It's disheartening to hear, almost on a daily basis, from people who are diagnosed with prediabetes, or even Type 2 diabetes, that when visiting their local GP they are being advised to include large portions of starchy carbs in their diet.
The new Eatwell Guide, published as a revision of dietary guidelines by Public Health England in March 2016, suggests basing meals on potatoes, rice, bread and other starchy carbs but doesn't discard sugar; despite all the evidence emerging about the dangers of sugar and other high glycaemic carb-rich foods.
Many GPs and healthcare professionals, are clearly following these guidelines when dishing out advice to people diagnosed with diabetes and opt to put them on medication. Yet clearly these guidelines aren't working as the health of our nation is deteriorating. Currently 25% of UK citizens are classed as obese and the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has more than doubled in the last decade.
How does Type 2 diabetes occur?
When eating, most digestible carbs are converted into glucose which is absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result the pancreas releases insulin to help the glucose be utilised for energy or stored for later use. However, when the body can't properly use the insulin it makes, Type II diabetes can occur. This type of diabetes occurs when the body's cells stop responding to insulin, so the body continues to produce more and more.
In part, spikes in insulin are caused by high carb and high sugar foods, many of which are commonly part of many UK diets. From sugary cereal and white bread for breakfast, to crisps, biscuits and chocolate as a snack and starchy pasta and white rice for dinner, not forgetting of course fizzy drinks.
Those with diabetes should aim to stabilise their blood sugars by reducing the amount of sugar they eat. By constantly fuelling with these high carb and high sugar foods, rapid insulin spikes will occur, leading to Type 2 Diabetes.
A well-managed blood glucose level is essential for someone with Type 2 diabetes. High insulin levels also promote fat storage, particularly in internal organs which can contribute to diabetes.
Why isn't a low carb low sugar diet being advised to all potential and current sufferers?
The problem is that the current NHS nutritional advice is a 'one size fits all' approach, despite so much scientific evidence showing that a lower carb diet is more effective for weight loss, and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
Although some GPs are starting to advise a low carb, low sugar lifestyle to their type 2 patients, there is still a long way to go.
The benefits of low carb, high fat diets are becoming more widely known, as science emerges, if this advice was given to cut down on sugary and starchy carbs then several positive outcomes will occur:
1- The body starts to utilise fat for energy rather than relying on a constant intake of carbs
2- The body will be less likely to store excess body fat, resulting in weight loss and blood sugar levels stabilise -even normalise in some patients
Should we avoid all forms of carbohydrate then?
I'm not suggesting that everyone cuts carbs altogether, instead, include plenty of complex carbs in the form of fibrous vegetables, such as broccoli celeriac, asparagus and spinach. Eating more fibre aids digestion, keeps you feeling fuller for longer and provides plenty of added nutrients, which don't cause big spikes in blood sugar.
In addition to complex carbs, a moderate protein intake and higher intake of healthy, natural fats is an optimal diet for anyone concerned with preventing or reversing diabetes.
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