Progress!

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By Claire McDonnell Liu, Nutritionist at Leafie.org

In a giant leap forward for Australian’s living with diabetes, Defeat Diabetes have announced a new partnership with Diabetes Australia.

The momentous deal promises new hope to 1.5 million Australian’s diagnosed with diabetes. Providing a clear route towards achieving remission, or improved control, through the highly successful Defeat Diabetes low carb program.

Diabetes Remission

Type 2 diabetes remission is achieved when blood glucose levels are below the diabetes range for at least three months, after discontinuing diabetes medication.

Remission from type 2 diabetes delivers life-changing benefits including feeling healthier, having more energy, and significantly reducing chances of developing serious health conditions. 

Prof. Peter Brukner – ‘Can we really put type 2 diabetes into remission?’

Low Carb Diet

Diet is a major risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes, and is modifiable for most people.

We know that a low-carb diet can lead to remission of type 2 diabetes. Following a low carb eating style can also prevent progression to diabetes for those with pre-diabetes.

There are different approaches to the Low Carb lifestyle approach. Following a low-carb diet usually means eating less than 130g of carbohydrates a day.  As an example a slice of bread has around 15g of carbohydrate, 1 cup of pasta 40g, and a jacket potato around 90g of carbohydrate.

Defeat Diabetes

Defeat Diabetes is Australia’s first online health app delivering low carb dietary support. The program, developed by doctors, dieticians and health professionals, provides lessons, resources, cooking demonstrations, recipes, meal plans and coaching.

The program has achieved impressive results for thousands of Australians that have been through the online program. Two in three Defeat Diabetes members returned their blood glucose levels to the non-diabetes range. Whilst other members reported significant blood glucose improvements. Wider benefits include less dependence on medications, improved cholesterol levels and weight control. Taryn Black, Diabetes Australia Acting CEO, said “For people living with type 2 diabetes, weight loss, improved blood glucose levels and remission can be life changing.

Defeat Diabetes founder Dr Peter Brukner OAM said that “Defeat Diabetes is giving thousands of Australians the opportunity to improve blood glucose levels and achieve type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes remission”.

Defeat Diabetes app

Dietary Confusion

In the last two decades the number of Australians with diabetes skyrocketed by 220%. From 59,678 people in 2000 to more than 1.47 million in 2022. The diabetes epidemic is one of the largest and most complex health challenges Australia has ever faced.

It’s clear that the traditional approach to diabetes type 2 management and prevention has not worked. Diabetes has been managed with increasing pharmaceuticals, paired with ineffective nutrition advice and support. Yet the underlying root causes, of poor nutrition raising blood glucose levels, go unaddressed.

Diabetes Australia, the national body for consumers, health professionals and researchers, released a position paper on ‘Low carbohydrate eating for people with diabetes‘ in August 2018. This stated that “For people with type 2 diabetes, there is reliable evidence that lower carb eating can be safe and useful in lowering average blood glucose levels in the short term (up to 6 months). It can also help reduce body weight and help manage heart disease risk factors such as raised cholesterol and raised blood pressure”.

Diabetes Australia’s statement release coincided with the airing of the SBS Australia’s Health Revolution show presented by Dr Michael Mosley and exercise physiologist Ray Kelly. The 3-part program highlighted how type 2 diabetes remission can be achieved through low-carb nutrition, whilst being critical of Diabetes Australia’s lack of action to support patient’s to improve their health through this effective option.

In 2019 The Food Fix Report called for low-carbohydrate diets to be one of three options formally offered to patients with type 2 diabetes. The landmark report by Western Australia’s bipartisan Education and Health Standing Committee stated that remission, not just management, should be the goal of type 2 diabetes interventions. Significantly the report noted that:

The Australian Dietary Guidelines “should not be used for people with diabetes,” as “they do not apply to people with a medical condition who need special dietary advice” due to the potential to raise blood sugar levels.

Six years on from their position statement it appears that Diabetes Australia had made little progress towards supporting Australian’s to prevent or manage diabetes with low carb therapy. Diabetes Australia’s website continues to “recommend people follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines  Healthy Eating for Adults and Healthy Eating for Children“.  Recommending choosing wholegrain varieties of carbohydrates, including:  breads , breakfast cereal , rice  pasta , noodles , crispbreads . The website currently states that “Often people are concerned about eating too many foods from this food group, particularly if they are trying to manage their weight. However, these foods tend to be very low in fat and will keep you fuller for longer, particularly if you choose wholegrain options”.  Those interested in a low carbohydrate nutrition approach can find minimum information on their website, primarily pointing to their 2018 position statement.

Rampant Diabetes

Whilst progress stalled in supporting Australian’s to prevent diabetes, or to achieve diabetes control or remission through low carb therapy, the diabetes epidemic has raced ahead.

Diabetes is now a leading cause of deaths of Australians, responsible for over 11% of all deaths.

The condition takes a huge toll on health, with complications that include heart disease, blindness, nerve damage, high blood pressure, kidney disease and increased risk of stroke and heart attack.

Each year over 4,400 Australians go through diabetes related amputations, the second highest rate in the developed world. Over 1000 people with diabetes die as a direct result of foot and limb wounds and ulcers. Patients with diabetic foot ulcers have morbidity and mortality rates on par with aggressive forms of cancer.

Many Australians lose part or all of their sight as a result of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, is caused when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina.

Era of Hope

The new Defeat Diabetes partnership indicates a landscape shift in diabetes management. Towards more patient choice, effective support and improved health outcomes.

The partnership follows the appointment of Professor Grant Brinkworth, a world renowned expert in the field of nutrition, health, and medical research. Professor Brinkworth recently joined Diabetes Australia as the first Director of Research, bringing significant expertise in development and delivery of low carb diet programs and resources.

In another important step forward the Australian National Diabetes Strategy 2021-30 for the first time includes ‘remission’ of type 2 diabetes. With low carbohydrate diets recommended as one of the dietary interventions to achieve this.

These recent developments signal a new era of hope for the diabetes community, and much needed progress in the diabetes epidemic.

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