Low-carb diets may be all the rage, but they’re not for kids with diabetes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In a new report, the AAP says that low-carbohydrate diets cannot be recommended for children or teenagers with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That’s because there’s little evidence they’re helpful, but there are concerns about restricting kids’ diets to that degree.
Instead, the AAP encourages families to focus on cutting out “bad” carbs: sugary drinks, sweets and other processed foods that are low in nutrients. Just as important, kids should get enough healthy carbs, including vegetables, beans and fiber-rich grains.
The “keto” diet and similar ones popular among adults can put very strict limits on carbs, with a ceiling as low as 20 grams per day—equivalent to a half-cup of white rice.
A big concern is that low-carb diets will shortchange kids on nutrients during critical periods of development, said Amy Reed, a pediatric dietitian with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Reed, who was not involved in the AAP report, said she agrees with its recommendations.
“The focus should be on healthy eating, rather than restriction,” said Reed, who is also a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Diabetes exists in different forms: Type 1 diabetes arises from an immune system attack on the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with obesity, the body loses its ability to properly use insulin.
As a result, blood sugar levels soar. Kids with type 1 need to take daily insulin injections or wear an insulin pump. Those with type 2 may need medication or help with weight loss. In either case, attention to diet is key.
Some doctors recommend low-carb diets for adults with diabetes, while many popular diets—and celebrities—tout carb-cutting for weight loss.
So some parents may be interested in going low-carb to manage their kids’ diabetes, said Dr. Tamara Hannon, one of…