Study Finds This Kind Of Low Carb Diet May Increase Diabetes Risk

Low-carbohydrate diets are becoming increasingly popular, but not all low-carb regimens are equal. In preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions conference, it was found that a certain type of low-carb diet may actually increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't create enough insulin, which is a hormone that "unlocks" the cells and lets blood sugar in to be used as fuel (via Mayo Clinic). The cells themselves also don't respond very well to insulin, making it extra hard for the body to use sugar, or glucose. This causes glucose to build up in the bloodstream, which can lead to symptoms including increased thirst and hunger, more frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision. If this high blood sugar goes unmanaged, it can ultimately lead to issues that affect your nervous, circulatory, and immune systems.

Studies show that low-carb diets may help manage type 2 diabetes since carbohydrates break down into glucose (via Healthline). When those with diabetes eat too many carbs and their blood sugar gets too high, they may need to take a dose of insulin to help the cells take in the glucose. By eating a low-carb diet, some people see their blood sugar levels improve. But there are certain low-carb diets where this may not be true.

How different low carb diets are linked to diabetes risk

In the new American Heart Association study, researchers explored the risk of type 2 diabetes in healthy people who began a low-carb diet (via U.S. News & World Report). They analyzed the data of 203,541 adults from three large national studies, which spanned from 1984 to 2017. Researchers divided participants into five groups based on the percentage of energy they got from their protein, fat, and carbs put together. They found that the quality of protein and fat that people consumed while limiting carbs impacted their risk for type 2 diabetes.

Those in the lowest-carb group who got most of their protein and fat from animal sources actually had a 35% higher risk for type 2 diabetes. There was a 6% lower risk for those in the lowest-carb group who got most of their protein and fat from plant-based sources, and this number increased to a 15% lower risk when they also minimized refined sugars.

However, researchers noted that the majority of participants were white, which limits the ability of the study to be generalized to other populations. Additionally, carbohydrates are our main source of energy, according to Medical News Today, and some research shows that while consuming a low-carb diet may help with weight loss in the short term, it is actually unsafe and should be avoided, as it's been linked to premature death. Always check with your doctor before making any big dietary changes.