fbpx Skip to content


The Carbs and Diabetes Link

The goal is whole (whole grains, that is!).

| Earn 1 CEC - Take Quiz

Carbs and diabetes

When it comes to the link between carbs and diabetes, quality matters. After analyzing dietary data from 200,727 participants who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II or the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found replacing 5% of energy from saturated fat with 5% of energy from low-quality carbohydrates (such as refined grains and sugary drinks) was linked to a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. In better news, swapping 5% of energy from saturated fat with high-quality carbohydrates from whole grains was associated with a lower risk.

It’s worth noting that the investigation, published in Current Developments in Nutrition, also determined that isocaloric substitution of low-quality carbs with other macronutrients was not associated with type 2 diabetes risk. Conversely, when dietary calories from high-quality carbohydrates replaced some of those from fats and proteins (unsaturated fat, trans fat, animal protein and vegetable protein), there was also a lower diabetes risk.

See also: 5 Ways to Eat to Beat Diabetes

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

Related Articles

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.


November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.