Amy Emerson

Why low fat isn’t the best option when it comes to type 2 diabetes

3 mins read

  • A new study proves that low carb diets are superior to low fat diets in managing type 2 diabetes.
  • The study compared two groups: one following a low fat, high carb, the other a low carb, healthy fat diet.
  • Compared to participants on the low fat diet, the low carb group showed greater improvements in blood glucose, body fat and waistline reduction, losing an average of 3.6 kilograms more than the low fat group.
  • This study joins a growing body of evidence supporting a low carb approach to managing type 2 diabetes.

We’ve been told for decades that fat is bad for us and to follow a low fat diet. But are low fat foods better for us? Not according to the evidence in over 30 high-quality scientific studies on the subject.

Many recent studies show clear evidence that the quality of calories is more important than quantity. Simply put, including fat in your diet can better influence diabetes prevention and management than avoiding fat. 

Where is the evidence for low carb vs low fat?

A recent gold-standard study from Denmark found promising results for using a low carb diet to manage type 2 diabetes. 

In the six-month trial, 165 people with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to either a low carb healthy fat (LCHF or “low carb”) diet or a high carb low fat (HCLF or “low fat”) diet for six months. 

At the end of the six months:

  • Both groups lost weight; however, the low carb group lost an average of 3.6 kilograms more than their low fat counterparts.
  • The low carb group lost more body fat and reduced their waist circumference.
  • The low carb group reduced HbA1c (blood sugar levels) by 0.59 per cent more than the low fat diet. 

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, the evidence shows low carb diets are more effective at improving blood glucose management, reducing insulin resistance and helping with weight loss. Limiting carbohydrates also means you can better manage blood glucose levels by avoiding foods that cause blood glucose to rise.

On the other hand, low fat diets, which often focus on reducing calories, can be effective for weight loss but do not have the same effect on insulin or blood sugar management. Low calorie diets can also be notoriously difficult to sustain. 

The findings of this latest study support more than 30 randomised control trials that show low carb approach is more effective in managing type 2 diabetes than a low fat diet.

Why the dietary guidelines are less effective for people with type 2 diabetes

The Australian dietary guidelines (which promote a low fat, high carb approach) are meant to apply to “all healthy Australians”, but Dr James Muecke, Australian of the Year 2020, ophthalmologist and Defeat Diabetes Medical Advisory Panelist, believes one crucial factor is missing:

With over two-thirds of Australian adults and one-quarter of our kids overweight or obese, the majority of Australians are not metabolically healthy,” says Dr Muecke. Therefore, “the dietary guidelines are not relevant for most Australians.” 

The low fat approach has been driving people away from real, whole, nutrient-dense foods – and it’s a big problem. With a whopping 3.8 million Australians living with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, it’s time to reconsider the current advice and adopt an approach to eating that consists of low carb, real food philosophy.

Conclusion

When you have type 2 diabetes, the evidence is clear: there is no need to eat a very low fat diet. 

While diet culture might have led you to believe that eating less fat is good for your health, it’s generally replaced with something else when fat is removed from food products. And that ‘something else’ is more than likely sugar, seed oils or modified starch, which can trigger insulin resistance, inflammation and obesity.

Strong evidence suggests that low fat diets often promote empty calories, which can lead to weight gain and hunger. Not to mention, it’s challenging to stick to a low fat diet when you’re constantly hungry.

If you want to improve your blood glucose and experience weight loss (that stays off), and never feel hungry again, why not ditch your fear of fat and try a low carb approach instead?


References

Camilla Dalby Hansen, Eva-Marie Gram-Kampmann, Johanne Kragh Hansen, et al. Effect of Calorie-Unrestricted Low-Carbohydrate, High-Fat Diet Versus High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet on Type 2 Diabetes and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. [Epub 13 December 2022]. doi:10.7326/M22-1787

Related articles

From quick-fix to lasting success: A new approach to Ozempic
By Defeat Diabetes

< 1 min read

7 low carb lunch ideas for busy days
By Defeat Diabetes

< 1 min read

Type 2 diabetes and low carb: Is it for you?
By Defeat Diabetes

< 1 min read

5 easy low carb hearty dinners
By Defeat Diabetes

2 mins read

The essential guide to low carb vs low GI
Breaking news: Should everyone adopt low carb? – The Australian

Join Australia's first doctor-led, evidence-based program transforming the lives of those with pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions.

  • Deep-dive lessons
  • Video masterclasses
  • Easy-to-read articles
  • 250+ low carb recipes
  • Weekly meal plans
  • Community support
>