Lower Carbohydrate-Heart Connection Confuses Some

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Not only are many people who want to loseweight jumping on the low-carb caravan, so aresome people who have diabetes. Some wonderwhy, since the message seems to fly in the face ofconventional wisdom. Diabetes and heart diseaseare so closely related. Can a lower-carb meal planhelp improve the odds? We’re learning.

It is no surprise that controlling carbohydrateconsumption improves blood glucose, but that’snot the entire story. This change in diet usuallyincludes an increase in protein and fat intake, thevery foods most people with diabetes are taughtto decrease. You would think this way of eatingwould worsen cholesterol levels, but if donecorrectly, it has proved to have a positive effect.

How do we know this? Over the last five years,a combination of personal results and researchhave shown some surprisingly consistent results,so that at least in the short term, we see

  • Greater weight loss
  • Decrease in triglyceride levels
  • Increase in HDL levels

Longer-term studies are being conducted tofurther assess the risks and benefits of the lower-carbohydrateapproach to diabetes management.

Elevated triglyceride and decreased HDL levelsare hallmarks of type 2 diabetes, obesity andheart disease.

Triglycerides are a form of fat that comesfrom food and is also made and stored in yourbody. Many times an elevated triglyceridelevel precludes diabetes, and it can also be aconsequence of untreated diabetes. Elevatedtriglyceride levels have also been linked to heartdisease, but the relationship is not as clear as thatlinking elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels toheart disease risk. The fasting triglyceride goalfor nonpregnant adults with diabetes is less than150 mg/dl, according to the American DiabetesAssociation’s Clinical Practice Recommendations.

HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, the “good”cholesterol, is a cholesterol carrier considered tobe protective or healthy. HDL carries cholesterolaway from the arteries and back to the liver,where it is passed from the body. A high HDLlevel seems to protect against cardiovasculardisease. Some call it the “Draino” factor,protecting you against having a heart attack.

What should you do if you have type 2 diabetesand are obese as well? Should you followthe conventional medical nutrition therapyrecommended by the American DiabetesAssociation based on the FDA’s Food GuidePyramid, or should you choose a lower-carbohydratemeal plan? The best advice is tomeet with your healthcare provider and discussyour options. Together, you can decide whichplan is best for you. Once you decide, meet witha registered dietitian who is a certified diabeteseducator to develop an individualized meal planyou can live with and enjoy and one that will alsoimprove your health.

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