Dietary carbohydrate restriction augments weight loss-induced improvements in glycaemic control and liver fat in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial

Mads N Thomsen, Mads J Skytte, Amirsalar Samkani, Martin H Carl, Philip Weber, Arne Astrup, Elizaveta Chabanova, Mogens Fenger, Jan Frystyk, Bolette Hartmann, Jens J Holst, Thomas M Larsen, Sten Madsbad, Faidon Magkos, Henrik S Thomsen, Steen B Haugaard, Thure Krarup

27 Citations (Scopus)


Aims/hypothesis: Lifestyle modification and weight loss are cornerstones of type 2 diabetes management. However, carbohydrate restriction may have weight-independent beneficial effects on glycaemic control. This has been difficult to demonstrate because low-carbohydrate diets readily decrease body weight. We hypothesised that carbohydrate restriction enhances the beneficial metabolic effects of weight loss in type 2 diabetes. Methods: This open-label, parallel RCT included adults with type 2 diabetes, HbA 1c 48–97 mmol/mol (6.5–11%), BMI >25 kg/m 2, eGFR >30 ml min −1 [1.73 m] −2 and glucose-lowering therapy restricted to metformin or dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors. Participants were randomised by a third party and assigned to 6 weeks of energy restriction (all foods were provided) aiming at ~6% weight loss with either a carbohydrate-reduced high-protein diet (CRHP, percentage of total energy intake [E%]: CH30/P30/F40) or a conventional diabetes diet (CD, E%: CH50/P17/F33). Fasting blood samples, continuous glucose monitoring and magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used to assess glycaemic control, lipid metabolism and intrahepatic fat. Change in HbA 1c was the primary outcome; changes in circulating and intrahepatic triacylglycerol were secondary outcomes. Data were collected at Copenhagen University Hospital (Bispebjerg and Herlev). Results: Seventy-two adults (CD 36, CRHP 36, all white, 38 male sex) with type 2 diabetes (mean duration 8 years, mean HbA 1c 57 mmol/mol [7.4%]) and mean BMI of 33 kg/m 2 were enrolled, of which 67 (CD 33, CRHP 34) completed the study. Body weight decreased by 5.8 kg (5.9%) in both groups after 6 weeks. Compared with the CD diet, the CRHP diet further reduced HbA 1c (mean [95% CI] −1.9 [−3.5, −0.3] mmol/mol [−0.18 (−0.32, −0.03)%], p = 0.018) and diurnal mean glucose (mean [95% CI] −0.8 [−1.2, −0.4] mmol/l, p < 0.001), stabilised glucose excursions by reducing glucose CV (mean [95% CI] −4.1 [−5.9, −2.2]%, p < 0.001), and augmented the reductions in fasting triacylglycerol concentration (by mean [95% CI] −18 [−29, −6]%, p < 0.01) and liver fat content (by mean [95% CI] −26 [−45, 0]%, p = 0.051). However, pancreatic fat content was decreased to a lesser extent by the CRHP than the CD diet (mean [95% CI] 33 [7, 65]%, p = 0.010). Fasting glucose, insulin, HOMA2-IR and cholesterol concentrations (total, LDL and HDL) were reduced significantly and similarly by both diets. Conclusions/interpretation: Moderate carbohydrate restriction for 6 weeks modestly improved glycaemic control, and decreased circulating and intrahepatic triacylglycerol levels beyond the effects of weight loss itself compared with a CD diet in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Concurrent differences in protein and fat intakes, and the quality of dietary macronutrients, may have contributed to these results and should be explored in future studies. Trial registration: NCT03814694. Funding: The study was funded by Arla Foods amba, The Danish Dairy Research Foundation, and Copenhagen University Hospital Bispebjerg Frederiksberg. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)506-517
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Carbohydrate restriction
  • Dietary intervention
  • Dyslipidaemia
  • Glycaemic control
  • Low-energy diet
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Weight loss


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