AskNadia: Is My Low Carb Diet Causing a False Pre Diabetes Diagnosis

Dear Nadia,

When you are  loosing weight on a low carb diet, does this artificially inflate my pre-diabetes glucose test? 

Paula Corin

Linnwood WA

Dear Paula,

Pre-diabetes statistics have been in the news for several years with great concern for our national population. It is great that you are staying on top of your health and paying attention to your diet to be one less number in the growing diabetes population.

The annual increase in pre-diabetes diagnosis is growing at an alarming rate.  In 2010,  79 million people were diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Two year later, in 2012, this number grew to 86 million people .

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports within a five year period, 15-30% of the people diagnosed with pre-diabetes will be be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This translates into anther 12.9 to 25.8 million people who are coming up through ranks with a diabetes diagnosis from 2012.

What is Pre-diabetes

Pre-diabetes is when your blood sugar test reads higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Does a Low Carb Diet Give You a False Pre-diabetes Diagnosis

If you take a glucose tolerance test and are eating under 300 carbs a day for three days prior to the test; yes you can get a false diabetes or pre-diabetes diagnosis.

Typically when you eat food, the GLP-1 hormone in your body simulates the secretion of the insulin hormone to convert food into energy.  With a low carb diet your body secrets less insulin and turns to your reserves to metabolize the fat for energy.

Why You Get a False Pre-diabetes Diagnosis

A low carb diet will create a slow uptake of insulin which shows a false elevated glucose.   It metabolizes your fat reserves.  Dr Richard Bernstein, a famous low carb diet advocate and a person with type 1, tells me we can expect to see elevated ketones when our body is metabolizing fat.

This of course is different  from ketoacidosis which is a result from dangerously high blood sugar for people with diabetes.

In a nutshell, the low carb diet signals a slower GLP 1 secretion which slows down the insulin secretion causing a rise in blood sugarafter taking glucola for the GTT.

The 300 Carb Rule

If you want a more accurate pre-diabetes diagnosis, eating at least 300 carbs a day for three days before your glucose tolerance test , will give you a  more accuarte result.

Reversing Pre-diabetes

Everyone that is diagnosed with pre-diabetes has an opportunity to reverse their diagnosis. Unlike Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there are no cures. Reversing diabetes is not an option.

More and more people are going on a low carbohydrate diet to maintain better blood sugars or to loose weight.

The grocery stores are reflecting the change in our our diet by providing us with more low carb options.

Maintaing a normal weight and exercising 150 minutes a week will benefit your health.

Get out and walk briskly for 150 minutes a week to maintain a healthy body weight in addition to your low carb diet.

National Diabetes and Pre-diabetes Statistics

Today, it is estimated that 29.1 million people have diabetes while 8.1 million of these people do not know they have it.

If you combine the pre diabetes rate of 12.9-25.8 million (15-30% of people living with pre-diabetes form 2012)  plus the 29.1 million living with diabetes today, this means our national health facilities will be treating 42 million people with diabetes on the low end and 54.9 million people with diabetes on the high end.

Hopefully with all the educational preventative programs, these numbers will decrease.

Here are some additional articles you might enjoy reading  about a low carbohydrate diet.

Restricting Protein Intake Because of Kidney Damage

Atkins Chief Nutritionist: Pioneering Low-Carb Diet’s Makeover


Diabetes Health Medical Advisor- Robert J. Tanenberg, MD, FACP Director, Diabetes Clinical Research Center , Easy Carolina University.

Diabetes Health Medical Advisor-Dr. Richard Bernstein


GLP-1 Secretion


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Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professionals therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.

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About Nadia:

Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. She was propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, co-founded Diabetes Interview now Diabetes Health magazine.

Nadia holds 11 nominations for her work as a diabetes advocate.
Her passion for working in the diabetes community stemmed from her personal loss. She has used her experience as a caretaker to forge a career in helping others.

For 26 years, Diabetes Health contributes free copies of the magazine to healthcare professionals and pharmacies that use the publication as an educational resource for patients living with diabetes.

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