The Low-Carb Diet—The Answer to Managing Type 1 Diabetes?


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The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a groundbreaking paper this May about the potential benefits of managing type 1 diabetes with a low-carb diet. Although the low-carb diet theoretically makes sense for glycemic control, there has been relatively little research done on how low-carb diets actually affect people’s A1C. As we all know, there is so much debate and energy behind what diet is “right” for those with type 1; there is no diet universally recognized as perfect. However, the scientists in this study wanted to see if going low-carb helped with glycemic control for people with type 1 diabetes.

What was studied?

The researchers studied a group from TypeOneGrit, an online Facebook community for people with type 1 who were committed to following a low-carb diet of up to 30 grams of carbs a day—that’s equivalent to one medium-sized banana. Once they had their volunteer sample, they collected data using an online survey and confirmed the survey with the volunteer’s healthcare professionals. Some of the data they collected was about glycemic control, HbA1C, daily insulin dose and average blood glucose concentrations before and after beginning their low-carb diet.

What did they find?

The mean HbA1c of participants following this low carb diet was 5.67 percent. A whooping 97 percent of participants achieved the ADA glycemic targets, which is amazing—on average, only 14 percent of people between 18 and 25 with type 1 diabetes meet ADA glycemic targets, and 30 percent of older adults reach this target. The mean daily insulin dose was .40 U/kg per day. And even though these people were eating a low-carb diet, the rates of severe hypoglycemia were relatively low—2 percent reported seizure or coma due to hypoglycemia.

Another interesting piece was how the participants felt about their health and their healthcare on this low-carb diet. Although they reported high levels of overall health and satisfaction with their diabetes management, they did not feel similarly positive about their healthcare providers. Many (27 percent) were hesitant to discuss their diet with their diabetes healthcare providers, and of those that did tell their doctors or endos about their low-carb diet, only 49 percent felt their providers were supportive.

So … what does this mean for me?

The results of this study are promising and represent one strategy for managing type 1 diabetes through food.  There are many different ways to eat, and benefits and pitfalls of each. It is important to try out different diets and see what works best for you as this varies for the individual. Going the low-carb direction could be worth a try!

Read more about Food and Diabetes Management.

WRITTEN BY Amrita Misha, POSTED 05/18/18, UPDATED 10/25/22

A 2017 high school graduate, Amrita is taking a gap year before going to Dartmouth next fall, where she plans on majoring in physics. She has lived in the Bay Area her whole life, and loves learning about other people’s experience. She is passionate about teaching and tutoring children in any arena she can: math, physics, writing, skiing. In her free time, you can find Amrita reading, listening to podcasts, or embroidering.