How Low Is Too Low? Why Some Diabetics Embrace VERY Low-Carb Diets
What was your favorite food when you were a kid? Pizza? Cookies? If you were like me, you snuck raw sugar packets while your parents weren’t watching.
Kids and carbs often get along well, and that can be a good thing when it comes to children with type 1 diabetes. Cupcakes and french fries can be a parent’s best friend when warding off a child’s low, and those foods are certainly more appealing than glucose tabs.
But some parents are breaking up with carbs and saying that extremely low carbohydrate diets are greatly improving their type 1 child’s A1C and blood sugar control. These results of these diets on blood sugar are, according to the lead author, “almost too good to be true.”
There is an online group, TypeOneGrit, that follows the diet and exercise advice promoted by Dr. Richard Bernstein, who’s written several books on how to combat low blood sugar using low carbohydrate diets and other methods. Dr. Bernstein’s methods are controversial, but the Facebook group currently has over 22,000 committed followers.
Low-carb diets, while often embraced for weight loss or healthier living, are generally not recommended for people with type 1 diabetes, especially children, because of the risk of hypoglycemia. Some experts believe that low-carb diets deprive children of nutrients necessary for healthy growth.
But the people with type 1 employing Dr. Bernstein’s methods disagree. The TypeOneGrit parents have committed to the low-carb lifestyle and report better glucose control, fewer complications, and no adverse effects for themselves or their children. But certainly they’re a biased audience, so a team of researchers set out to see if the claims from the low-carb crowd (TypeOneGrit’s Facebook tagline is “Welcome to Normal Blood Sugars”) are more than just hype.
Researchers reached out to the group and recruited 316, 130 of them children, and obtained their medical records. They reviewed the records for glycemic control, adverse events (such as hypoglycemia and hospitalizations), anthropometrics, and long-term changes in glycemic control.
Study participants self-identified as type 1 diabetics participating in a very low-carb diet (VLCD) that prescribes up to 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (approximately the amount in a sweet potato) from vegetables and nuts with a low glycemic index.