Diabetes Management

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work Effectively in Controlling Diabetes in the Long Term?

Debjani M Arora ,
December 2021

Have you fallen for the promise of fad diets (the trendy popular diets that promise drastic results with strict restrictions but fail in the long run) and then felt guilty and angry for being so naive and irrational? Despite its promise, your blood sugar levels and weight have been a concern after the initial success with fad diets. We don’t blame you for this. This happens even to the best of us, especially if you are someone living with diabetes and needs to pay attention to your diet patterns. A significant part of diabetes management and care is – weight loss – for better insulin sensitivity, lowering blood sugar levels and overall health. The promise of most of these fad diets are, well, – weight loss – this is the catch and the pitfall too. 

People living with diabetes have to follow specific protocols to keep their blood sugars in check, like – 

  • Lose 8 to 10 percent of their body weight
  • Diet modifications 
  • Moderate exercise and physical activity

However, these changes are not easy to inculcate, even if they seem so. They need some behavioural and lifestyle modifications that don’t happen to someone overnight. This is where the fad diets come to play and garner all the attention. Fad diets promise results in a short period and call for specific changes in diet pattern (which one fails to adhere to, long term, either it is unhealthy or one gives up because it is unnatural to keep eating that way).

We look at the most common diets that seem promising for people with diabetes but fail to be a sustainable model of diabetes care and management in the long run.

  1. Keto diet for diabetes:

The Keto diet was introduced to treat epilepsy but showed some outstanding results with people living with type 2 diabetes. It is a low-carb, high-fat diet that converts fat into energy instead of sugar. This, in turn, helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and also reduces the need for insulin. However, this diet has some potential risks. Remember, it is a high-fat diet; some of the standard food components of this diet are – 

  • Eggs 
  • Fish such as salmon 
  • Cottage cheese
  • Avocado 
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Nuts  and Seeds
  • Meat and poultry 

This diet restricts the intake of carbohydrates, the primary source of energy for the body. While you should keep a tab on your carb count, you cannot shun carbs from your diet completely. The risk with keto diet is that it can lead to too many ketones in the body (substances that your body makes if your cells don’t get enough glucose) which could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a complication of diabetes that can lead to a coma or even death. 

Why it could backfire in the long-run:

First, the Indian body types are not meant to be on a staple high-fat diet. Second, failing to convert fat into energy can lead to a build-up of ketones. A 2017 study pointed out that the keto diet for diabetes outperformed conventional diet patterns over a 32 weeks study, reducing weight and A1c levels. But there isn’t any data to support what happens beyond the 32 weeks or in the long run. Third, the diet restrictions on this kind of diet are tough to follow; your body would want a dose of carbohydrates to function at its optimum. Keto diet, in the long run, might not be a successful diet pattern for many. 

   2. Intermittent fasting:

In the recent past, this form of eating has gathered a lot of attention and for some obvious reasons. Intermittent fasting allows a window period of eating followed by a window of fasting. This kind of eating pattern focuses on calorie restrictions for some time rather than focusing on what goes into your plate. This form of eating pattern has shown some results in people with type 2 diabetes – weight loss, insulin sensitivity and also need for less medications for controlling blood sugar levels. There are proponents and opponents of this eating pattern. 

There are various ways in which one can practice intermittent fasting. Here are some common ways –

  • 16:8 intermittent fasting: People fast from 8 p.m. until noon the next day and eat  between noon and 8 p.m.
  • 5:2 intermittent fasting: This is when one eats regular meals for five days, then has two days of fasting, during which they eat fewer than 500 calories per day.
  • Alternate-day fasting: This is a full 24 hours fasting (or only eating a small amount), followed by 24 hours of eating as usual.
  • Early time-restricted feeding (eTRF): This restricts mealtimes to the morning and early afternoon, followed by a fast that lasts the rest of the day and night.
Why it could backfire in the long run:

First, it isn’t the usual eating pattern that one needs to follow for proper metabolism and glucose dissemination. An eating pattern like this can either lead you to eating fewer calories during your eating window period leading to episodes of hypoglycemia or make you eat more calories leading to an episode of hyperglycemia. Overeating and binge eating are two common side effects of this eating pattern, sometimes followed with dehydration. Reasons why this fails to show sustainable results in the long run. 

  3. Vegan diet for diabetes:

This has become a favourite for many because this seems to be a healthy and nutritious approach, unlike many fad diets. The vegan diet is a predominantly plant-based diet completely free of meat, dairy, and animal-based products. This is why it requires some extra planning to be on a vegan diet. First, one needs to be sure that you meet all your necessary nutritional requirements – macro and micronutrients through diet. Short-term studies like a (12 week study with 93 participants) have shown that there are certain benefits of following a vegan diet over conventional diets to reduce blood sugar levels. Other short term studies also indicate that vegan diets can help in weight loss and management and improve insulin sensitivity. Still, it is difficult to follow a vegan diet or make it a way of life because of the restrictions it poses, especially if you have to restrict meat and dairy products. 

Why it could backfire in the long-run:

People who eat vegan diets are at a greater risk of developing certain nutrient deficiencies like vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, iron, calcium, omega-3 fats, iodine, and zinc, which are all more prevalent in animal foods. This is why meticulous planning is needed to follow a vegan diet pattern, which is tiresome and energy-consuming to say the least. 

  4. Dikshit diet:

Closer home, the Dikshit diet had been the talk of the town in recent years. As per Dr. Dixit, eating two meals a day and restricting from eating anything in between the two meals (except for water, coconut water, green or black tea, buttermilk and one tomato) not only leads to weight loss but also to controlling diabetes as well. The diet emphasises on each meal lasting less than 55 mins, leading to a significant weight loss of around 8kg in 3 months. As per Dr. Dixit, reducing the frequency of food intake, regardless of the quantity or the quality of the food, can impact the insulin level.

Why it could backfire in the long-run:

For one thing, the Dikshit diet lacks scientific backing and evidence. While one can see significant weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity by eating less for, over some time, restriction of calories can negatively impact the body. Remember, everybody is different and has different caloric requirements. Therefore, restricting to two meals a day might not be a sensible approach towards insulin management and weight loss. Also, it isn’t an ideal diet plan for people with diabetes. 

  5. Mediterranean diet:

This diet is also referred to as a heart-healthy diet and consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, such as fish, as well as olive oil and nuts for fat sources. The diet is rich in monounsaturated fat and fibre, both have been known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar in people with diabetes. However, more than diet, this is a way of life. It needs immense commitment and passion for staying true to this diet. Unlike other diets, this isn’t a fad diet but a way of life. 

Why it could backfire in the long-run:

If you cannot make Mediterranean diet your way of life, chances are it could do you more harm than good. It can lead to weight gain from overeating good fats (yes, this can happen), low iron and calcium levels, and a lack of micronutrients. You cannot let this happen when you live with diabetes and need to be on top of your diet game for proper management. 

  6. Paleo diet:

This form of diet takes us back to our prehistoric dietary habits and the paleo diet has a huge fan following in the modern-day. Paleo Diet is high in protein, fiber and healthy fats; high in potassium salt intake and low in sodium salt; provides dietary acid and alkaline balance and a high intake of vitamins, minerals, and plant phytochemicals and antioxidants. It’s also low-carb. Studies have shown that people following this diet pattern enjoy various benefits – low cholesterol levels, improved blood glucose, better sleep and more energy. 

Why it could backfire in the long-run:

Shunning carbs and fats altogether is not a good idea as carbs will remain your main source of energy. Once the body has burnt considerable amounts of fats sustaining this diet, your body will need a steady supply of carbohydrates to work and survive. Any thoughts about that, Paleo diet fans? 

  7. Grapefruit diet:

This has made a lot of buzz in recent times. The diet focuses on consuming half a grapefruit with every meal for at least 10-12 days. The fruit has high fibre content, which eliminates hunger pangs with fat-burning enzymes. This might be the reason why it gives some short term results for people with diabetes. 

Why it could backfire in the long run:

Grapefruit is known to interfere with a lot of medications. Though there are no studies to indicate if it can interfere with diabetes medications, it is sensible not to take a chance. Moreover, eating a grapefruit could be very tedious and monotonous in diet form, and not everyone might develop a taste for this fruit. It also restricts carbohydrates and promotes a high intake of proteins, which can be potentially harmful if not monitored regularly. 

  8. Atkins diet:

It is the traditional fad diet that has been in the news for the longest time. This is also a low carb, high protein diet that aids weight loss and helps control diabetes. However, there aren’t enough studies to suggest that Atkins and diabetes management go hand-in-hand. The drawbacks of Atkin diets are similar to that of keto diets. 

What should you know about diet and diabetes? 

There is no magic diet for diabetes and when it comes to planning a diet to control blood sugar, there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution. Remember, every body type is different. Each of our metabolism is different and responds differently to food and exercise. Proper diet planning should be done, taking into account body composition analysis, fat percentage, muscle, etc. Eliminating certain food groups as in fad diets will not help in controlling blood sugar in the long run because your body needs every bit of macronutrients and micronutrients. Diet change is also about habit; what seems unnatural initially will eventually make you give up in the long run. Small behaviour changes help sustain the changes in lifestyle and diet through scientific planning and requirements of the body. 

Management of diabetes needs some support and care. Reasons why fad/crash diets don’t work for controlling diabetes. At Fitterfly, we have designed a program called Diabefly, which helps one to control blood sugars in the most scientific way for better outcomes. The program offers personalised diet consultations with help of advanced technology and meal mappings. The CGMS or AGM device takes 1300 blood sugar readings in a span of 14 days to understand how your blood sugars react to diet and exercise. This helps coaches to plan a diet which is personalised for you and suits your body and lifestyle. Apart from this, the program also offers physiotherapy and psychological support to ensure a multidisciplinary approach for diabetes management. The coaches work in tandem to ensure the best care and outcomes along with your doctor’s medical treatment in terms of diet, mental well-being and psychological support. 

To know more about Diabefly and how it can help you smartly take control of your diabetes, visit our website https://www.fitterfly.com/diabefly or speak to one of our counsellors on +022-489-69984. 

Getting all of this right can be difficult and that’s why you need some professional guidance. And, that’s where Diabefly comes into play. With Diabefly, you get personalised nutrition, physiotherapy and psychological guidance, that can help you navigate the ups and downs that come with diabetes management.

Enquire Now About Diabefly

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