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The Dietary Science Foundation’s newest venture:
Europe’s largest study of the effect of diet on type 2 diabetes


Last year the Dietary Science Foundation financed the design of a study of diet for type 2 diabetes. The project involves researchers in five countries and the goal is to carry out the largest study ever done in Europe on the subject. The Dietary Science Foundation will now invest an additional 80,000 euros in the project, so that the researchers can hire a project manager, write ethics applications, design an app and apply for additional research funding.

When we founded the Dietary Science Foundation almost five years ago, the explicit goal was to help launch high-quality studies that could form the basis for more effective dietary treatments in healthcare. That’s why we are especially happy to be able to tell you that the grant proposal that we approved for Simon Dankel of the Department of Clinical Research at the University of Bergen, last year has made it possible to plan Europe’s largest study yet of diet for type 2 diabetes.

The grant allowed researchers from Sweden, Denmark and Norway to meet in Stockholm to start drawing up a blueprint for the study, which is called CARBCOUNT. At the second meeting in November researchers from Scotland and Germany joined the group.

“The researchers who have come to the meetings are very committed and the atmosphere has been positive. It has been nice to get to know each other and we have been more or less in agreement about how the study should be designed,” says Simon Dankel.

The goal: a cure for type 2 diabetes

The main purpose of many previous studies of diet in type 2 diabetes has been for participants to gain better control of their blood sugar levels. In this project, the researchers are aiming higher: they want to reverse the disease. Participants should have normal blood sugar levels, without medication.

“For this purpose, a large study is needed. So it’s great that we can bring together researchers from five different countries,” Simon Dankel says.

Two different dietary treatments will be compared. One group will eat a strict low-carbohydrate diet. Participants will be permitted to eat as much as they want, but the daily amount of carbohydrates will be limited to a maximum of 30 grams for the first three months of the project. After that slightly more carbohydrates will be allowed, to a maximum of 30–80 grams per day.

A second group will use meal replacements as part of an extreme restriction of calories, 825-853 kcal per day, during the first three months. The participants in this group will then be randomized further into groups that will eat either a strictly low-fat diet or a strictly low-carb diet during the remaining 12 months of the study. The goal during this phase is to maintain weight loss.

Can blood sugar be normalized without weight loss?

Extreme calorie restriction has recently been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes. In March of this year, one of the researchers in the project, Michael Lean, professor of human nutrition at the University of Glasgow, published the results of the DIRECT study, which has attracted a lot of attention. The weight loss led to a large number of the participants reversing the disease, and two years after the study 36 percent still had normal blood sugar levels, compared to 3 percent in the control group who received a conventional treatment.

“We now want to study whether a low-carbohydrate diet, with a more normal intake of food, which more people may be able to stick with longer, can have the same good effect,” says Simon Dankel.

The researchers’ hypothesis is that a strict low-carbohydrate diet can lower blood sugar without the participants having to lose as much weight.

Applying for additional research funding 

CARBCOUNT will include more than 500 people with type 2 diabetes and the budget will exceed 200,000 euros. A month ago, Simon Dankel submitted an application for research funding to the EU initiative JPI A healthy diet for a healthy life. In addition, all the researchers will apply for funding for the project in their respective home countries.

“It’s an important project and I think our chances of getting financing are good. Better treatments are needed for type 2 diabetes. The medical treatment we have today only addresses the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. It can’t cure the disease,” Simon Dankel says.

The 80,000 euros that the Dietary Science Foundation is investing in CARBCOUNT will be used to hire a project manager and give researchers the opportunity to prepare the project in the respective home countries, including applying for ethical approval. The grant will also go to developing an app that will help the participants follow the dietary treatment.

The Dietary Science Foundation will continue to raise funds for the project and support the researchers as they launching it. The plan is to start recruiting participants in August 2020.

To everyone who supports the Dietary Science Foundation: THANK YOU! Without you, we would never have been able to contribute to this project. A study of this caliber can affect the care of people with type 2 diabetes worldwide. Help us continue to support the CARBCOUNT project: become a monthly donor. As a monthly donor you aid our long-term work toward establishing better dietary treatments in healthcare.

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