Swedes Lob Dynamite Into a Controversy: High-Fat Diet Improves Blood Sugars

The slow backlash against low-fat, relatively high-carb diets as the ideal for everyone with type 2 diabetes has received a boost from a team of Swedish researchers at Linkoping University, about 100 miles southwest of Stockholm.

In a study that involved 61 patients, the Swedish scientists concluded that high-fat, low-carb foods had a better effect on blood sugar and blood lipids than foods in traditional low-fat diets. Their findings run counter to an almost 60-year-old theory that says dietary fat is the major culprit in the development of cardiovascular disease-a disease that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing.

For the one-year study, the patients, all with type 2 diabetes, were randomly divided into two groups. One group went on a low-carb, high-fat diet, while the other went on a low-fat diet.

Patients in both groups lost an average of four kilograms (8.8 pounds) of weight. However, the group on the high-fat diet enjoyed a drop in blood sugar levels, going from 58.5 mmol/mol to 53.7 mmol/mol (mmol/mol stands for millimoles per mole, a unit of measure often used outside the United States to express blood sugar volumes.) The low-fat group did not register a statistically certain improvement in blood sugar levels.

While both groups experienced similar weight loss, the high-fat group saw their “good” cholesterol levels go up and their lipoproteins stay stable. The low-fat group saw no improvement in lipoprotein counts.
In the high-fat/low-carb diet, 50 percent of caloric intake came from fat, 30 percent from protein, and 20 percent from carbohydrates. The low-fat diet derived 55 to 60 percent of its energy intake from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 15 to 20 percent from protein. The latter diet was based on recommendations of the Swedish National Food Agency and was similar to diets currently recommended in United States for type 2 patients.

While high fat intake has long been regarded as a big factor in the development of heart disease, more recent research-including this Swedish study-has challenged that theory. Some scientists now conclude that carbohydrates are a greater threat to cardiovascular health than fat. Their reasoning is that high carb intake leads to high blood sugar, which has an inflammatory effect that damages blood vessels and heart tissue.   

The Swedish results were published in the journal Diabetologia.

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