The popularity of low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets for managing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes among adults is well-known. However, a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions against using these diets for children with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes. The report emphasizes that children typically need a higher percentage of their daily calories from carbohydrates compared to adults. Restricting carbohydrate intake in children can lead to various health concerns, including growth deceleration, nutritional deficiencies, poor bone health, and disordered eating behaviors. Therefore, healthcare professionals should closely monitor and provide proper guidance when considering low-carb diets for children with diabetes.
While low-carb diets may have benefits for adults, there is limited research on their safety and efficacy for children. The AAP report highlights the lack of clinical guidelines for restricting dietary carbohydrate consumption in children. It is crucial to consider the potential long-term effects of these diets on children’s relationship with food. Strict limitations on certain types of food may lead to cravings, overconsumption, guilt, and unhealthy psychological associations with food. Instead of focusing on restrictive diets, experts suggest an education-based approach that teaches children about healthy eating habits, the distinction between “real” and “fake” foods, and the fundamentals of growing, cooking, and nutrition.
The AAP recommends that parents and educators prioritize cutting out sugar-sweetened beverages, juices, and processed foods with high amounts of refined grains and sugars. These changes, along with a balanced and varied diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber, can help children with diabetes or prediabetes improve their blood glucose levels and manage their weight. By encouraging children to consume “good” carbs like whole grains, whole wheat, brown rice, and vegetable alternatives, parents can promote lifelong healthy eating habits. It is important to cultivate a positive and informed approach to nutrition, rather than relying on restrictive diets, to ensure the overall well-being of children.