Monday, 5 March 2012

Busting the myths about diabetes and carbohydrates: Do not blame the potato and rice if you are a diabetic

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Do not blame the potato and rice if you are a diabetic. Contrary to 
the popular conviction that carbohydrates are responsible for the management of diabetes, 
a research study carried out by city doctors show that reduced fat diet would bring down 
the complications associated with diabetes. Low fat foods are highly beneficial in the 
management of diabetes. A rice-eating diabetic need not change to chapattis.

A study by Dr Neelima Gundupalle, an ICMR senior research fellow, revealed that 
carbohydrates are not responsible for long-term complications in diabetics. Food rich in 
fat is the culprit. This is the first-ever major study on low-fat diet and diabetes in 
India lasting for as long as three years. All other studies were short-term research 
projects that were less than a year.

“Though prospective epidemiological studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of 
low-fat diet in diabetes, they are all short term studies lasting up to six months. No 
intervention was continued for longer duration in diabetes as it is very difficult to 
conduct long-term dietary intervention studies in diabetes. Neelima’s research is the 
only long term (three-year) study of reduced fat diet intervention in type 2 diabetes, 
and first of its kind in India,” said Dr PV Rao, head of the department of endocrinology 
and metabolism, Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad. Dr Rao served as the 
guide for Neelima’s study.

Dr Rao suggests that one should not blame the carbohydrates. Though carbohydrate-rich 
food may have short-term effect on diabetics, they are good in the long run. “Man has 
been on carbohydrate-rich food for almost 50,000 years and if rice and potato were to 
cause diabetes, then all Indians and Chinese should have been diabetics. Fat should be 
taken in moderation,” he added.

One should not neglect the saturated fatty acids present in animal fat. The fat intake 
ratio should be equal for saturated fatty acids (ghee etc), mono unsaturated fatty acids 
(meat, nuts, and milk) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (sunflower oil and vegetable fat). 
Excess intake of any of them including polyunsaturated fatty acids is harmful, though 
many think Pufa is good for health. The total calorie intake from fat should not exceed 
25 per cent.

Dr Rao said as part of the study a list of 90 foods rich in fat was prepared and people 
were asked to point out the type of food they prefer. Their blood sugar levels were 

The study revealed that low-fat diets are beneficial in managing type 2 diabetes, as it 
was directly linked to serum cholesterol independent of its effects on obesity. Although, 
the reduced fat diet was efficacious in controlling glycaemia and cholesterol, no 
benefits were observed regarding triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.

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This Day In History

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Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

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Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity