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Diet Wars – Round 1

We’ll eventually get to a more generalized review of dietary options for all of you non-diabetics out there.  But, it may still be possible to glean a little useful guidance on the topic by looking at the relative merits in various dietary approaches to treating diabetes.  Afterall, what helps treat a largely dietary disease is equally likely to prevent it in the first place.

I’ve already cited my own personal experience with a low carb diet solution to my recent diabetes diagnosis.  I’d like to now put that in context by comparing my results with those who’ve been treated with two other (more commonly medically sanctioned) approaches:  the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended diet and a high-carb, low-fat vegan diet.  The following table summarizes and compares my results with the results from a study published by the ADA in 2006, which you can read here.  (Of course, they didn’t consider a low carb alternative.)


Clearly, their conclusion that a low-fat vegan diet is superior to the standard ADA diet is well demonstrated.  The vegan’s performance, after all, was roughly 50% better than the ADA’s group.  All in all a very impressive level of improvement, that is until you compare it with my own semi-low-carb results.  In the future, I’ll post other low-carb study data, but, from those I’ve already reviewed, my results are not at all atypical.  There’s just no real comparison here.

Now, it is worth noting that I’ve read other studies that would seem to indicate that low-fat vegan diets also lend some protection against the development of diabetes.  But, what isn’t really clear yet, is the degree to which the vegan diets in the studies (including the one cited above) were simply the beneficiaries of higher-fiber (more complex) sources of carbohydrates.

Given the propensity of many (not all, by a long shot) vegans to eat better quality (i.e. whole and organic) foods, I suspect that may account for the noted differences in either case.   Similarly, in deference to the ADA (which also recommends higher fiber carbs – with lower glycemic index values) their diet will also produce some degree of improvement.  All of which demonstrates, in my opinion, the relative value of such foods as part of any diet, mine included.  We’re really just talking about the relative quantity, then, of healthy carbs in the diet.

But, even that observation begs the question that, if even the moderate blunting of the ill effects of simple carbohydrates in the diet is demonstrably beneficial, how does the ADA seem mostly oblivious to the benefits that result from more significant reduction of carbohydrates in the diet?

Review of various literature makes it clear that this really comes down to the long-held and, perhaps, unfair bias against most (but, especially so-called “bad”) dietary fats.  I’ll be reviewing that subject in greater detail in the future.  For now, it is worth noting that there appears to be a growing body of evidence that the negative effects linked to high-fat diets are really linked to high-fat-high-carb diets.  Not the same thing really.

All I can say is that, based on my own trial, a low-carb-high-fat diet has only improved my health, including the oh-so-important cholesterol numbers.  But, it shouldn’t surprise us that, like calories themselves, our macronutrients also have context.  It’s all relative.


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