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Low-carb diets for people with diabetes (May 2017)

Diabetes UK has put together this position statement to explain how low-carb diets might be used to help manage diabetes. We used the best level of evidence to inform the recommendations and conclusions. Where available, we used evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses, but also included good-quality randomised controlled trials.

The current evidence suggest that low-carb diets can be safe and effective for people with Type 2 diabetes. They can help with weight loss and glucose management, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. So, we can recommend a low-carb diet for some people with Type 2 diabetes. But there is no consistent evidence that a low-carb diet is any more effective than other approaches in the long term, so it shouldn't be seen as the diet for everyone.

At the moment, there is no strong evidence to say that a low-carb diet is safe or effective for people with Type 1 diabetes. Because of this, Diabetes UK does not recommend low-carb diets to people with Type 1 diabetes.

Evidence for low-carb diets in children reports adverse effects such as poor growth, a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, and psychological problems. So, we don't recommend low-carb diets for children with diabetes.

People should be encouraged to eat more vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, pulses, seafood, nuts, and to eat less red meat and processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, sugar-sweetened foods, and refined grains such as white bread.

Douglas Twenefour, dietitian and Deputy Head of Care at Diabetes UK said: "It is extremely important that dietary recommendations are based on good evidence rather than individual opinions. This position statement has been put together using the best evidence available, taking into consideration anecdotal reports and feedback from people with diabetes, and healthcare professionals. We hope that it is helpful in explaining Diabetes UK's position on the role of low carb diets in diabetes management."