The Impact of Different Reduced-Carb Diets on Diabetes Risk

Key Takeaways:

  • Type and quality of carbohydrates in one’s diet significantly influence the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – plant-based low-carb diets can potentially lower the risk, while those rich in animal proteins and fats can increase it.
  • While low-carb diets may contribute to rapid weight loss, their long-term health implications, especially on cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health, are uncertain.
  • The research evaluates low-carb diets not based on the exact amount of daily carbohydrate intake but on the sources of proteins, fats, and carbs in the daily diet.
  • The generalizability of the study’s results across different ethnic groups is uncertain due to the predominantly white demographic of the participants.
  • Experts recommend a diet abundant in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein sources, emphasizing minimally processed foods and reducing sugar, salt, and alcohol intake.

Not all reduced-carb diets are created equal when it comes to their impact on diabetes risk, recent findings indicate.

According to compelling new research, it appears that the type of low-carb diet you choose may significantly influence your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Alarmingly, an increased risk was observed with diets that predominantly feature animal-derived low-carb foods. In contrast, plant-based low-carb diets showed promising signs of lowering diabetes risk.

Carb Quality Over Quantity

These studies challenge the long-standing assumption that it’s the quantity of carbohydrates consumed that regulates diabetes risk, asserting that it might be the quality of the proteins, fats, and carbs in one’s diet that is more consequential. “Attending to the food quality is what truly matters,” the lead researcher asserts.

Weight Loss Vs. Long-Term Health

Such diets that limit carb intake are increasingly gaining popularity due to their demonstrated efficiency in contributing to rapid weight loss within a brief period of six to 12 months. Despite this, there remains uncertainty surrounding the mechanisms through which these diets achieve weight loss success and their implications for long-term health.

The Diversity of Low-Carb Diets

Low-carb diets come in various forms, including the popularly adopted ketogenic and Paleo diets that have demonstrated potential in improving blood glucose levels in individuals with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. However, concerns arise due to these diets’ emphasis on fat consumption and their potential detrimental effects on cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health.

Link Between Low-Carb Eating and Diabetes Risk

The recent study puts the spotlight on an intriguing revelation – some low-carb diets could be more beneficial than others. “We just have to be vigilant about the diet’s contents, as low-carb diets may not necessarily meet dietary recommendations,” advised one expert in nutrition.

The research under discussion examined the relationship between low-carb diets and the probability of developing Type 2 diabetes, a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The team analyzed the diet and health data of 203,541 adults from three large national studies over a span of 1984 to 2017.

The Score System

It’s worth noting that defining a diet as low-carb was not contingent upon the precise quantity of daily carbohydrate intake. Rather, the team used a scoring system based on where each participant’s energy sources (proteins, fats, and carbs) were derived from in their daily intake. Dividing participants into five equal groups, it was revealed that the lowest-carb group sourced approximately 40% of their daily energy intake from carbs, lower than the U.S. dietary guidelines recommendation of 45%-65%. The diet quality was further determined by classifying the consumed foods into 18 distinct categories.


Preliminary findings suggest that individuals in the lowest-carb group who sourced their protein and fat predominantly from plant-based foods could potentially lower their Type 2 diabetes risk by 6%, a factor that increases to 15% if their diet also significantly limited sugar and other refined carbohydrates. Conversely, those whose diets were rich in animal proteins and fats had a 35% increased risk, which astonishingly jumped to a 39% higher risk if their diets also limited whole grains.

Regardless, one limitation of the study stated by the author was the predominantly white demographic of the participants, raising questions about the generalizability of the results across different ethnic groups.

To promote a healthy lifestyle, experts recommend a diet abundant in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein sources, like fish, legumes, and nuts. Emphasizing minimally processed foods, and reducing sugar, salt, and alcohol intake is also advised.

Note: Not all views expressed in this article reflect the official position of our organization. This article is meant to provide information about heart and brain health and does not constitute medical advice. For any specific health issues or concerns, please consult a healthcare professional.

By: An Astute Health Writer

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