If you have diabetes type two and you are trying to lose weight by following a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates, I would like you to consider it twice.

Definitely, before you start such a type of diet, get all the facts and the implications. Diets high in protein are not good for anyone but they can be dangerous in people with type 2 diabetes.Why you lose weight with a high protein diet

A diet that is high in protein encourages fast weight loss in the first week, but it is mainly a water loss. This is how it works.

When you eat carbohydrates, the body converts them into glucose. Part of this glucose is used right away and the rest is stored in your cells as glycogen. So, glycogen is basically glucose stored in your body for future needs.

The body needs a constant supply of glucose to produce energy, so without a lot of carbohydrates in the diet, the body has to go to the stores of glycogen in your body and get some in order to feed your cells, especially the ones in the brain.

Now, for each gram of carbohydrate you lose, you also lose 2 to 4 grams of water. A study conducted by Denke M, “ Metabolic effects of high protein, low carbohydrate diets” demonstrated that the greater weight loss on a low carbohydrate/high protein diet is due to losses in body water.

Benefits of this type of diet

A plus with a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrate is that you can lose weight fast, which can give you some impetus to make farther changes in your diet and lifestyle in the long run.

Another plus: there is some evidence that diets high in protein are more satiating. You may feel fuller and tend to eat less after a meal with high protein content (over 25 percent calories from protein). Foods high in protein tend to move more slowly from the stomach to the intestine than foods high in carbohydrates, especially the refined kind, so your stomach tends to feel fuller longer.

And now to the cons

The American Heart Association has officially warned people of the risks of following a diet high in protein. They concluded that people who follow this type of diet are at risk of vitamins and mineral deficiencies, heart, kidney and liver disease, as well as osteoporosis.

I don’t know if the American Heart Association has based its advise on Denke’s study, but here are the cons found by Denke:

Complications from high saturated fat intake

Despite the beneficial effects of weight loss, diets that promote high intake of saturated fat such as meats and dairy products raise cholesterol levels. In an 8-week study conducted with 24 volunteers who followed the Atkins’-type diet, LDL, the bad cholesterol, increased significantly from 127 to 151 mg/dl.

Complications from exclusion of fruits, vegetables, and grains

Because they exclude fruits, vegetables, and grains, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets are deficient in vitamins and minerals. People consuming low carbohydrate diets have reduced their intakes of calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Although you may replace some of the vitamins and minerals you lose when following this type of diet with a vitamin supplement, you won’t be able to replace the phytochemicals fruits, vegetables, and grains contain.

Complications from high-protein intake

Increasing the protein content of a diet significantly puts a lot of pressure in the kidneys as they have to remove high amounts of nitrogen waste products from the high protein intake, especially when the person is dehydrated because of low liquid intake or from perspiration.

High protein intakes create large amounts of uric acid, which the kidneys need to excrete. Despite the kidneys working overtime, uric acid levels will increase in the body, leading to gout and joint inflammation.

In several small trials, restriction of protein has been shown to retard the progression of diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease) to end-stage renal disease. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have the opposite effect, and could hasten renal failure in patients with who already have renal insufficiency. Diabetics in particular need to be very cautious here as renal disease is one of diabetes complications.

Development of osteoporosis:

High-protein, low carbohydrate diets generate a lot of acidic residues, resulting in acidosis. Acidosis causes the bones to release calcium to counteract the acidic environment in the body. Again, the kidneys need to work harder to get rid of the extra calcium. Studies have shown that these types of diets have a high impact in young women, leading to osteoporosis. The stress may be higher in older persons whose renal functions are diminished.

Final word

Almost everyone loses weight during the first week with a high protein/low carbohydrate diet. The initial weight loss is due to the initial loss of liquid, and the loss of glycogen stores in the body.

However, once glycogen stores have been used, these diets hold no greater promise for weight loss than any other caloric restricted diet. In addition, the diet plan is deficient in vitamins and minerals and can cause more harm than good.

This way of eating can’t and should not be continued over a long period of time. These diets are generally connected with higher intakes of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, because the protein is provided mainly from animal foods.

In the long term, very high protein diets may lead to heart disease since they increase cholesterol. Remember that saturated fat is one of the main causes of high cholesterol.

You may want to think it twice if you are planning on adopting this diet in the long plan, especially if you are diabetic. A better plan may be to implement this type of diet for a 2 or 3 weeks and then just switch to good eating habits. Being physically active will be a must in your weight loss project.


I am Andy Carpenter and I would start by saying that I have a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition Science conferred by California State University, Los Angeles and that I am certified as a Registered Dietitian.

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