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Byron Shire
August 2, 2021

Dietary control of diabetes could save millions: CSIRO

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CSIRO associate professor Grant Brinkworth. Photo TheConversation
CSIRO associate professor Grant Brinkworth. Photo TheConversation

Adelaide researchers have developed a diet and exercise program which has proven to be highly effective in reducing the burden of type 2 diabetes, with an average 40 per cent reduction in medication levels.

The diet incorporates an eating pattern that is very low in carbohydrates and higher in protein and unsaturated fats. The program is based on the findings from a $1.3 million National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) funded study, which compared the low carbohydrate eating pattern with the current best practice approach of managing type 2 diabetes with a high-unrefined carbohydrate, low fat diet.

‘The research results are ground breaking,’ Associate Professor Grant Brinkworth, principal research scientist at the CSIRO said.

‘Health professionals have been divided over the best dietary approach for managing type 2 diabetes, and the ongoing uncertainty is a hotly debated topic amongst clinicians and researchers.

‘The most amazing benefit of the low carbohydrate diet was the reduction in the patient’s medication levels, which was more than double the amount than the volunteers following the lifestyle program with the high-carbohydrate diet plan.

‘Some of the participants managed to cease their medications altogether, and many described the study as life changing.

‘This research shows that traditional dietary approaches for managing type 2 diabetes could be outdated, we really need to review the current dietary guidelines if we are serious about using the latest scientific evidence to reduce the impact of the disease.’

The two year research intervention was a collaboration between CSIRO, Adelaide University, Flinders University and the University of South Australia, with the exercise program delivered in partnership with community fitness centres.

Medication requirements were also monitored and supervised with appropriate oversight from physicians.

Professor Campbell Thompson from the University of Adelaide said there were further insights on the clinical outcomes.

‘The very low carbohydrate diet presented greater improvements in the blood cholesterol profile, by increasing the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and decreasing triglyceride levels to a greater extent than the traditional high carbohydrate, low fat diet approach,’ Professor Thompson said.

‘Both diets achieved similar reductions in bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, often a concern with some low carbohydrate diets.

‘The variability of blood glucose levels throughout the day is also emerging as a strong independent risk factor for diabetes complications. In our study the very low carbohydrate diet was more effective in reducing the number and levels of blood glucose spikes and dips, flattening the blood glucose profile over a 24-hour period.’

Type 2 diabetes is one of the greatest global health challenges of the 21st century, with more than 350 million people suffering from the condition.

Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and given the growing increases in obesity and sedentary lifestyles globally, the world is facing a veritable tsunami of the disease.

In Australia alone, an estimated 800,000 Australian adults have type 2 diabetes with many more undiagnosed. In 2008-09, of the estimated $1507 million spent on the health care of diabetes in Australia, $490 million was spent on diabetes-related medications.

Based on the findings from this study, implementing a lifestyle program that incorporates this effective eating pattern at a national level could save up to $200 million annually through reductions in diabetes-related medication expenditure alone.

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  1. Family members are starting to be diagnosed with diabetes 2, and as a result I’m trying to find out what I can about how to help them. I had NO idea of the size of this global problem until I started digging

    This CSIRO development sounds brilliant. But in the spirit of spreading the word, i was also recently introduced to an Australian food product (not a drug) that is rapidly gaining acceptance in the diabetes medical world as a breakthru in terms of lowering blood sugar levels. It’s called NutriKane D and is made by an OZ mob called MediKane

  2. where can I get a copy of this diet, mum is type 2 and on loads of medication.

    had the diet been published and if so how do we purchase it.


  3. Shows dietary advice has been wrong for a long time and has actually caused the diabetes epidemic.
    Results would be even better with saturated fat.

    • How would showing that a low carbohydrate diet is effective for managing T2DM show what *caused* the diabetes epidemic?

      How do you know the results would have been improved with saturated fat? (note it says LC diet high in unsaturated fat, not no unsaturated fat).

    • This is groundbreaking research. I hope the diabetic dietitians stop pushing carbs now.
      Hopefully they will do a fat study later, to tell us what we already know about carbs and fats 🙂
      No sugars, no starch, no polyunsaturated including marge. mono and saturated have enough polyunsaturated in them.

  4. I have been eating low carb higher protein diet for 20 years to control type 2 diabetes.
    You don’t need to pay money to anyone to do this!
    You eat all natural meats,
    Enjoy raw and cooked vegetables!
    And spoil yourself 2 times a day with a serving of fresh fruit!
    Stay away from potatoes, rice, pasta, and breads.
    Stay away from any foods or drinks that are processed! Don’t eat or drink artificial sugars…

    Eat when your hungry, stop when your satisfied!

    Best wishes to you all!

    • hi Cheri, can you give me a sample of your average day of eating? Just interested to see if I am on the right track and particularly interested in what you have for breakfast 🙂

  5. It’s a shame the plan includes low fat dairy which is loaded with sugar. I also can’t believe they are advocating cereal and crispbread and calling it low carb?
    It’s a step in the right direction but replace the low fat stuff with full fat, replace the canola oil with Olive oil and saturated fat from animal sources.
    I’m an insulin resistant, former pre-diabetic who was supposed to be on Metformin by now. 3 years on a Ketogenic diet, and my blood sugar is completely normal with no spikes.
    Don’t be afraid of fat!

  6. Well its a start in the right direction. But its high time we stopped warning people against saturated fats. Saturated fats are healthy and satisfy the appetite more. Its interesting that since people have been scared off saturated fats and believe low fat is healthy, that type 2 diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed.

  7. Whilst it is considered a fad, a paleo diet works wonders. Low carbohydrate (no grains just some starch such as sweet potato), moderate protein, lots and lots of vegetables, small amounts of fruit and moderate fats (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and macadamia oil for me). I’ve had diabetes for fifteen years and you wouldn’t know it any more from my blood results.

  8. The CSIRO news release on 11 February says “The low-carbohydrate diet and exercise program for type 2 diabetes is currently undergoing further development, and is not commercially available to consumers at this time. We are currently in discussions with industry stakeholders with the view to develop a fully integrated package. Further updates on the commercial availability of the program will be provided in due course.”

  9. How come is CSIRO taking the credit for something that has been well known for over hundred years? Banting diet was published in 1800s while Dr Bernstein has been recommending and teaching this diet since the early 80s.

  10. The Paleo, CSIRO LCHF Atkins etc all have the same major commonality. Remove simple “saccharides”. I.e. sugar & simple carbs. All the rest of the diets is fluff and how people identify & sustain the lifestyle changes needed. So shop around the outside perimeter of the supermarket. Avoid food products that have more than 3 ingredients. It’s what you eat that determines how much you eat.


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