- A lower-carbohydrate diet rich in plant-based foods can increase life expectancy in individuals with type 2 diabetes, according to research involving over 10,000 American adults with this condition.
- The quality of a lower-carb diet plays a critical role in its longevity-boosting effects. A balanced mix of vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich grains, and beans was shown to be beneficial, whereas a heavy reliance on meat and dairy did not yield the same benefits.
- Individuals with high scores for a healthy lower-carb diet – one rich in plant foods and low in sugar and starch – were approximately 30% less likely to pass away during the research period than those with lower scores.
- The health benefits of a lower-carb diet were more pronounced among people who combined healthy eating with regular physical exercise, non-smoking, and limited alcohol intake.
- Making healthy diets more accessible and affordable, for instance, by purchasing frozen vegetables, can help more individuals manage type 2 diabetes more effectively.
A reduction in carbohydrate intake can aid longevity for individuals with type 2 diabetes. This is especially true when the switch is from sugars to vegetables rather than meats, according to emerging research.
More than 10,000 American adults with type 2 diabetes were part of a survey. Results indicated a correlation between a lower carbohydrate diet and increased life expectancy over a 30 year period in comparison to those who consumed an abundance of carbs.
Notably, the impact relied heavily on the quality of the lower-carb diets. Longevity was observed predominately in people who incorporated into their diets a balanced amount of carbohydrates in addition to a variety of vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich grains, and beans, as opposed to those with higher-carb diets.
Interestingly, no survival advantage was noted in individuals whose lower-carb diets were primarily composed of meat and dairy products.
The results, seen in _Diabetes Care_ buttress a well-known dietary recommendation: limit sugar and heavily processed foods intake, while increasing the consumption of plant-based foods.
Type 2 Diabetes in the US
More than 37 million Americans currently live with diabetes, the majority of which have type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes occurs when the body becomes insensitive to insulin, a blood sugar-regulating hormone.
Often linked to obesity, modifications to one’s diet, regular physical activity, and weight loss are essential in managing the disease. Low-carb diets frequently feature within weight loss plans and strategies for blood sugar control. Yet, strict low-carb diets, like the Keto diet, are often difficult to sustain over extended periods.
Further, not all carbs are created equal. Avoidance of sugar and starch-rich foods such as white bread and processed snacks is especially critical for individuals with diabetes. In contrast, there exists a number of healthy carbohydrates, including vegetables and high-fiber whole grains.
The Study’s Method
The researchers used data from two long-standing studies of American health professionals and focused on 10,000+ respondents who developed type 2 diabetes after commencement of the studies.
Participants provided detailed dietary data regularly. From these dietary questionnaires, the researchers were able to devise five scoring systems. One was based simply on the quantity of daily carbohydrate intake, while the others concentrated on the quality of lower-carb diets – if respondents were still consuming healthy, plant-based carbs or if they preferred meat and other animal produce, for example.
Across the 30 year period, nearly 4,600 study participants passed away. The mortality rate, however, was decidedly lower among individuals whose diets were relatively lower in carbohydrates. Upon delving deeper into dietary quality, it became apparent that only lower-carb diets that were rich in plant foods appeared to be beneficial.
Points to Note
The study revealed that those with a high score for a healthy lower-carb diet – one abundant in plant foods and lacking in sugar and starch – were roughly 30% less likely to pass away during the research period, as compared to those who scored poorly.
Notably, respondents’ diets were not entirely low in carbs. Those who scored highest for restricting carbohydrates were still obtaining around 40% of their daily calories from carbs, much more than what strictly low-carb diets allow.
This flexibility regarding carbohydrates is necessary to incorporate enough nutrient-rich plant-based foods. High-fiber, nutrient-rich plant foods provide an array of health benefits, which is now widely acknowledged.
Accessibility and Affordability
Accessibility and affordability of fresh, healthy food is a significant challenge for many people managing type 2 diabetes.
Despite these challenges, there are viable strategies to make healthy diets more achievable, such as purchasing frozen vegetables. Incorporating spinach into eggs can add to a healthy low-carb breakfast, for instance.
Moreover, diet is only one facet of the equation. The research found that the correlation between healthy eating and longevity was strongest among people who also exercised regularly, avoided smoking, and limited alcohol intake.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides more insight into preventing and managing diabetes.