A recent study evaluating the long-term (2 yr) weight reducing efficacy of different types of diets – high or low in carbohydrates (CHOs), protein or fat - confirmed that it is calorie deficit not dietary composition that determines the loss and maintenance of body weight.1 Is there any advantage in following a specific weight loss diet? Short-term use of nutritionally complete commercially available (very) low calorie diets has benefited people with diabetes when supported by education programmes.2 Initial weight loss has been encouraging with some fad diets eg the Atkins and the South Beach diets, but these diets are difficult to maintain and there are safety issues regarding their short- and long-term use – especially in people with diabetes.3
The types of macronutrients consumed can have a considerable impact on glycaemic control and energy metabolism. Although a low CHO diet additionally enhances initial weight loss by reducing cellular water content, if fat is not proportionally reduced the diet may not benefit the lipid profile for vascular disease risk. High fat and high protein diets – which are simultaneously low in CHOs – increase vulnerability to hypoglycaemia in people taking insulin secretagogues or on insulin therapy, and may promote excess fat metabolism and ketogenesis, particularly in people vulnerable to lack of insulin. Very low protein diets are not recommended as lean body mass tends to be reduced in diabetes. Altering the macronutrient balance has implications for the micronutrient mix: deficiencies are higher if more foods are excluded and conversely specific micronutrient excess can occur with some fad diets. The altered nutrient mix affects intestinal fauna and flora, and gut motility and glycaemic control are influenced by the quantity and type of fibre consumed.
Support programmes help individuals achieve long term weight loss and there is mounting evidence that community schemes which educate and promote lifestyle changes may stem the rising tide of obesity and consequent type 2 diabetes.4 Consuming smaller portions of a balanced diet (and adjusting antidiabetic medications accordingly) will create an energy deficit to promote healthy weight loss. Increased movement/exercise will enhance this energy deficit. Knowledge (eg 1g fat has 2.25 times more energy than 1g CHO) allows sensible food choices and compensation for inclusion of small volumes of ‘naughty but nice’ foods. Ultimately weight control requires self control.
1. Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med 2009;360:859–73.
2. Bennett P. Obesity, diabetes and VLCD. Br J Diabetes Vasc Dis 2004;4:328–30.
3. Baldwin EJ. Fad diets in diabetes. Br J Diabetes Vasc DIs 2004;4:333–7.
4. Romon M, Lommoz A, Tafflet M et al. Downward trends in the prevalence of childhood overweight in the setting of 12-year school- and community-based programmes. Public Health Nutr 2008; Dec 28, 1–8 [Epub ahead of print].