A summary of the implications of the current work:
1. This year, for the first time, the ADA accepted the value of carbohydrate-restricted diet for weight loss. The text of their guidelines, however, continues previous guidelines in finding fault with such diets and, in fact, does not cite most of the recent publications supporting their use [2
]. Other health agencies have similarly insisted on low fat approaches. There is reason to believe that these guidelines are not followed in practice. A perusal of internet diabetes sites suggests that the major dietary emphasis is on carbohydrate control.
2. The major barrier to official acceptance is the stated lack of long term trials although it has never been stated what the features of successes in short term trials suggest that they would not be maintained.
3. The work presented here suggests the importance of funding large scale long term trials as well as the benefits and limited risk in using low carbohydrate diets now.
4. Several studies have shown that low fat diets can be successful but overall, it would be difficult to say they are inherently reliable.
5. In the studies reported here, patients in the two groups had, despite all possible support, failed in achieving an acceptable control of bodyweight and hyperglycemia on traditional low fat diets.
8. An important issue is the fact that some patients do become completely free of disease as soon as they are presented with a low-carbohydrate option. It is unknown what factors make these persons succeed now despite complete failure in the past.
In the low-carbohydrate group bodyweight and HbA1c is still significantly lower than before start. The bodyweight of 7 patients (43%) is still 10% below the initial weight, the original goal of the study. The success rate almost 4 years later is thus 43% as compared to zero in the control group.
Five of 16 patients in the intervention group have had stable bodyweight 38 months after the conclusion of the 6 months study period without any special follow-up. Weight increase has been preceded by an increased intake of carbohydrates in those cases where it has occurred. It is clear that the high-carbohydrate diet followed before the study has been an important, probably the central, contributing cause of their condition.
One rationale for a low-carbohydrate diet is the experimentally observed reduction in hunger [8
] Patients generally reported that hunger was absent on the intervention diet and only after increasing dietary carbohydrates did it return.
The intensity of hunger has been reported to be positively correlated to the proportion of carbohydrates in obese men over a 4 week period [9
We believe that the close follow-up was important. Patients had many questions at each meeting and concerns about the diet that might have hindered adherence were cleared up. In additions individual patients received support from the group.
There is now little evidence for the claim that a fat-reduced diet for weight reduction has any particular value beyond caloric counting [10
]. On the other hand, six randomised studies have shown that carbohydrate restriction with ad-libitum energy intake confers a significant benefit with regard to weight loss in obese persons [11
]. The current study is consistent with these reports and suggests that high-starch, high-carbohydrate diets excessively stimulate appetite and disturb energy balance in patients with the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes [3
]. A reduction of carbohydrates normalises the balance, reduces insulin concentrations and favours utilization of stored fat as fuel as well as significantly reducing insulin resistance [3
]. Considering the solid evidence for the negative effect of hyperglycemia on diabetes complications as well as cardiovascular disease the present high-carbohydrate dietary advice resulting in unnecessary hyperglycemia and insulin resistance seems difficult to support [17
] and for diabetes patients, current dietary recommendations seem to be a major part of their problem rather than being part of the solution. Carbohydrate restriction, however, reverses or neutralises all aspects of the metabolic syndrome [20
Summary: A reduced carbohydrate diet is effective in motivated patients and can be recommended for overweight patients with type 2 diabetes. There has been no sign of a negative cardiovascular effect.