyway?

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14 thoughts on “Study Finds Low-Carb, High-Protein, High-Fat Diet Associated with Lowered Diabetes Risk”

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  1. The market has done a little of it for us. In the late 90’s something like 5 of the ten top selling books were low carb diet books. But there was a bit of a backlash. Still, we are at least to the point where people (without knowing why) mention carbs almost as often as they mention fat when it come to what they need to limit if they want to lose weight. But there is no real understanding of its links to inflamation or diabetes. There is also a more generic understanding of glycemic load and whole grains (not ideal but the insulin spikes aren’t as bad).

    To completely flip the food pyramid or make this glacial progress a little faster would take presidential speeches, congressional hearings, a media blitz and a bestselling book. I was hoping that would be Good Calories, Bad Calories, but it’s not so far.

    And as someone who works with congress, I can assure you it will be difficult to get them to move on anything that will reduce market shares of sugar, corn, wheat, and every other staple crop in this country.

  2. The problem is larger than just getting people to realize that they are not eating healthy, most people know that Fast food, and sugar, etc is not good for them, but they eat it anyway. One of the issues that is going to have to be dealt with is how do you feed a growing populace a low carb/whole food diet as efficiently as we currently feed our populace McDonald’s. How much more of peoples income are they going to have to devote to food, versus something else. Yes you can make the argument of food today vs medicine tomorrow, but an empty stomach doesn’t respond well to logic. The three biggest myths in the low carb community are that people are following the food pyramid, they aren’t; that there is universal access to low carb/whole food, there isn’t; and it the carbs that are naking us fat, not the calories, do we even need to go there.

  3. You really haven’t made a convincing case that high-carb is bad, just simple carbs are bad. There doesn’t appear to be *any* research showing that a diet high in complex carbs from whole grains and vegetables is unhealthy. At this point, there appears to be no reason to “flip the pyramid.” But there are plenty of reasons to cut out highly-refined foods.

  4. the problem is not even about low carb. most people eat 250 grams of carb daily without even realizing. if they even dropped to 150 grams of carb a day AND changed the source of that carb (i.e less white bread, more veggies)-their body not to forget their life would change.

  5. Clearly, the high carbohydrate diets and the use of processed oils, and fats used in the preparation of foods are the wrong way to go in terms of the needs as would be had by the
    American Constituents needful of a healthier and a better form of the American Diet?

    Getting away from animal foods and toward the plant sources of foods is the more civil and the better. It would seem, to me, the concerted effort of farmers and the American form of the agriculture now, in America, should be that one of finding and raising the vegetable sources of protein foods raised, prepared,
    packaged, marketed and sold of a profitable means, and that now is the opportunity for the American Farmer to lead the way in
    terms of making it possible for the American constituent allowed to be healthier when making of an use of vegetable sources of the food stuffs rather then animal sources of foods, but to do
    this, now, in the American economy of a regimented and innovated process, in America, now is the appropriate time to do of it.

    America has had of its multifarious forms of the various revolutions…now is the needed time of a food revolution made manifest in the American Land and now is that opportunity
    presented before us so to be allowed to be innovative and now is the time to make of an advantage of a market made of an use to profitably conduct, in the American Land, the FOOD REVOLUTION where wholesome foods are raised, marketed and sold rather then money and now is the time to do profitably of the former and not of the latter. The American People and the
    American Economy are ready and are in the need of the most nourishing forms of the sources of the vegetable foods…such should be the beginnings of a whole new kind of a MARKET developed in
    the American Republique?

    William H. Millard

  6. I did Atkins diet back in the 1980’s and lost over thirty pounds and kept them off for several years so I very well understand how to do the low carb thing. But then, this past year I tried it again and maybe went a little overboard with the fat (butter, nuts, cheese)…treating everyday like it was a holiday. I am a type II diabetic btw since 2002. I am wondering if all those years of eating low carb caused me to be uber sensitve to carbohydrates. While I did Atkins I did experience elevated choleterol and failed glucose tolerance tests. I also would like to say that longvity runs in my mother’s farm family. They had eggs for breakfast but ate mostly vegetables or fish otherwise “unless company came to visit”. These people lived into their upper eighties and one will be ninety this year. The point I am trying to make is that beware of either extreme. Eating wheat is a bad thing, but too much butter, nuts and cheese, as well as gorging on meat can get you in trouble too. Things that taste so exquisite can lead to gluttony if one is not careful to abstain.

  7. I enjoy reading Denise Minger’s writing, and I enjoy her analyses of these various studies. But these comments are painful to read. The idea is that getting “full” on carbs is an entirely different proposition from getting full on fats, and that the body has an imperfect adaptation to digesting and metabolizing carbs. Of course carbs can keep a body alive. That’s the good thing about being an omnivore. But the glucose that results from continual excessive carb consumption has an adverse effect on the body, over the long term, as the body tries to deal with that glucose load. Better to eat what the body is more adapted to: more protein and fat calories, which in turn results in reduced caloric consumption. In turn that results in weight loss and better balance in glucose and insulin.

    How is that bad? Or risky?

    It isn’t that carbs are evil, or that grain is evil. It’s just that in evolutionary terms the body is more adapted to fat and protein consumption.

    Personally, however, the idea that many people, probably me included, are somewhat intolerant to wheat is enough reason to minimize wheat consumption, whole grain or not. The concept of a “leaky gut,” with unwanted proteins getting directly into the bloodstream is just not appealing. Getting Vitamin D replete is part of the answer, but why even eat wheat?

  8. Nothing will change until it is easier to eat a high protein, high fat diet with low carbs. Remember good fats are the best energy source and carbs are the best source of body fat. Fast food outlet have to get away from fries and bread and that will not happen unless we vote for it with our wallets.

  9. just to put this out there, saturated fat does not contribute to increased cholesterol or heart disease these things are a myth do some research

  10. Ehh in my personal experience the people that I’ve met on a vegan high-carb, low-fat diet are super lean and healthy. Before I used to eat animal products and I had so little energy throughout the day and it was hard paying attention in class. Now every morning I have a big banana smoothie with soy milk and it doens’t only taste delicious, but it also helps me get through the long day ahead (I have classes from 8AM-5PM). I take bananas and dates to snack on too. I love this diet because there is no calorie restriction. I’m a skinny girl and I get to eat SO much without gaining weight, it’s great:) I do consume fat calories from avocados and a bit of olive oil in my salads. I also get fats from almonds and other seeds. This diet is good for my health (I haven’t been sick in awhile), the lives of other animals, and for the environment, so I am content with it. 🙂