While many doctors agree that people with type 2 diabetes should limit their carbohydrate intake – particularly refined carbohydrates – there is no clear consensus in the medical or scientific community as to the optimal amount. The widespread disagreement over this issue made it an ideal topic for this year’s debate at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s (ICLDC) annual Advanced Diabetes Conference in Abu Dhabi.
Arguing on the side of those who favour very low carbohydrate diets, ICLDC consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist Dr Lina Yassine says that Low Carbohydrate, High Fat (LCHF) diets, such as the popular Keto diet, have shown some remarkable results and she believes ‘the lower, the better’. Dr Yassine explains, “Studies show that by decreasing carbs to a minimum level, patients will lose weight and need less medication as they benefit from improved insulin sensitivity, fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels, and lower fasting blood glucose levels.”
However, some people in the scientific and medical community argue that the improved insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control reported are, in fact, the result of the actual weight loss, and would occur with any type of weight-reducing diet. Debating the latter view was ICLDC nutritionist Fatima Sadek, who also pointed out that the research available involves short-term studies. Sadek says that to check the full efficacy and safety of LCHF diets – for example in terms of kidney and bone health, as well as possible vitamin deficiencies – robust, long-term studies are needed.
Sadek adds that very low carbohydrate diets might be difficult to stick to, and in the long term patients tend to have sporadic carb binges, meaning that over time, their carb intake is actually equal to that of other types of diets. Dr Yassine says that it is easy to ensure you don’t lack fibre or suffer a vitamin deficiency simply by making wise choices in the carbs you do consume, for example, opting for vegetables and berries. Both specialists agreed, however, that people with diabetes should speak to their medical team prior to trying any diet, as each person is different.
The conference, now in its seventh year, was attended by endocrinologists, diabetologists, medical specialists and junior doctors. Other topics addressed were this year’s American Diabetes Association’s Guidelines; new non-insulin medications; and the need for comprehensive screening of patients for complications once they are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Diabetic complications are wide-ranging and include nerve damage, dementia, lower limb amputations, and retinal damage.
About Imperial College London Diabetes Centre:
Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), part of Mubadala’s network of world-class healthcare providers, is a state-of-the-art outpatient facility that specialises in diabetes treatment, research, training and public health awareness. In just over a decade, the Centre has gained international renown for its holistic approach to the treatment of diabetes and related complications that enables patients to receive the full spectrum of care they need in one place.
With more than 80 diabetes professionals and endocrinologists under one roof, ICLDC offers best-in-class medical attention from first diagnosis to disease management across 11 specialist practice areas including adult and paediatric endocrinology, treatment of metabolic and electrolyte disorders, pre- and post-bariatric surgery care, heart disease prevention, nutritional advice, ophthalmology, nephrology and podiatry.
ICLDC was established in 2006 in Abu Dhabi by Mubadala in partnership with the UK’s Imperial College London to address the growing demand for diabetes care in the UAE. The centre now operates three branches across Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, touching the lives of more than one million people through patient-centric programmes and public health initiatives. In 2007, ICLDC launched Diabetes.Knowledge.Action, now the longest running public health awareness campaign in the country. The initiative promotes an active lifestyle through an ongoing calendar of events for the whole community – Major activations include an annual walkathon that coincides with the World Diabetes Day in November.