When it comes to reduced-carb diets, it may be quality, not quantity, that matters most.
New research finds that animal-based, low-carbohydrate eating was associated with a higher Type 2 diabetes risk, whereas plant-based, low-carb eating was associated with a lower diabetes risk. The research, recently presented in Chicago at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference, is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“To prevent the risk of Type 2 diabetes for generally healthy people without prediabetes or diabetes, the quantity of carbs might not matter as much as the quality of the protein, fats and carbs,” said lead study author Yeli Wang, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “The key is to pay attention to the quality of the food.”
Low-carb diets are popular because research shows they can rapidly reduce weight within six to 12 months. However, it’s unclear why they are so efficient at shedding pounds or how they affect long-term health. Diets that restrict carbs increase fat and protein, and one theory is that this leads to a feeling of fullness, which helps reduce hunger. Another theory is that restricting carbs increases the body’s metabolism and helps burn calories.
There are at least a dozen popular low-carb diets, including the ketogenic diet—which severely restricts carbohydrates—and the Paleo diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables and lean meats and is modeled on foods that would have been available to humans during the Paleolithic Age. Some studies have suggested that very low-carb diets may improve blood glucose levels in people with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. But the number of carbs consumed in these diets varies and the emphasis on eating fats raises concerns about how the diets may affect cholesterol levels and heart health.
The new study shows some low-carb diets may be better than others, said Kristina Petersen, an assistant professor in the department of…