American Diabetes Association Reverses Itself on Low-Carb Diets

The American Diabetes Association, an organization whose mission statement is “to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by (it)”, clearly has it’s heart in the right place. Trouble is, in our opinion, they’ve traditionally been behind the curve of cutting edge science and research when it comes to dietary recommendations. (Their website still has a picture of the old USDA food pyramid, and they continue to recommend high levels of grains and starches.)

That’s why we were gratified to notice that the ADA seems to have finally reversed itself on low-carbohydrate diets. Their recently released document, “The Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes- 2008” now recognizes the growing evidence for the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets in weight loss. “The evidence is clear that both low-carbohydrate and low-fat calorie restricted diets result in similar weight loss at one year”, said spokesperson Ann Albright, PhD, RD.

The ADA press release announcing the change in policy went on to state that there is now evidence that the most important determinant of weight loss is not the specific diet, but the ability of individuals to stick with it. Many people simply find a low-carbohydrate diet far easier to stick to, as the foods on the menu rarely create cravings in the same way as high-carbohydrate high-sugar foods do. “What we want health care providers to know is that it’s important for patients to choose a plan that works for them, and that the health care team support their patients’ weight loss efforts”, added Dr. Albright.

Until now, the ADA did not recommend low-carbohydrate diets because of a claimed “lack of sufficient scientific evidence supporting their safety and effectiveness”. We find that strange. In fact, as readers of the Atkins Advantage website and newsletter know, there have been dozens of published peer-reviewed studies showing the multiple health benefits- and complete safety- of low carbohydrate diets. In fact, the study showing equally “good” results on a low fat or a low carb diet referred to in the ADA press release is actually almost 5 years old, having been published in 2003. And it’s only one of dozens of similar studies showing the benefits of low carbohydrate, low sugar eating, the cornerstone of the Atkins Advantage Plan.

While we are pleased that the ADA has finally recognized the usefulness of the Atkins Advantage program for weight loss, we agree with Dr. Mary Vernon that they have hardly even scratched the surface when it comes to recognizing the major benefits of low-sugar eating on other areas of health besides weight. “Carbohydrate restriction and the resulting control of insulin secretion is much more than weight loss”, she writes on her blog.

As readers of this newsletter know, the simple basic rules of keeping sugar and processed carbs to a minimum, eliminating trans-fats, eating the right fats and oils and getting enough fiber and antioxidants provides a wide range of health benefits, of which weight loss is just one. We’re happy, though, that the ADA recognizes at least the weight-loss benefit of a low-carb diet. We hope they’ll eventually recognize all the other benefits as well.

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