One diet typically doesn’t work for all but those who have type 2 diabetes may fare better following one specific diet than others—especially programs that only target calorie restriction. New research suggests that reducing carbohydrate intake coupled with increased exercise may be the ticket to weight loss for people with this condition.
The 2019 study—which was conducted by a team of researchers in the Netherlands but just recently presented at the 2020 European and International Obesity Congress—addressed that calorie restriction alone may not be an effective weight-loss method for those who have insulin resistance caused by type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance occurs when your pancreas has to make more insulin to help glucose (sugar) enter into cells in your muscles and fat, and it’s often associated with prediabetes which can lead to type 2 diabetes if not managed through diet and exercise. Having this condition can prevent weight loss depending on the types of food you eat. As many as 75% of people with obesity may also have insulin resistance. (Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Smoothie Every Day)
What did this study look at?
The study compared three types of diets geared toward promoting weight loss in 344 patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. The three diets included a calorie-restriction diet, a low-carb diet, and the 6×6 diet—a low-carb program that occurs in three phases. After monitoring participants for a year, researchers found the 6×6 diet was twice as effective as just calorie-counting alone. On this diet, not only did patients lose more weight, but they also reduced insulin resistance and lowered blood pressure.
So, what does the 6×6 diet look like exactly? Over the course of three phases, you keep your carb consumption low as well as your overall intake of processed foods. At the same time, you increase the amount of protein and fiber in your diet and incorporate vegetables into every meal. When following the 6×6 diet, the emphasis isn’t around the number of calories you consume, but rather the quality of your calories.
What exactly is the 6×6 diet?
In phase one, patients limit their carb intake to just 36 grams per day while also increasing their protein intake to 1.2 grams or more per kilogram of body weight. The goal here is to cut alcohol and get protein from fish and plant-based sources such as nuts and beans. Note, this preliminary phase parallels the keto diet except the main objective with this low-carb diet is to increase protein intake. The keto diet on the other hand focuses more on elevating fat consumption.
Things change pretty dramatically in phase two because then you can slowly start introducing more carbs into your diet. By phase three, you can increase your carb intake even more. When patients stop losing weight, that indicates they’ve reached the carb intake that’s best for them to maintain a healthy weight.
“This is a very individual need,” said Ellen Grovers, registered dietitian and lead author of the study, in an online presentation. “Everyone has their own carbohydrate need, and this also counts for healthy people.”
All patients were also instructed to exercise at least two to three times per week for an hour a day for the duration of this study.
Now, what were the results?
At least 43.2% of patients who followed this special diet lost at least 5% of body weight in one year and 40% stabilized their blood glucose levels. For those who followed a standard low carb diet, 41.7% lost at least 5% of their body weight whereas only 23.3% of participants in the calorie-restricted group lost the same.
What’s even more telling is that nearly 23% of participants who followed the 6×6 diet lost 10% or more from their weight at baseline, compared to just 17.3% and 10%, respectively, in the low-carb and calorie-restricted groups.
So, as you can see not only did patients following the 6×6 diet lose the most weight, but they also improved their blood glucose levels.