Living with type 2 diabetes is no joke. This progressive disease often calls for multiple solutions like medications and lifestyle changes to keep things from spiraling out of control.
While you can’t really get rid of type 2 diabetes, there is a silver lining. New research in The BMJ suggests a low carb diet may help reverse the disease (known as “diabetes remission”) enough to cut back on your medications.
To achieve type 2 diabetes remission, your average blood sugar level (also known as your A1C) has to dip below the diabetes range. Numbers vary, but BMJ researchers define remission as scoring an A1C level below 6.5% for at least six months, usually without help from diabetes meds. Some people who achieve remission can get rid of medications entirely while monitoring their condition.
By pooling data from 23 trials with 1,357 participants, researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes who followed a low carb diet experienced greater remission rates at six months than those who did not. Low carb diets were associated with a 32% increase in diabetes remission than other diets. (Researchers define a low carb diet as one that packs less than 26% of daily calories from carbs.)
Plus, people on low-carb diets lost weight, reduced medication use, and reached healthier body fat concentrations at six months.
However, the benefits diminished after a year, likely because the diet was so restrictive. For this reason, it’s probably best to give low-carb diets an earlier end-date.
Researchers also say we need more studies to figure out if there are any longer-term consequences to following low-carb diets for short periods of time.
Whatever you do, don’t start a low-carb diet without talking to a diabetes provider or a registered dietitian specializing in diabetes and nutrition. He or she can help you figure out an eating plan and make adjustments to your medication if needed.
When you’re not following a low-carb diet, aim to get about half of your daily calories from carbs, the CDC says. Reach for whole grains, vegetables, and fruits; steer clear of baked goods, fried foods, and sugary drinks.