My pick for the healthiest meal plan for diabetes? My favorite is the Mediterranean Diet. It’s high in fiber, low in saturated fats and includes no processed foods which is the challenge for all of us at this point in history. If we could all eat like they do in Italy and Greece! Think of Sicily and the coasts of Greece where their diet consists of fresh fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, olives and olive oil, lean meats such as chicken and pork, some eggs and little red meat. The American Heart Association recommends it as well as the American Diabetes Association as being one healthy diet choice for people with diabetes.
Adherence to the DASH-style pattern may also help prevent the development of diabetes, as analyzed in a recent meta-analysis, and kidney disease as found in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort that followed more than 3700 people who developed kidney disease. [8, 9] Dietary components of DASH that were protective in the ARIC cohort included a high intake of nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. A high intake of red meat and processed meats increased kidney disease risk.
Recently, four studies have re-examined the effect of carbohydrate restriction on type 2 diabetes. One outpatient study enrolled 54 participants with type 2 diabetes (out of 132 total participants) and found that hemoglobin A1c improved to a greater degree over one year with a low-carbohydrate diet compared with a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet [5,6]. Another study enrolled 8 men with type 2 diabetes in a 5-week crossover outpatient feeding study that tested similar diets [7]. The participants had greater improvement in glycohemoglobin while on the low-carbohydrate diet than when on a eucaloric low-fat diet. The third study was an inpatient feeding study in 10 participants with type 2 diabetes [8]. After only 14 days, hemoglobin A1c improved from 7.3% to 6.8%. In the fourth study, 16 participants with type 2 diabetes who followed a 20% carbohydrate diet had improvement of hemoglobin A1c from 8.0% to 6.6% over 24 weeks [9]. Only these latter three studies targeted glycemic control as a goal, and two of these were intensely-monitored efficacy studies in which all food was provided to participants for the duration of the study [7,8]. Three of the studies [6,8,9] mentioned that diabetic medications were adjusted but only one of them provided detailed information regarding these adjustments [9]. This information is critical for patients on medication for diabetes who initiate a low-carbohydrate diet because of the potential for adverse effects resulting from hypoglycemia.
A systematic review in 2016 found and analysed seven randomized controlled trials of ketogenic diet in children and young people with epilepsy.[2] The trials were done among children and young people for whom drugs failed to control their seizures, and only one of the trials compared a group assigned to ketogenic diet with a group not assigned to one.[16] The other trials compared types of diets or ways of introducing them to make them more tolerable.[2] Nearly 40% of the children and young people had half or fewer seizures with the diet compared with the group not assigned to the diet. Only about 10% were still on the diet after a few years.[2] Adverse effects such as hunger and loss of energy in that trial were common, with about 30% experiencing constipation.[16]
Either there are very few participants in the studies, they don’t have an even number of males vs. females, or they don’t last but a few months. One study only looked at 28 people; only 21 completed the study and 20 of these participants were men. On top of this, they were only followed for 16 weeks. Okay, so we see that 20 men can limit their carbohydrates severely for 4 months and lose weight which automatically makes their A1c come down. Great! So, the real question is, how long can these 20 men stay on this diet for the rest of their lives? How long would you like to go without eating any fresh fruit? I’m craving some now, so I’m taking a break to go grab a snack now!
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.