Very low-carb diet may help manage type 1 diabetes, study says

A low-carbohydrate, high protein diet had “exceptional glycemic control” for children and young adults with type 1 diabetes, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study, led by Belinda Lennerz, MD, PhD, and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, included at 316 participants, young adults and children with type 1 diabetes, who followed a very low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, combined with lower doses of diabetes drug insulin, for an average of just over two years.  

The average carbohydrate intake across the group was 36 grams per day. This greatly reduced blood sugar levels between meals, plus smaller insulin doses made dosing mistakes less likely, therefore minimizing adverse events.  

Researchers assessed hemoglobin A1c, which is used to measure average blood sugar concentrations, and found that levels dropped to 5.67 percent. Levels below 5.7 percent are considered in the normal range, while the threshold for diabetes is 6.5 percent.

The study was observational, not a randomized controlled trial, and participants were drawn from a Facebook page for young people with type 1 diabetes who follow a low-carb diet, TypeOneGrit, 42 percent of which were children whose parents gave consent to participate. Then, researchers reviewed medical records and contacted diabetes care providers.

The social media group is run by engineer, Richard David Dikeman, PhD, one of the study’s authors, whose son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and follows a low-carbohydrate lifestyle. Before the discovery of insulin, it prolonged lives of the children, sometimes for years. With the introduction of insulin, however, carbohydrate restriction fell out of practice.  

The authors note that the next step is to see how well the low carbohydrate lifestyle works under randomized controlled trial conditions.