The new low-carb diet

The CSIRO, Aus­tralia’s gov­ern­ment sci­en­tific re­search body, has launched a new plan to aid weight loss that turns the food pyra­mid on its head.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Nutri­tional science is con­stantly evolv­ing and sci­en­tists at Aus­tralia’s Com­mon­wealth Sci­en­tific and In­dus­trial Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (CSIRO) are at the fore­front of re­search that ex­plores how food com­bi­na­tions and di­etary pat­terns af­fect health, both in terms of weight loss and the man­age­ment of weight-re­lated disease such as type 2 di­a­betes and heart disease.

For many years, the CSIRO has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the health ef­fects of a much lower car­bo­hy­drate diet. Be­tween 2012 and 2014, its re­searchers un­der­took one of the largest nutri­tional in­ter­ven­tion stud­ies con­ducted in Aus­tralia. From these re­sults they de­vel­oped the CSIRO Low-Carb Diet, a new life­style pro­gramme for type 2 di­a­betes, which is lower in car­bo­hy­drate and higher in healthy fats than the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pre­vi­ous To­tal Well­be­ing Diet. Both di­ets are high in pro­tein, which has ad­van­tages for body com­po­si­tion and ap­petite con­trol.

Where the new Low-Carb Diet stood out was the de­gree to which it helped par­tic­i­pants man­age their weight and nor­malise their blood glu­cose lev­els. The diet does not ex­clude carbs en­tirely, but in the early stages lim­its them to 50g a day (many di­ets sug­gest a carb in­take of over 130g per day). Com­pared to a tra­di­tional high-carb ap­proach, this Low-Carb Diet dra­mat­i­cally blunts blood-sugar lev­els af­ter meals, im­proves blood-choles­terol pro­files and helps re­duce di­a­betes med­i­ca­tions.

And the good news is it isn’t dif­fi­cult to sus­tain, says CSIRO as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor Grant Brinkworth. “The di­etary pat­tern is highly palat­able and con­sists of a wide va­ri­ety of food op­tions across all food groups, with plenty of op­tions for flex­i­bil­ity.”

There are many ver­sions of low-carb di­ets, but the prin­ci­ples and prac­tice of this diet are based on tar­geted, orig­i­nal CSIRO re­search backed by sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and proven di­etary prin­ci­ples from around the world, such as the Mediter­ranean diet. This re­search is lead­ing a par­a­digm shift in how we think obe­sity and re­lated diseases, par­tic­u­larly di­a­betes, should be treated.

“Since the CSIRO pro­duced the first To­tal Well­be­ing Diet book [in 2005], di­etary rec­om­men­da­tions are start­ing to ac­knowl­edge no one di­etary ap­proach may fit all in­di­vid­u­als for weight and di­a­betes man­age­ment, and a va­ri­ety of di­etary ap­proaches may be re­quired to in­di­vid­u­alise man­age­ment based on per­son­alised pref­er­ences,” says Grant Brinkworth.

“How­ever, our re­search, com­bined with re­search con­ducted by highly re­spected lab­o­ra­to­ries around the world, is sug­gest­ing a diet lower in car­bo­hy­drates and higher in pro­tein

and healthy (un­sat­u­rated) fat may be a more ef­fec­tive healthy eat­ing pat­tern for peo­ple with type 2 di­a­betes and meta­bolic syn­drome or in­sulin re­sis­tance.”

Choos­ing a low-carb diet

We live in a car­bo­hy­drate-rich en­vi­ron­ment. A visit to any shop­ping cen­tre, air­port or staff cafe­te­ria will tell you how dif­fi­cult it is to find low-carb op­tions. Many of the in­gre­di­ents we buy to cook with at home are high in car­bo­hy­drates and the dishes we’ve grown up with of­ten fea­ture them as a key com­po­nent.

One rea­son for this is that car­bo­hy­drates – rice, breads, pasta, pota­toes, pas­tries and bis­cuits – have emerged as a cheap, ac­ces­si­ble and en­ergy-dense mod­ern food source. To add to the com­plex­ity, car­bo­hy­drates have been heav­ily pro­moted by in­dus­try and health bod­ies as an es­sen­tial part of a healthy diet.

As a so­ci­ety, we’re prob­a­bly con­sum­ing too many car­bo­hy­drates over­all. This be­comes a prob­lem for many peo­ple be­cause the car­bo­hy­drate-rich foods we favour are high in kilo­joules with low nutri­tional qual­ity and stop us eat­ing more nu­tri­tion­ally re­plete foods. For younger, fit­ter and health­ier peo­ple, it’s prob­a­bly just a mat­ter of get­ting a bet­ter di­etary bal­ance by re­plac­ing nu­tri­tion­ally poor high-carb – and of­ten sug­ary – foods with nu­tri­tion­ally dense car­bo­hy­drate foods, such as whole grains.

The science be­hind the diet

The Low-Carb Diet com­bines the lat­est ev­i­dence to cre­ate a nu­tri­tion­ally com­plete, very low-car­bo­hy­drate, high-pro­tein and high-un­sat­u­rated-fat eat­ing plan. The re­sults of the rig­or­ous clin­i­cal re­search trial of the diet show that the ben­e­fits it pro­vides are huge.

In this clin­i­cal study, 115 over­weight or obese adults with type 2 di­a­betes were di­vided into two groups. Those in the first group were to con­sume an en­ergy-re­stricted, very low-carb, high-pro­tein, high-un­sat­u­rated-fat and low-sat­u­rated-fat diet – in other words, the Low-Carb Diet. Those in the sec­ond group ate an equally en­ergy-re­stricted, high-carb, low-fat diet. Both groups par­tic­i­pated in 60 min­utes of com­bined aer­o­bic and re­sis­tance ex­er­cise three times a week. The trial ran for 52 weeks. Dur­ing the trial, each par­tic­i­pant’s weight, body com­po­si­tion, blood glu­cose con­trol, car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease risk, mark­ers of kid­ney func­tion and psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing were as­sessed reg­u­larly.

The num­ber of peo­ple who com­pleted the trial was sim­i­lar for the two groups. The Low-Carb Diet group ex­pe­ri­enced a re­duc­tion in di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion twice that for the high-carb group. This means fewer side-ef­fects, a lower risk of hy­po­gly­caemia and re­duced costs.

Sim­i­larly, the re­duc­tion in daily gly­caemic vari­abil­ity in the Low-Carb Diet group was three times that in the high-carb group. Blood triglyc­erides also de­creased more on the Low­Carb Diet, while HDL (good) choles­terol in­creased.

The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet Car­bo­hy­drate Pro­tein Mo­noun­sat­u­rated fat Polyun­sat­u­rated fat Sat­u­rated fat

Tra­di­tional high-car­bo­hy­drate, low fat, low-pro­tein diet.

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