Exploring Lower-Carbohydrate Options


By: Joy Pape

We have all heard great success stories about people who follow a diet low in carbohydrates. Many report weight loss, more energy and normal glucose levels. Maybe you are curious, but you’re scared to try it. It goes against everything you’ve been taught about a healthy diet.

You are like millions of others who have heard about the low-carb approach, have tried it or want to try it. Diabetes Health has received many letters from readers either sharing their success stories or requesting information about this topic.

This is the first in a series of columns designed to help you understand this new approach to nutrition. In future issues, I will examine the medical research and discuss who might be the best candidates for switching to a lower-carb diet. I’ll also explain which foods are part of such a diet, offer tips for dining out, and relate success stories from patients I work with.

Everybody Is Different

Not all people respond the same way to the same treatment. We are all unique individuals with different bodies, likes and dislikes. Our job as medical professionals is not to “tell” people what to do, but rather to offer options.

My name is Joy Pape. I am a diabetes nurse educator with more than 30 years of experience.

This is what I teach my patients: “You are the ones who live with your diabetes every day. Your healthcare provider will not be with you 24 hours a day. You need to learn all you can to make good decisions to control your health and your life.”

Research Support

Many people have been told that eating more protein is unhealthy. An increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis has been cited in general media reports.

A recent 10-week study that appeared in the February 2003 issue of the Journal of Nutrition offers different evidence, however. The authors, Dr. Donald Layman and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, conclude from two reports of the same study group that “a relatively high-protein diet improves body composition, enhances weight loss, and improves glucose and insulin homeostasis.”

My Experience

I started lowering carbohydrates and increasing protein myself about five years ago and successfully treated polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that is associated with being overweight and with having impaired glucose tolerance.

After my own success, I wondered whether this approach could also benefit people with diabetes. At that time, I didn’t know anyone who was actively involved in using this method. I needed to see how people put this into practice.

So I visited the leaders in this field—Dr. Robert Atkins, Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, Dr. Barry Sears and Dr. Diana Schwarzbein—to learn more about this option for people who have diabetes.

I now have many patients who have been better able to control their diabetes, their weight and, ultimately, their lives with the lower-carb plans.

What’s Next

I encourage you to find a dietitian, diabetes educator or nutritionist who understands the concept of a lower-carb lifestyle plan and its effect on diabetes. You are welcome to e-mail me with any questions you have.

In the meantime, you might want to start reading “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution,” by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, MD; or “Alternative and Complementary Diabetes Care,” by Diana Guthrie, RN, PhD.



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