Effects of very low-carbohydrate vs. high-carbohydrate weight loss diets on psychological health in adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes: a 2-year randomized controlled trial

Naomi Kakoschke, Ian T Zajac, Jeannie Tay, Natalie D Luscombe-Marsh, Campbell H Thompson, Manny Noakes, Jonathan D Buckley, Gary Wittert, Grant D Brinkworth

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    AIMS: Very low-carbohydrate (LC) diets are popular for type 2 diabetes (T2DM) management; however, long-term effects on psychological health remain largely unknown. This study reports the effects of a LC diet on mood and cognitive function after 2 years and explores the potential predictors of changes in psychological health.

    METHODS: 115 adults (57% males; age: 58.5 ± 7.1 years) with obesity and T2DM were randomized to consume an energy reduced (~ 500 to 1000 kcal/day deficit), LC diet [14% energy as carbohydrate, 28% protein, 58% fat (< 10% saturated fat)] or an isocaloric high unrefined carbohydrate, low-fat diet [HC: 53% carbohydrate, 17% protein, 30% fat (< 10% saturated fat)] for 2 years. Both diets were combined with aerobic/resistance exercise (1 h, 3 days/week). Mood/well-being [Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory (SAI), Profile of Mood States (POMS)], diabetes-related quality of life [Diabetes-39 (D-39)] and distress [Problem Areas in Diabetes (PAID) Questionnaire], and cognitive function were assessed during and post-intervention.

    RESULTS: 61 (LC: 33, HC: 28) participants completed the study. Weight loss was 9.1% after 12 months and 6.7% after 2 years with no difference between diet groups. There were no differences between the groups for the changes in any psychological health outcome (smallest p ≥ 0.19 for all time x diet interactions). Overtime, improvements in BDI, POMS [Total Mood Disturbance (TMD); four subscales], PAID, and D-39 (three subscales) scores occurred (p ≤ 0.05, time). Stepwise regression analysis showed improvements in BDI, POMS (TMD; two subscales), D-39, SAI, and PAID scores were significantly (p < 0.05) correlated with reductions in body weight and glycated hemoglobin.

    CONCLUSION: In adults with obesity and T2DM, energy-restricted LC and HC diets produced comparable long-term improvements on a comprehensive range of psychological health outcomes. The findings suggest both diets can be used as a diabetes management strategy as part of a holistic lifestyle modification program without concern of negative effects on mental well-being or cognition.

    TRIAL REGISTRATION: ACTRN12612000369820, https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=362168&isReview=true . Data described in the manuscript, code book, and analytic code will not be made available because approval has not been granted by participants.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 May 2021

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