The February 2008 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition told us that despite 50 years of doctors' advice that their patients might prevent diabetes by cutting out fat, it's really better--can this be a surprise--to try to prevent diabetes by cutting out sugar.
The diabetes treatment "establishment" has never particularly cared for Atkins-style diets. Three doctors at the Harvard Medical School and UCLA decided to go through the records of 85,059 participants in the Nurses' Health Study (all of them women) to see if Atkins-style diets might make diabetes more likely, or perhaps less.
This monumental study included 20 years of follow-up.
The researchers gave each woman in the study a score based on the percentages of carbohydrate, protein, and fat they ate. A low score meant the woman followed a low-fat diet. A high score meant the woman followed a low-carb (Atkins-style) diet.
When all 1.7 million woman-years of data were tallied up, the finding was that a high score, that is, a low-carb but higher-protein and higher-fat diet, was associated with a slightly lower risk of diabetes. Score one for the Atkins diet.
But when the researchers looked into the data further, they still found that low-carb was better than low-fat, but they also found that the kinds of fat make a difference, too.
To put it in very plain terms, if you eat a lot of meat and very few carbohydrates you can keep your sugars down if you already have diabetes (or at least lower than they would be if you ate a lot of carbohydrates). But if you don't have diabetes yet, it's better to eat high-protein but lean protein, and to get your fats from vegetable sources, like olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Women who ate an "Atkins-style diet with a Mediterranean twist" fared best in preventing diabetes. This diet not only seems to protect health, it's also easy to add variety and to get vitamins and antioxidants, as it not only permits but encourages regular eating of small amounts of oil-dressed salads and well-cooked greens. (The diabetes establishment has not begun to look into raw foods diets for diabetes treatment, although they are rapidly becoming more popular.)
So how might you prevent diabetes if you are at risk?
Don't eat sugar.
Do eat the occasional piece of whole-grain bread or the occasional serving of whole-grain pasta. Eat the fresh vegetables and fruits that appeal to you. Eat low-fat meat but don't neglect getting some fat from healthy vegetable sources.
And if you are overweight, and already diabetic, rest assured that fat is not your fault.