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Fad Diets in the Treatment of Diabetes

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Use of the term “fad diet” reflects the contentious nature of the debate in the treatment of diabetes and generally targets diets based on carbohydrate restriction, the major challenge to traditional dietary therapy. Although standard low-fat diets more accurately conform to the idea of a practice supported by social pressure rather than scientific data, it is suggested that we might want to give up altogether unscientific terms like “fad” and “healthy.” Far from faddish, diets based on carbohydrate restriction have been the historical treatment for diabetes and are still supported by basic biochemistry, and it is argued that they should be considered the “default” diet, the one to try first, in diseases of carbohydrate intolerance or insulin resistance. The barrier to acceptance of low-carbohydrate diets in the past has been concern about saturated fat, which might be substituted for the carbohydrate that is removed. However, recent re-analysis of much old data shows that replacing carbohydrate with saturated fat is, if anything, beneficial. The dialectic of impact of continued hemoglobin A1c versus effect of dietary saturated fat in the risk of cardiovascular disease is resolved in direction of glycemic control. Putting biased language behind us and facing the impact of recent results that point to the value of low-carbohydrate diets would offer patients the maximum number of options.

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I am grateful to Dr. Richard J. Wood of Springfield College, Springfield, MA, for the compilation of adherence and absolute fat intakes in diet comparisons.


No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

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Correspondence to Richard D. Feinman.

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Feinman, R.D. Fad Diets in the Treatment of Diabetes. Curr Diab Rep 11, 128–135 (2011).

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