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

February 7, 2012, University of Otago

(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

Genetic discovery may help better identify children at risk for type 1 diabetes

January 17, 2018
Six novel chromosomal regions identified by scientists leading a large, prospective study of children at risk for type 1 diabetes will enable the discovery of more genes that cause the disease and more targets for treating ...

Thirty-year study shows women who breastfeed for six months or more reduce their diabetes risk

January 16, 2018
In a long-term national study, breastfeeding for six months or longer cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes nearly in half for women throughout their childbearing years, according to new Kaiser Permanente research published ...

Women who have gestational diabetes in pregnancy are at higher risk of future health issues

January 16, 2018
Women who have gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy have a higher than usual risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease in the future, according to new research led by the ...

Diabetes gene found that causes low and high blood sugar levels in the same family

January 15, 2018
A study of families with rare blood sugar conditions has revealed a new gene thought to be critical in the regulation of insulin, the key hormone in diabetes.

Discovery could lead to new therapies for diabetics

January 12, 2018
New research by MDI Biological Laboratory scientist Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., and her team has demonstrated that an enzyme she had previously identified as playing a role in peripheral neuropathy induced by cancer chemotherapy ...

Enzyme shown to regulate inflammation and metabolism in fat tissue

January 11, 2018
The human body has two primary kinds of fat—white fat, which stores excess calories and is associated with obesity, and brown fat, which burns calories in order to produce heat and has garnered interest as a potential means ...

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.