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BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2017 Feb 23;5(1):e000354. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000354. eCollection 2017.

Systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Author information

Department of Endocrinology , Copenhagen University Hospital , Hvidovre , Denmark.
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, SCIENCE , University of Copenhagen , Copenhagen , Denmark.
The Cochrane Colorectal Cancer Group , Copenhagen University Hospital , Bispebjerg , Denmark.



Nutrition therapy is an integral part of self-management education in patients with type 2 diabetes. Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index are recommended, but the ideal amount of carbohydrate in the diet is unclear. We performed a meta-analysis comparing diets containing low to moderate amounts of carbohydrate (LCD) (energy percentage below 45%) to diets containing high amounts of carbohydrate (HCD) in subjects with type 2 diabetes.


We systematically reviewed Cochrane library databases, EMBASE, and MEDLINE in the period 2004-2014 for guidelines, meta-analyses, and randomized trials assessing the outcomes HbA1c, BMI, weight, LDL cholesterol, quality of life (QoL), and attrition.


We identified 10 randomized trials comprising 1376 participants in total. In the first year of intervention, LCD was followed by a 0.34% lower HbA1c (3.7 mmol/mol) compared with HCD (95% CI 0.06 (0.7 mmol/mol), 0.63 (6.9 mmol/mol)). The greater the carbohydrate restriction, the greater the glucose-lowering effect (R=-0.85, p<0.01). At 1 year or later, however, HbA1c was similar in the 2 diet groups. The effect of the 2 types of diet on BMI/body weight, LDL cholesterol, QoL, and attrition rate was similar throughout interventions.


Glucose-lowering medication, the nutrition therapy, the amount of carbohydrate in the diet, glycemic index, fat and protein intake, baseline HbA1c, and adherence to the prescribed diets could all have affected the outcomes.


Low to moderate carbohydrate diets have greater effect on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes compared with high-carbohydrate diets in the first year of intervention. The greater the carbohydrate restriction, the greater glucose lowering, a relationship that has not been demonstrated earlier. Apart from this lowering of HbA1c over the short term, there is no superiority of low-carbohydrate diets in terms of glycemic control, weight, or LDL cholesterol.


Carbohydrate(s); Dietary Intervention; Glycemic Control; Type 2 Diabetes

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: OS, GMP, and HKA report no competing interests. AA is a member of advisory boards/consultant for Lucozade Ribena Suntory, UK, McCain Foods Limited, USA, McDonald's, USA, Nestlé Research Center, Switzerland, Swedish Dairy, and Weight Watchers, USA. Outside the present paper, research conducted at his department is often funded by grants from interests in the food and beverage sector. Recipient of honoraria as Associate Editor, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and membership of the Editorial Boards of Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, and of Annual Review of Nutrition. Recipient of travel expenses and/or modest honoraria (<$2000) for lectures given at national and international meetings, often with support from one or more corporate sponsors. Cofounder and co-owner of the University of Copenhagen spin-out companys Mobile Fitness A/S & Flaxslim ApS, Denmark. Recipient of royalties form a number of textbooks, and popular diet and cookery books. Coinventor of a number of patents owned by UCPH, in accordance with Danish law.

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