Are low carb diets “good” for people with Type 1 diabetes?
This is a very loaded question! It is my belief that people with diabetes do not need to be on a special diet. Again, if you think back to the basic problem in Type 1 diabetes, we don’t make insulin. The best way to treat Type 1 is to match the insulin we take to both our bodies basic or basal needs (for body functions) and the food we eat to achieve normal blood glucose. There is no magic here, either in a diet or exercise regimen. It’s about balancing these items again to achieve normal blood glucose. Now, that being said if you need to lose weight or you have a high cholesterol level or you want to eat what’s recommended to be healthy, that’s different. The high carbohydrate/low carbohydrate debate is ongoing as far as is it good for you or not. If you need to lose weight, the bottom line is if the calories going in your body are greater than the calories getting used up, you will not lose weight. Most diets by nature of being a “diet” may be lower in calories that what someone has been eating before their diet, so they lose weight and claim it’s a “good” diet.In general, it is recommended that 40-60% of one’s calories come from carbohydrates and less than 30% from fat and the rest from protein. Our bodies choose to use carbohydrate as the main source for fuel and really do not like to get fuel from other sources. The key again in type 1 diabetes is to match the insulin to that carbohydrate intake. So if you choose to eat less carbohydrate you may need less insulin but then again, you may not. If you are interested in looking in to the “low carb” or the “good carb versus bad carb” debate, I would recommend reading Johanna Burani’s “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs” book. This refers a lot to the glycemic index and glycemic load. She has found this helpful particularly with individuals with Type 2 diabetes that need to lose weight. Some of the suggestions remind me of the South Beach Diet which also refers to glycemic load and index. The interesting thing about these is that the recommended carbs are typically higher in fiber and whole grains which are supposed to be good for us anyway and may require less insulin and better BG control. Who knows for sure? I think that the important question is not about asking if a low carb diet good for those with type 1 but instead what is going to work for you and what are your goals. There is no magic diet bullet. It’s about balancing our food, our activity and our insulin to achieve our glucose and weight goals.