Dietary carbohydrate restriction augments weight loss-induced improvements in glycaemic control and liver fat in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial.

Diabetologia. 2022;65(3):506-517

Plain language summary

The carbohydrate restricted diet has been shown to be beneficial for Type 2 diabetes (T2D) management and reducing cardiovascular disease risk. This open-label, parallel randomised controlled trial involved Type 2 diabetic patients taking antidiabetic medications who restricted their energy intake by following either a carbohydrate-reduced high protein diet or a conventional diabetic diet. Participants in both groups had a 5.9% reduction in body weight, similar changes in fasting NEFA, apoB, apoA-1, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, and non-HDL cholesterol, and a significant reduction in fasting glucose, insulin, C-peptide, and HOMA2-IR after 6 weeks of intervention. Carbohydrate-reduced high protein diet group showed a greater reduction in HbA1c and diurnal mean glucose, glycaemic variability, fasting triacylglycerol concentration and liver fat content. Carbohydrate-reduced high protein diet caused an adverse reaction in some patients, and those following a carbohydrate-reduced high protein diet excreted more urea than those eating a conventional diabetic diet. To confirm the results of this study, long-term robust studies are needed. This study can assist healthcare professionals in understanding the benefits of following a carbohydrate-reduced high protein diet in improving glycaemic control, triglyceride levels, and reducing body weight in Type 2 diabetes patients.


AIMS/HYPOTHESIS Lifestyle modification and weight loss are cornerstones of type 2 diabetes management. However, carbohydrate restriction may have weight-independent beneficial effects on glycaemic control. This has been difficult to demonstrate because low-carbohydrate diets readily decrease body weight. We hypothesised that carbohydrate restriction enhances the beneficial metabolic effects of weight loss in type 2 diabetes. METHODS This open-label, parallel RCT included adults with type 2 diabetes, HbA1c 48-97 mmol/mol (6.5-11%), BMI >25 kg/m2, eGFR >30 ml min-1 [1.73 m]-2 and glucose-lowering therapy restricted to metformin or dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors. Participants were randomised by a third party and assigned to 6 weeks of energy restriction (all foods were provided) aiming at ~6% weight loss with either a carbohydrate-reduced high-protein diet (CRHP, percentage of total energy intake [E%]: CH30/P30/F40) or a conventional diabetes diet (CD, E%: CH50/P17/F33). Fasting blood samples, continuous glucose monitoring and magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used to assess glycaemic control, lipid metabolism and intrahepatic fat. Change in HbA1c was the primary outcome; changes in circulating and intrahepatic triacylglycerol were secondary outcomes. Data were collected at Copenhagen University Hospital (Bispebjerg and Herlev). RESULTS Seventy-two adults (CD 36, CRHP 36, all white, 38 male sex) with type 2 diabetes (mean duration 8 years, mean HbA1c 57 mmol/mol [7.4%]) and mean BMI of 33 kg/m2 were enrolled, of which 67 (CD 33, CRHP 34) completed the study. Body weight decreased by 5.8 kg (5.9%) in both groups after 6 weeks. Compared with the CD diet, the CRHP diet further reduced HbA1c (mean [95% CI] -1.9 [-3.5, -0.3] mmol/mol [-0.18 (-0.32, -0.03)%], p = 0.018) and diurnal mean glucose (mean [95% CI] -0.8 [-1.2, -0.4] mmol/l, p < 0.001), stabilised glucose excursions by reducing glucose CV (mean [95% CI] -4.1 [-5.9, -2.2]%, p < 0.001), and augmented the reductions in fasting triacylglycerol concentration (by mean [95% CI] -18 [-29, -6]%, p < 0.01) and liver fat content (by mean [95% CI] -26 [-45, 0]%, p = 0.051). However, pancreatic fat content was decreased to a lesser extent by the CRHP than the CD diet (mean [95% CI] 33 [7, 65]%, p = 0.010). Fasting glucose, insulin, HOMA2-IR and cholesterol concentrations (total, LDL and HDL) were reduced significantly and similarly by both diets. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION Moderate carbohydrate restriction for 6 weeks modestly improved glycaemic control, and decreased circulating and intrahepatic triacylglycerol levels beyond the effects of weight loss itself compared with a CD diet in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Concurrent differences in protein and fat intakes, and the quality of dietary macronutrients, may have contributed to these results and should be explored in future studies. TRIAL REGISTRATION NCT03814694. FUNDING The study was funded by Arla Foods amba, The Danish Dairy Research Foundation, and Copenhagen University Hospital Bispebjerg Frederiksberg.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Hormonal
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Low-carbohydrate diet
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood ; Urine
Bioactive Substances : None

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 3
Allocation concealment : No