Background: There is evidence that reducing blood glucose concentrations, inducing weight loss, and improving the lipid profile reduces cardiovascular risk in people with type 2 diabetes.
Objective: We assessed the effect of various diets on glycemic control, lipids, and weight loss.
Design: We conducted searches of PubMed, Embase, and Google Scholar to August 2011. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with interventions that lasted ≥6 mo that compared low-carbohydrate, vegetarian, vegan, low-glycemic index (GI), high-fiber, Mediterranean, and high-protein diets with control diets including low-fat, high-GI, American Diabetes Association, European Association for the Study of Diabetes, and low-protein diets.
Results: A total of 20 RCTs were included (n = 3073 included in final analyses across 3460 randomly assigned individuals). The low-carbohydrate, low-GI, Mediterranean, and high-protein diets all led to a greater improvement in glycemic control [glycated hemoglobin reductions of -0.12% (P = 0.04), -0.14% (P = 0.008), -0.47% (P < 0.00001), and -0.28% (P < 0.00001), respectively] compared with their respective control diets, with the largest effect size seen in the Mediterranean diet. Low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets led to greater weight loss [-0.69 kg (P = 0.21) and -1.84 kg (P < 0.00001), respectively], with an increase in HDL seen in all diets except the high-protein diet.
Conclusion: Low-carbohydrate, low-GI, Mediterranean, and high-protein diets are effective in improving various markers of cardiovascular risk in people with diabetes and should be considered in the overall strategy of diabetes management.