Effect of Calorie-Unrestricted Low-Carbohydrate, High-Fat Diet Versus High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet on Type 2 Diabetes and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Camilla Dalby Hansen
  • Eva-Marie Gram-Kampmann
  • Johanne Kragh Hansen
  • Mie Balle Hugger
  • Bjørn Stæhr Madsen
  • Jane Møller Jensen
  • Sara Olesen
  • Nikolaj Torp
  • Ditlev Nytoft Rasmussen
  • Maria Kjærgaard
  • Stine Johansen
  • Katrine Prier Lindvig
  • Peter Andersen
  • Katrine Holtz Thorhauge
  • Jan Christian Brønd
  • Pernille Hermann
  • Henning Beck-Nielsen
  • Sönke Detlefsen
  • Kurt Højlund
  • Maja Sofie Thiele
  • Mads Israelsen
  • Aleksander Krag

BACKGROUND: It remains unclear if a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet is a possible treatment strategy for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and the effect on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has not been investigated.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of a calorie-unrestricted LCHF diet, with no intention of weight loss, on T2DM and NAFLD compared with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat (HCLF) diet.

DESIGN: 6-month randomized controlled trial with a 3-month follow-up. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03068078).

SETTING: Odense University Hospital in Denmark from November 2016 until June 2020.

PARTICIPANTS: 165 participants with T2DM.

INTERVENTION: Two calorie-unrestricted diets: LCHF diet with 50 to 60 energy percent (E%) fat, less than 20E% carbohydrates, and 25E% to 30E% proteins and HCLF diet with 50E% to 60E% carbohydrates, 20E% to 30E% fats, and 20E% to 25E% proteins.

MEASUREMENTS: Glycemic control, serum lipid levels, metabolic markers, and liver biopsies to assess NAFLD.

RESULTS: The mean age was 56 years (SD, 10), and 58% were women. Compared with the HCLF diet, participants on the LCHF diet had greater improvements in hemoglobin A1c (mean difference in change, -6.1 mmol/mol [95% CI, -9.2 to -3.0 mmol/mol] or -0.59% [CI, -0.87% to -0.30%]) and lost more weight (mean difference in change, -3.8 kg [CI, -6.2 to -1.4 kg]). Both groups had higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and lower triglycerides at 6 months. Changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were less favorable in the LCHF diet group than in the HCLF diet group (mean difference in change, 0.37 mmol/L [CI, 0.17 to 0.58 mmol/L] or 14.3 mg/dL [CI, 6.6 to 22.4 mg/dL]). No statistically significant between-group changes were detected in the assessment of NAFLD. Changes were not sustained at the 9-month follow-up.

LIMITATION: Open-label trial, self-reported adherence, unintended weight loss, and lack of adjustment for multiple comparisons.

CONCLUSION: Persons with T2DM on a 6-month, calorie-unrestricted, LCHF diet had greater clinically meaningful improvements in glycemic control and weight compared with those on an HCLF diet, but the changes were not sustained 3 months after intervention.

PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Blood Glucose/metabolism, Cholesterol, HDL, Cholesterol, LDL, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted, Diet, Fat-Restricted, Diet, High-Fat, Glycated Hemoglobin, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Weight Loss, Aged

ID: 333301150