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Mediterranean and high fat low carb diet win for weight loss and diabetes

Should you buy low-fat or high-fat if you want to conquer diabetes and lose weight?
Should you buy low-fat or high-fat if you want to conquer diabetes and lose weight?
Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Various forms of low carb diets have become increasingly popular for weight loss. In addition, many experts are recommending them for conditions such as metabolic syndrome. Now two new studies are showing that low carb high fat (LCHF) ketogenic diets and low carb Mediterranean diets win both for weight loss and for diabetes.

Diabetes UK reported that researchers at The Second University of Naples compared low-fat diets to low-carb Mediterranean diets on participants with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The result: Low carb Mediterranean dieters controlled their diabetes more successfully while staying on the diet longer. "Over 6 years, 4% of the low carb group achieved remission whereas none of the low fat group did."

The approach is detailed in a book by Dr. Steve Parker, who created his own unique version of low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet that's specifically designed for people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes: "Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet" (click for details).

In a similar study, researchers compared the benefits of a moderate carbohydrate diet to a very low carbohydrate diet in overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes. Their conclusion: "Our results suggest that a very low carbohydrate diet coupled with skills to promote behavior change may improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes while allowing decreases in diabetes medications," as reported in Pub Med.

"This study was not ground-breaking; it was confirmation of a phenomenon that is starting to become well-known, and soon to be the status quo. That is, advising an obese diabetic patient to reduce their carb intake consistently produces better results than advising them to follow a low fat, calorie restricted diet," noted Dr. William Lagakos, author of "The poor, misunderstood calorie: calories proper" (click for details).

Dr. Lagakos and Dr. Parker are not alone in advocating low-carb diets for diabetes and for weight loss.

"You can absolutely and dramatically reduce your risk for becoming a diabetic today by changing your diet to one that includes much fewer carbs and sugars and reintroduces healthful fats back to the table," says one of the leaders in the LCHF diet world, Dr. David Perlmutter, author of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers" (click for more information).

And science journalist and researcher Gary Taubes emphasizes that the traditional message that "a calorie is a calorie" is making America fatter, while increasing the number of individuals battling diabetes. All of the health classes that teach us to eat carbohydrates and whole grains while banning butter and beef are wrong, says Taubes. He explains the solution - a low-carb, high fat diet - in his ground-breaking books "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" and "Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health."

The question, then, is why the American Diabetes Association (ADA) continues to recommend a low-fat diet that includes whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy and moderate amounts of low-fat animal protein? We emailed their public relations department to see what the ADA's view on low carb diets is, especially the high fat low carb ketogenic ones, citing the study from PubMed.

Their response included a lengthy attachment and this summary:

Evidence is inconclusive for an ideal amount of carbohydrate intake for people with diabetes.
Therefore, collaborative goals should be developed with the individual with diabetes.

The amount of carbohydrates and available insulin may be the most important factor influencing glycemic response after eating and should be considered when developing the eating plan.

Monitoring carbohydrate intake, whether by carbohydrate counting or experience-based estimation remains a key strategy in achieving glycemic control. For good health, carbohydrate intake from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and dairy products should be advised over intake from other carbohydrate sources, especially those that contain added fats, sugars, or sodium.

The ADA isn't alone in sticking to tradition. "My Plate" from the U.S. government tells you to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy, while keeping "meat and poultry portions small and lean." (By the way, you get those instructions only after spending more time trying to figure out where to look than you do on the health insurance Web site.) We attempted to contact Uncle Sam, but found in easier to come up with a make-it-at-home-recipe for Twinkies than a way to ask Uncle Sam about the "My Plate" obsession with wheat. For a fascinating exploration of the food pyramid, we highly recommend reading "Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health" (click for details).

As for the possibility that the nation's food pyramid will be changed in the near future? We think it's more likely that we'll find a way to herd cats.

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