Comparison of a carbohydrate-free diet vs. fasting on plasma glucose, insulin and glucagon in type 2 diabetes

Frank Q. Nuttall, Rami M. Almokayyad, Mary C. Gannon

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Objective. Hyperglycemia improves when patients with type 2 diabetes are placed on a weight-loss diet. Improvement typically occurs soon after diet implementation. This rapid response could result from low fuel supply (calories), lower carbohydrate content of the weight-loss diet, and/or weight loss per se. To differentiate these effects, glucose, insulin, C-peptide and glucagon were determined during the last 24 h of a 3-day period without food (severe calorie restriction) and a calorie-sufficient, carbohydrate-free diet. Research design Seven subjects with untreated type 2 diabetes were studied. A randomized-crossover design with a 4-week washout period between arms was used. Methods. Results from both the calorie-sufficient, carbohydrate-free diet and the 3-day fast were compared with the initial standard diet consisting of 55% carbohydrate, 15% protein and 30% fat. Results. The overnight fasting glucose concentration decreased from 196 (standard diet) to 160 (carbohydrate-free diet) to 127 mg/dl (fasting). The 24 h glucose and insulin area responses decreased by 35% and 48% on day 3 of the carbohydrate-free diet, and by 49% and 69% after fasting. Overnight basal insulin and glucagon remained unchanged. Conclusions. Short-term fasting dramatically lowered overnight fasting and 24 h integrated glucose concentrations. Carbohydrate restriction per se could account for 71% of the reduction. Insulin could not entirely explain the glucose responses. In the absence of carbohydrate, the net insulin response was 28% of the standard diet. Glucagon did not contribute to the metabolic adaptations observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalMetabolism: clinical and experimental
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015



  • Carbohydrate
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Diabetes
  • Diet
  • Fasting

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