Low-Carbohydrate Diets Unsafe

Carl S. Lau of Los Angeles, California wrote in response to our July article on the Food Guide Pyramid, wanting to know what scientific evidence there was showing low-carbohydrate diets to be unsafe. Elizabeth Rhodes, RD, LD, author of our July piece, had this to say in reply:

I want to stress that the food pyramid advocates a certain amount of carbohydrates. Of course carbohydrates affect blood sugar, and the important thing to remember is that moderation is the key.

The Surgeon General has condemned diets high in protein and fat as being the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. This is of special concern to people with diabetes, who are two to four times more likely to get heart disease and five times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not have diabetes. More than 60 percent of type 2s have hypertension. Cardiovascular disease causes more than half of the deaths in older people with diabetes.

There is more research that deals with the detrimental effects of diets high in protein and saturated fats than there are studies that advocate a low-carbohydrate diet for people with diabetes. It should be noted, however, there are no long-term studies that I know of that indicate low-carbohydrate diets as being safe for people with diabetes.

At the national nutrition summit held this past June, the USDA announced they are launching a study of the Atkins and other fad diets. At the recent Great Nutrition Debate, Dr. Eric Westman from Durham, North Carolina, discussed the results of a limited, short-term study of low-carbohydrate diets which showed the significant increase in Blood Urea Nitrogen these diets caused in people with diabetes. Nitrogen is a waste product from protein, filtered by the kidneys. More than 30 percent of type 1s and 10 to 20 percent of type 2s will develop kidney disease, and the initial treatment to prevent further damage is a low-protein diet with less ketone production.

I base my recommendations on what has been proven safe and healthy for people with diabetes, which is not a diet that could potentially lead to heart disease, cancer and be detrimental to kidney function.

Elizabeth Rhodes, RN, LD
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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