Calories, not protein or carbs, are key to weight loss for people with diabetes

February 7, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Overweight or obese people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to reduce weight if they focus on cutting back on total calorie intake, rather than specific high protein/high carbohydrate diets according to a new study from the University of Otago, Wellington.

The study, led by endocrinologist Dr Jeremy Krebs, has just been published in the international diabetes research journal Diabetologia.

It looked at whether 419 participants (aged 35-75) in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch had different rates of weight loss over two years when they were given two low fat diets; one involving high and the other high in carbohydrates.

"We decided to do this study as weight loss is very important in terms of control of and many people with diabetes are seriously overweight. However there has been a lot of medical and public debate about the best way to achieve this, and which diets may be the most effective over the long term," says Dr Krebs.

Dr Krebs says there has been widespread publicity about low carb/high protein diets such as the 'Dr Atkins revolution' and 'The Zone' diet, with evidence of short term weight loss, but no difference to other diets over 12 months. He says the critical factor is to achieve weight loss over the long term, not just in six months or a year.

The two groups of moderately overweight people with diabetes (BMI above 27) were prescribed the specific diets supported by 18 group sessions with a dietitian, while also using food diaries to track their eating and weight loss progress.

The final results showed that there was no significant difference in between the low fat/high protein and low fat/high carbohydrate diets after two years of the study. Both groups lost weight which was related to the total calorie intake going down with the low fat diets, indicating this was the driving factor in weight loss.

"We certainly did achieve a modest weight loss, of two to three kilos, in both groups, but essentially there was little difference between the two diets," says Krebs.

"This confirms that the solution to weight loss over the long term is reducing energy intake; that is the amount of calories someone eats on a daily basis."

Dr Krebs also says that outside the issue of total calorie intake the study suggests that flexibility in adopting the type of diet to follow is the best approach to reducing weight. This still needs to recognize that saturated fat is harmful and fibre is extremely important.

"Many people have real difficulty following one type of diet over the long term. It is just so hard. In our study 30% of the original participants dropped out because they couldn't maintain the diet they were prescribed."

"Even those who stuck to the diet, more or less, did not reach the level of protein or carb intake recommended by the study over the two year period, which shows how difficult it is for people to change from their habitual diet."

Dr Krebs says it is well known that increased diabetes rates and excess weight are huge health problems in New Zealand which are costing the health system hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

This study shows that substituting fat with high protein is no better than high carbohydrate in promoting . Allowing patients to choose which approach suits them best whilst focusing on reducing total energy intake may be the best solution.

"Often people drift back to their old eating habits and the behaviour of many participants in this study also illustrated this tendency. The real key to obesity in people with , and to better blood sugar control, is to focus on cutting over the long term," he says.

The study was funded by the Health Research Council.

Explore further: Limiting carbs, not calories, reduces liver fat faster, researchers find

Related Stories

Limiting carbs, not calories, reduces liver fat faster, researchers find

April 19, 2011
Curbing carbohydrates is more effective than cutting calories for individuals who want to quickly reduce the amount of fat in their liver, report UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers.

Intermittent, low-carbohydrate diets more successful than standard dieting

December 9, 2011
An intermittent, low-carbohydrate diet was superior to a standard, daily calorie-restricted diet for reducing weight and lowering blood levels of insulin, a cancer-promoting hormone, according to recent findings.

Recommended for you

Diabetes pill might replace injection to control blood sugar

October 17, 2017
(HealthDay)— An injectable class of diabetes medication—called glucagon-like peptide-1 or GLP-1—might one day be available in pill form, research suggests.

Skimping on sleep may contribute to gestational diabetes

October 17, 2017
The amount of time spent sleeping in the United States has dropped significantly in the past twenty years with almost a quarter of women and 16 percent of men experiencing insufficient sleep. Now, a new study has found that ...

Artificial pancreas performs well in clinical trial

October 16, 2017
During more than 60,000 hours of combined use of a novel artificial pancreas system, participants in a 12-week, multi-site clinical trial showed significant improvements in two key measures of well-being in people living ...

Omega-6 fats may help prevent type 2 diabetes

October 11, 2017
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be significantly reduced by eating a diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, a new study suggests.

Where there's type 1 diabetes, celiac disease may follow

October 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—Parents of young children with type 1 diabetes need to be on the lookout for symptoms of another autoimmune condition—celiac disease, new research suggests.

Type 1 diabetes and the microbiota—MAIT cells as biomarkers and new therapeutic targets

October 10, 2017
Together with colleagues from AP-HP Necker–Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris, scientists from the Cochin Institute (CNRS / INSERM / Paris Descartes University) have discovered that the onset of type 1 diabetes is preceded ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.