Low-carb diet key to overcoming diabetes crisis: study

A new international study has found that consuming fewer carbohydrates can potentially put Type 2 diabetes - a disease surging in prevalence in Samoa - into remission.

Australia’s leading Government-funded research organisation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (C.S.I.R.O.) released the findings of its study on its website on Tuesday. 

The study could have potentially significant implications for the health of Samoa in its battle against non-communicable diseases. 

Diabetes has surged massively in Samoa over the past three decades.

Between 1978-2013, Type 2 diabetes increased from afflicting 1.2 per cent of men to 19.6 per cent; with a similar increase recorded amongst women, research has found. 

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, found that after six months on a low carbohydrate diet more Type 2 diabetes patients went into remission when compared to other diets for managing the disease. (Participants consumed 26 per cent less of the sugar and starchy foods) 

Professor Grant Brinkworth, a contributing author to the study and a C.S.I.R.O. Research Scientist, said the findings showed participants who stuck to a “low-carb” diet registered the greatest health improvements. 

"Building on existing research, this study underscores that a low carb diet can achieve greater weight loss and is more effective in reducing diabetes medication and improving blood glucose control," Professor Brinkworth said.

"However, this study has gone one step further in showing the low carb dietary approach to be effective in driving Type 2 diabetes into remission.

"We know that lifestyle factors such as what we eat play a major part in determining our risk to type 2 diabetes. The good news is these lifestyle choices are within our control to change."

Diabetes has become one of the greatest global health challenges of the 21st century.

Worldwide it is estimated that one in 11 adults have diabetes and that it is responsible for approximately 11 per cent of deaths annually.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease and accounts for more than 90 per cent of total cases. 

The study is the first systematic review to examine the safety and efficacy of low carb diets in adults suffering from Type 2 diabetes. 

"We used the most robust scientific methods to examine the combined effects of 23 published clinical trials from across the world, involving 1357 participants, including additional data from five of those clinical trials on markers of blood sugar status," Dr. Goldenberg said.

"By examining the totality of evidence on the effects of low carb diets against clinical targets, this study will help clinicians and patients to better understand how this dietary approach can be used to treat type 2 diabetes, which remains a significant and worsening problem worldwide, despite numerous pharmaceutical developments.

“The results of this study suggest low carb diets could be considered an effective alternative while monitoring and adjusting diabetes medication as needed."

Professor Brinkworth said the findings underlined the need for diet support as a means of combating diabetes’ prevalence.

"Low carb diets can be a really effective dietary approach for Type 2 diabetes management, however, the challenge is to provide patients with easy-to-use support tools and convenient product solutions to help them adhere to it long-term to gain these greater health improvements," Professor Brinkworth said.

"In the future, having clearer a definition of type 2 diabetes remission and more rigorous studies examining the long-term safety and satisfaction of low carb diets will also help to confirm the strength of this therapeutic approach." 

The Executive Director of the Matuaileoo Environment Trust Incorporation (M.E.T.I.), health expert and surgeon Dr. Walter Vermeulen, told the Samoa Observer that a plant-based diet can put diabetes sufferers on the path to recovery. 

“We have patients that reversed their diabetes,” he said.

“If you follow a plant-based diet and stick to it 100 per cent you can reverse diabetes and this is the message we have been telling people for the last eight years.”

He said that M.E.T.I. has been telling the Government that Samoa can control rising rates of diabetes by promoting a reversion to the Samoan diets of old, from 50 to 100 years ago.  

Dr. Vermeulen described classic Samoan food intake as “a vegetarian diet while only during Sundays [people would eat] have some fish or chicken not imported from America full of chemicals."

He also advised that overweight or obese people suffering from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, gout or chronic arthritis should visit the M.E.T.I. Healthy Living Clinic for assistance. 

Their patients are encouraged to follow a whole-food, plant-based diet - colloquially known as the M.E.T.I. diet.

“Over the years, we have identified those supportive conditions that make it easier for you to stick to the diet, 100 per cent,” says Dr. Vermeulen. 

“A still more persuasive argument will be for you to reflect on your eating habits and to link the ‘epidemic’ of obesity and [non-communicable disease]."

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