No, Carbs Are Not Necessary for Kids with Type 1 Diabetes

No, Carbs Are Not Necessary for Kids with Type 1 Diabetes

Yesterday in the 2020 American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions, Dr. Carmel Smart, pediatric diabetes dietician, debated Dr. Belinda Lennerz, pediatric endocrinologist, on the use of low carb diets in children with Type 1 diabetes. Dr. Smart advocates for including carbohydrates in the diets of children with Type 1 diabetes, an approach I do not agree with. 

My experience growing up with Type 1 diabetes has taught me that low carb diets are vital to achieving normal blood sugar. I started a low carb diet in 2013 when I was 9 years old, a few months after my diagnosis.

Like nearly all kids, upon my diagnosis I met with a dietitian and health care provider team that provided training and detailed instruction on implementing a high carb diet.  This diet required me to eat carbohydrate-rich meals including grains, processed snacks, and high sugar content fruits, and so on. My blood sugars typically soared from very high and plunged to very low. 

This went on for a short while, until my mother ordered Dr. Bernstein’s book ‘Diabetes Solution’. We read through the book as a family and realized that there was a better way to approach diabetes management. Within a few weeks the following happened:

  1. My blood sugars nearly immediately went from highly variable to well controlled.
  2. My energy level, mood, and mental stamina improved.

From there things only got better. We gradually began to implement important details from Dr. Bernstein’s protocol. I began using Regular insulin (I use Humulin R) to cover protein foods and split basal insulin dosing.

I’m now 16 years old and have been following this strategy for 7 years. Some of my results are as follows:

  1. My blood sugar average on my CGM has been below 90 mg/dL for many, many years. My A1c results are typically around 5.0% or lower.
  2. My glycemic variability is very low with a standard deviation under 20 mg/dL.
  3. I have never experienced severe hypoglycemia – this is probably one of the most important benefits of a low carb strategy, because when using large doses of rapid insulin to cover carbohydrate, even with constant monitoring, eventually you’ll get a severe hypo.
  4. Given point 3 above, I can be fully active – I play varsity level basketball and football – at normal or very close to normal blood sugars.
  5. I continue to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regimen, and rigorous academic schedule – I attribute this to Dr. Bernstein’s important advice to emphasize protein foods.
  6. I am not fearful of long-term diabetes complications. My blood sugars are normal. I know that complications start as blood sugars elevate and I am committed to maintaining the same A1c as a healthy nondiabetic.
  7. My blood sugar is very easy to manage and control, which allows me to focus on enjoying daily life as a junior in high school, without the fear of volatile blood sugars.
  8. I am not alone – a growing number of children and teens are following this diet and are thriving. On social media, there are countless stories of children and teenagers with similar success stories.
  9. These stories of success have motivated me to continue to advocate and add my voice. As Dr. Bernstein says, ‘type 1 diabetics are entitled to truly normal, healthy blood sugars.’
  10. I am eating delicious and diverse meals – my mom and dad have learned to make low carb versions of any food.
  11. There has not been any negative social impact on my diet choices. I eat in the cafeteria or restaurants with my friends. I can always find something to eat. It might mean being creative. Yesterday when out with my friends, I had poke (raw fish) on a salad instead of rice. I feel no need or social pressure to eat a certain way. Many of my friends are athletes and eat very similarly to my food choices.

Overall, I am committed to maintaining my low carb/high protein diet. The results in my own life are undeniable, as I have the sustained physical and mental energy to keep up with my sports and academics. I am energized by other Type 1 children following Dr. Bernstein’s low carb approach and their success stories that I see on social media, which encouraged me to add my voice. If you’re interested in normalizing your blood sugar look at Dr. Bernstein’s YouTube channel ‘Diabetes University’. He is the expert and I follow his protocol closely. It is possible for a person with Type 1 diabetes to be as healthy (or healthier) as anyone without it.

David Dikeman
David Dikeman

David Dikeman is a 16 year old type one diabetic diagnosed at the age of 9. Since diagnosis he has followed Dr. Bernstein’s low carb high protein protocol and has consistently attained A1cs at 5.0% and below while averaging blood sugar in the 80s. David is a passionate advocate for type 1 diabetes management and has spoken at children’s hospitals and nutrition/metabolism conferences. He is currently working with Dr. Bernstein as an intern and will be pursuing a career in the field of medicine.

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