Diabetes: should you recommend a low-carb diet?

  • Public Health England
  • 5 Mar 2020

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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A low-carbohydrate diet does not improve weight but may help in the management of blood glucose, according to a new report from Public Health England (PHE).

PHE’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has published draft findings on the effect of low- vs high-carbohydrate diets for people with type 2 diabetes.

The comprehensive review was conducted by a joint working group comprising members of SACN and members nominated by Diabetes UK, NHS England, the British Dietetic Association, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The effects of lower compared with higher carbohydrate diets were considered on a range of outcomes including body weight and measures of blood glucose concentrations.

Following a robust, systematic assessment of the available evidence, the draft conclusions are:

  • for body weight, there is no difference between lower and higher carbohydrate diets in the long term (≥12 months). Short-term weight change was not considered.
  • for blood glucose (sugar) levels, lower carbohydrate diets may have benefits over higher carbohydrate diets in the short term, but the longer-term effects are unclear.

Current UK government advice is that for the general population, around 50 per cent of total dietary energy should be from starchy carbohydrates (such as potatoes, bread and rice), opting for higher fibre or wholegrain versions where possible. People with type 2 diabetes are currently advised to follow healthy eating advice for the general population.

PHE is inviting comments on the draft report. The consultation closes on 8 April 2020.