This debate can be very confusing for those with diabetes and is very individualised. It also depends on the type of diabetes – pre-diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2.
Pre-diabetes & Type 2 diabetes
When we talk about diabetics and Atkins, we’re typically referring to either those diagnosed with pre-diabetes or with Type 2 (or adult onset – although many children are now developing it). Eating low carb can be a great way to make diabetes more manageable and there are numerous studies showing that blood sugar levels stabilise in people who follow a low carb diet. In fact low carb diets should be the first line of attack for those who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
For some people, this may even be followed in a reduction in the need for medication, as well as weight loss and blood lipid control. Weight loss is particularly important because treatment goals for patients with prediabetes/Type 2 diabetes always emphasise weight loss, yet the medication used to treat diabetics can increase the risk of weight gain. I’ve even worked with many people who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes/type 2 and have changed their lifestyle and managed to avoid medication altogether, which is amazing!
Type 1 diabetics
If you have Type 1 diabetes then you may have been given advice to follow a higher carb/low fat diet and 250g carbs isn’t uncommon in the prescribed diet which is then balanced out with insulin injections. Low fat diets are recommended as it was thought that they helped to control the complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease etc. and lower a patient’s blood triglyceride level, yet more recent research shows that the fat you eat has little bearing on saturated blood levels and a higher fat/low carb diet has more possible effects on metabolic disease.
Some things to bear in mind are that carb requirements differ based on weight, mediation, insulin resistance and physical activity levels. So, you’ll need to work closely with your GP to assess your carb tolerance and blood sugar levels. It’s true that the insulin-stabilising effects of Atkins works wonders but work closely with your GP as medication/insulin will likely need to be adjusted.
Atkins isn’t no-carb and, if you’re working with a GP who’s resistant to your trying Atkins, then emphasis that carb intake will be focused on intake of vegetables, low glycaemic fruits, pulses etc. At the same time you’ll be cutting out sugary & refined carbs which spike blood sugar.
The amount of carbs needed depends on you as an individual and should be supported by your GP. There’s absolutely no doubt that self-management is essential for all people with diabetes and understanding the types of carbs, how many and where they come from is essential.