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Pros and Cons of Low-Carb Diets for Children and Teens with Type 1 Diabetes

All nutrients are needed in balance for their specific “jobs” in our body.  How you choose what percentage of your whole diet is made up from each type of food, can roughly be defined from recent nutrition papers as follows:

Typical Diet45-65% of total calories10-30%25-35%
Moderate carbohydrate restriction26-44% of total calories20-35%30-50%
Low Carbohydrate<26% of total calories20-40%40-70%
Very Low Carbohydrate or Ketogenic5-10% of total calories
20-50 grams of carbohydrate per day

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a CLINICAL REPORT on Low-Carbohydrate Diets in Children and Adolescents with or at Risk for Diabetes outlining the benefits and risks of low carbohydrate diets in children.

So how did carbohydrate restriction become such a focus of some current diabetes management options?

  • Carbohydrate restriction is often endorsed by celebrities, in popular diets, and in weight loss programs with testimonials on websites and social media.
  • Low carbohydrate diets have been used for decades to improve metabolic health and treat Type 2 diabetes in adults.
  • Carbohydrate-restricted diets in children have been associated with negative health effects such as poor linear growth, inadequate bone mineralization, nutritional deficiency, anemia, liver and kidney dysfunction, hyperlipidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and an impact on quality of life including time and expense.

Since guidelines for monitoring children and adolescents choosing to follow a carbohydrate-restricted diet were not readily available, The Barbara Davis Center in Denver at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center developed their consensus of management strategies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report has a table of recommendations for monitoring children and adolescents who elect to follow a very low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet.

Nutrition and diabetes management are personal decisions that all persons involved must at least partially agree on.  I personally believe in nutrition moderation so individuals can live as healthily and normally with Type 1 diabetes but we work with every person or family to achieve their goals.  Reach out to your healthcare provider for questions or feel free to email me at terri@IntegratedDiabetes.com.

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