Diabetes may be a scary word, with a lot of implications. A huge number of people are affected by this chronic disease and chances are that a significant portion of this number is not even aware they have diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is a disease that stops your body from being able to absorb energy from the food that you eat. This is either because you cannot make the hormone ‘insulin’ or you can’t use the insulin made by your body. There is no cure for this disease, but there are multiple options for the treatment of this disease.
Types of diabetes
Diabetes is majorly divided into two types; Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes happens when your insulin-producing cells or the beta cells of your pancreas become damaged. The pancreas can no longer make insulin or it makes very little insulin. So the sugar from your food cannot enter your body’s cells for energy. Type 1 diabetes is most common among people who are below 30 years of age, but it is possible for people of any age to get the disease.
Type 1 Diabetes patients need to regularly inject insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. *1
Type 2 Diabetes:
With Type 2 diabetes patients, the case is different. Their pancreas creates insulin but the insulin cannot be used correctly by their bodies. Type 2 Diabetes is more common among people over the age of 40, however, people of any age can be affected by Type 2 diabetes. *2
This is the most common type of diabetes as nine out of ten people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. *3
Apart from insulin injections, type 2 diabetes can also be managed by using a combination of diet, exercise, and glucose regulating oral medicine.
Using Low-carb diets to manage type 1 diabetes
Now that we know what the disease is, let’s take a look at some of the ways it can be dealt with.
Blood sugar is increased a lot when there is a lot of sugar in the food you eat. Or if the food you eat can be broken down into sugar, like carbohydrates. Unfortunately, there is a lot of carbohydrates in our staple food, like rice, and wheat, so all kinds of bread and pasta, etc, have incredible amounts of carbohydrates.
The more carbohydrates a Type 1 Diabetes Patient consumes, the higher the amount of insulin they will need to inject. So it is natural that a low-carb diet can positively benefit a person who has Type 1 Diabetes.
People who have type 1 diabetes, and people who inject themselves with insulin in general, have an insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio, a guideline to the amount of insulin they must use. For example, 1 unit of insulin is to be injected for every 10 grams of carbs eaten. This system has led to patients thinking they can eat whatever they want as long as they inject themselves with the right dose of insulin. While this method helps counterbalance the effect of a glucose spike, such high variations in your blood glucose level are never safe, especially since carb-counting can sometimes be arbitrary and approximated without accuracy. The types of carbs we eat are different, and they have different effects on our glucose levels *4
Low-Carb Diet Benefits
Dr. Bernstein’s diabetes solution is a book written by Dr. Richard K Bernstein that talks about small amounts of slowly-digested carbs and small doses of insulin. This combination leads to more predictable blood sugar results which leads to more normal blood sugar levels. This is called “The Law of Small Numbers”
In 2016, an RCT (randomized controlled trial) was conducted with type 1 diabetes patients. They were asked to eat only 75 – 100 grams of carbs per day for 12 weeks. This had a significantly positive impact on their blood glucose levels and HbA1c, compared to those who were following the standard carb counting method. Furthermore, overweight patients lost 5 kilograms on average. *5
There is evidence to back up the notion that a low-carb diet can be very beneficial for people who have type 1 diabetes. Since your diet will have a lot of changes, it is important to ensure you consult with a physician and also ensure you are receiving all the nutrients to stay healthy.
*1 – my.clevelandclinic.org – Diabetes Mellitus: Types, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatments
*2 – Endocrine Abstracts 2002: Type 1 Diabetes in the elderly
*3 – my.clevelandclinic.org – Diabetes Mellitus: Types, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatments
*4 – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999: Rapidly available glucose in foods-an in vitro measurement that reflects the glycemic response.
*5 – Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016: A randomized trial of the feasibility of a low-carbohydrate diet vs standard carbohydrate counting in adults with type 1 diabetes taking body weight into account