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Fad diets 'could increase diabetes risk'

10 August 2018 08:55

A low carb diet could lead to increased diabetes risk

A low carb diet could lead to increased diabetes risk

Fad diets that cut out carbs while increasing fat consumption could lead to an increased risk of diabetes, according to new research.

These diets have grown in popularity for dieters looking for fast results, as they force the body to burn fat as fuel which leads to rapid weight loss.

Part of the attraction of these Ketogenic diets is that they allow dieters to keep eating fat-rich foods like meat, cheese and butter while still losing weight.

As well as fuelling weight loss, these diets are also thought to keep blood sugar levels stable, but new research suggests that this might not be the case.

Biggest health issues

Tests on mice put on ketogenic diets showed evidence of insulin resistance in the liver - a condition that prevents the body responding properly to the hormone insulin and is a stepping stone to Type 2 diabetes.

Lead researcher Professor Christian Wolfrum, from ETH Zurich University in Switzerland, said: "Diabetes is one of the biggest health issues we face.

"Although ketogenic diets are known to be healthy, our findings indicate that there may be an increased risk of insulin resistance with this type of diet that may lead to Type 2 diabetes.

"The next step is to try to identify the mechanism for this effect and to address whether this is a physiological adaptation. Our hypothesis is that when fatty acids are metabolised, their products might have important signalling roles to play in the brain."

Long-term damage

Normally the body relies on carbohydrates as its primary source of glucose, which provides fuel for cells.

A ketogenic diet mimics what happens when the body is starved of carbs. The liver is forced to use fat for fuel, converting it to "ketone bodies", molecules that provide an emergency glucose substitute based on acetone.

Most ketogenic diets provide 70% or more calories from fat, 15-20% from protein, and 10% or less from carbohydrates.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "Cutting out whole food groups risks damaging long-term health.

"A healthy balanced diet, based on the Eatwell Guide, should include higher fibre starchy carbohydrates - this can help minimise the risk of serious illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers."

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