Clear up carbohydrate confusion to improve diabetes outcomes

For immediate release

Attention: health, medical, lifestyle editor

Issued: 10 November 2020

Healthy complex carbohydrates
Whole plant foods have been proven beneficial in both preventing and managing diabetes

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia. More than 1.2 million Australians are living with known diabetes, while many more remain undiagnosed. Prevalence of diabetes in Australia has tripled over the past 25 years and there is no sign of this slowing.

World Diabetes Day (14 November) is an important awareness raising initiative, which this year focuses on ensuring all health professionals are equipped with the correct knowledge and understanding to support those living with diabetes.

Dr Chau Tran, Endocrinologist and Doctors For Nutrition NSW Ambassadoc, said it isn’t all bad news. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 85 per cent of all cases, is largely preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“Evidence shows that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in up to 58 per cent of people by following a healthy eating plan, maintaining a healthy weight and being active.

“Sounds simple right? Well, the confusion is rife, particularly when it comes to diet, especially carbohydrates,” Dr Tran said.

“The underlying mechanism of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t carbohydrates or sugar that cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is caused by a build-up of fat inside muscle and liver cells.

“Studies have shown that high intake of saturated fat, as opposed to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, causes insulin resistance, impairs insulin secretion and is toxic to the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Eating greater amounts of saturated fat is also linked to high blood cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease,” he said.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t carbohydrates or sugar that cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is caused by a build-up of fat inside muscle and liver cells.

– Endocrinologist and DFN Ambassadoc, Dr Chau Tran

These fats are found in animal-based products such as meat, processed meats and dairy foods, many manufactured or packaged foods and a few plant-derived products like palm oil, coconut (flesh, oil, milk and cream) and some margarines.

Dr Tran said: “The foods which should make up the bulk of a healthy diet are whole plant foods such as wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, which have been shown in studies to be beneficial in both preventing and managing diabetes.

“People, with or without diabetes, should include an abundant diversity of these healthful foods in their diet. The major emphasis should be on reducing intake of foods high in saturated fat and avoiding processed sugars and highly refined carbohydrates.

“A low carbohydrate diet may provide short-term improvements in body weight and blood glucose levels, but there is no strong evidence that a low carbohydrate diet will benefit your health, or even be safe, in the long-term. Healthy weight, excellent glucose control and better overall long-term health outcomes can be sustainably achieved on a diversified whole food plant-based diet,” he said.

“Diabetes is one of the biggest challenges confronting Australia's healthcare system. We must use events like World Diabetes Day to shine the spotlight on diabetes education, including nutrition education, to empower both patients and health professionals,” he said.

Media opportunity

Phone interviews with Endocrinologist Dr Chau Tran available on request.

Media contact: Alicia Temple | 0403 987 567 | email