Follow a low-carb diet to reverse metabolic syndrome and lower diabetes risk: The diet offers health benefits even without weight loss
03/10/2020 // Divina Ramirez // Views

Eating a low-carb diet can potentially lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight. A team of researchers from Ohio State University observed the effects of a low-carb diet on participants with a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. The team discovered remarkable improvements in the participants' cholesterol and blood sugar levels without a significant reduction in weight.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that increases an individual's risk of developing metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease. Healthcare professionals look at the following risk factors, in particular, to determine if an individual is at risk of metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess abdominal fat, high triglyceride levels and low levels of good cholesterol. Although most of these may point to possible underlying problems, exhibiting just one risk factor does not necessarily mean you are at risk of metabolic syndrome. However, experts warn that each risk factor does increase the likelihood of developing health complications in the future.

Type 2 diabetes – a condition marked by high blood sugar levels – is one of the most well-known complications that can happen as a result of metabolic syndrome. If left unchecked, diabetes can place an individual at risk of other health problems, like eye damage, nerve damage and kidney disease. Surprisingly, however, Type 2 diabetes is easy to prevent. Blood sugar levels spike when there is an excess amount of carbohydrate and sugar intake. To curb this, many healthcare professionals recommend cutting back on carbs and sugar in your diet. Regular exercise can also help keep blood sugar levels under control.


Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Many people struggle to control their diet and to stick to an exercise regimen. Additionally, most of the available studies on diabetes emphasize the effects of weight loss more than the impact of a healthy diet. According to Jeff Volek, a professor of human sciences at Ohio State University and one of the authors of the study, “There's no doubt that people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes do better on low-carb diets, but they typically lose weight, and one of the prevailing thoughts is that the weight loss is driving the improvements.”

The benefits of eating a low-carb diet

The researchers wanted to test if this was always the case. They hypothesized that excess carbohydrates, not obesity, increased an individual's risk of metabolic syndrome. In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers gathered 16 participants with metabolic syndrome and observed them over the course of a four-month feeding period, where each participant rotated among a low-carb, a moderate-carb and a high-carb diet. Each diet contained 20 percent protein and varied only in fat and carb content. The low-carb diet had 6 percent carbs and 74 percent fat, the moderate-carb diet had 32 percent carbs and 48 percent fat, and the high-carb diet had 57 percent carbs and 23 percent fat.

The researchers checked on the participants after a month and found that consuming the low-carb diet helped lower the participants' triglycerides and improve their cholesterol levels. They also discovered that even though the low-carb diet contained more fat than the high-carb diet, the participants showed lower amounts of fat in their blood after following the low-carb diet for a month, which points to a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. The participants also showed improvements in their blood sugar and cholesterol levels, suggesting that their bodies started to burn fat more efficiently. At the end of the controlled-feeding period, half of the participants were no longer at risk of metabolic syndrome. (Related: Tree nuts beneficial in fighting metabolic syndrome risks according to new study.)

As the study has shown, eating a low carb diet may help curb symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, healthcare professionals studying natural and effective treatments for Type 2 diabetes may find the study useful for their own research.

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