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Low-carb Healthy Fat Diet (LCHF)

What is a low-carb diet?

What is so special about the low-carb diet? A low-carb diet is a diet containing fewer carbohydrates but a higher percentage of healthy fats and protein. For some time, low-carb diets have sparked a lot of controversies. Unending debates include the perception that high-fat content and protein are unhealthy while contributing to disease progression. However, recent studies are dispelling this perception.

Studies are now confirming that actually; healthy fat is good for you. Eating foods containing a higher percentage of healthy fat and protein can help patients to effectively manage type 2 diabetes and weight, reduce gastritis and control uric acid levels, cholesterol, and many other conditions. 

Research findings

Promising studies prove that the low-carb diet is effective in managing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes diseases. Carbohydrates (Carbs) have been found to increase blood glucose, triggering increased blood insulin levels which leads to risks of weight gain. It follows a 2019 American Diabetes Association (ADA) report titled ‘Nutrition Therapy for Adults with Diabetes or Pre-diabetes’ that demystified a long-held history that advocated for high carb diets for people with or without diabetes.

The report highlights a growing evidence base illustrating how cutting down the intake of carbs can be beneficial for people with diabetes. The ADA shows that eating low carbs could improve blood sugar levels allowing patients to significantly reduce their reliance on blood glucose-lowering medication especially those with type 2 diabetes.

According to one case study of the West Virginia University School of Medicine of a middle-aged diabetes patient, the low-carb diet had a positive effect. Before the patient ventured into the low-carb diet, he had a glucose level of 700mg/dl and serum creatinine of 7 indicating severe kidney impairment. He also suffered from hypertension, gout, obesity indicating a poor state of health.

However, when he was introduced to the low-carb diet, his creatinine levels dropped to 1.16 while his glucose dropped drastically to 20 within two weeks. A month later, he was able to stop insulin treatment intake completely.

With such findings, diabetic patients now stand a high chance of reaping benefits if they increase uptake of low carbohydrate diets in their meals. Taking vegetables and protein have been highly recommended for the management of type 2 diabetes.

What is the science behind?

To understand the concept of the low-carb diet, let’s identify what carbohydrates are and their functions. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in food such as refined sugar and syrups. Complex carbohydrates are found in food such as bread, rice pasta, chapatti to mention a few.

The body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. During digestion, complex carbohydrates such as starch are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They are then absorbed into the bloodstream to form glucose or blood sugar. Some glucose is used for energy by the body. On the other hand, natural complex carbohydrates are digested at a slow pace and have less effect on blood sugar.

The rising level of blood sugar causes the body to produce insulin that helps glucose enter body cells. The extra glucose is stored in the muscles or cells for later use. Some of the glucose is used as energy which helps in carrying out daily activities. The extra glucose is stored as fat.

Thus, the concept that decreasing carbohydrates in the diet leads to lower insulin levels is what birthed the low-carb diet. The diet causes the body to burn stored fat for energy which in turn leads to weight loss or even type 2 diabetes reversal due to reduced insulin levels.

What are some of the sources of good healthy fats in low-carb diets?

This low-carb diet restricts the type and amount of carbohydrates consumed. According to the Mayo Clinic, the general population not on the low-carb diet consumes 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day which provides 900 to 1,300 calories. However, for the low-carb diet, the recommended daily allowance of carbohydrates lies between 20 to 60 grams of carbohydrates. This in turn provides 80 to 240 calories each day.

Thus, one would restrict common sources of carbohydrates such as grains, fruit, milk, nuts, seeds, legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, to mention a few. Good healthy fats in low-carb diets can be found in avocados, olives, and other natural food sources.

Diabetes-focused medical nutrition therapy

In a nutshell, diabetes-focused medical nutrition therapy is very fundamental to overall diabetes management. This includes putting more emphasis on non-starchy vegetables, the reduction in intake of added sugars and refined grains, and avoiding processed foods as much as you can. ADA’s consensus statement, however, recommends that people with diabetes be offered individualized medical nutrition therapy.

Why a low-carb diet in managing diabetes?

Increases good cholesterol levels: Studies have also shown low carbohydrate diets are also essential in increasing good cholesterol levels compared to those who opt for low-fat diets over a period of two years. This is good news because it keeps patients away from the risk of heart diseases.

Reduces levels of uric acids: A 2016 study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows eating low-carb diets can reduce the level of uric acids. Uric acid is a condition where a patient has high levels of acid in the urine and blood that might lead to a disease called gout. Gout causes painful joints. Diabetic, cancer, and patients with kidney diseases are at risk of having high uric acids.

Lowers blood pressure: High blood pressure is a high-risk factor that may push people to many diseases, like stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease. However, the risk of these diseases can now be reduced significantly by taking low-carb diets. They have been found to be the most effective way to lower blood pressure, which in turn helps you live longer.

Reduces appetite: Patients can now safely beat a persistent urge to eat and be encouraged to strictly follow diet plans. Studies indicate that cutting carbs can automatically reduce your appetite. Hunger has been found to make people miserable and may eventually give up on following recommended healthy meal plans.