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Clinical Dietitian's Two Cents: Low-Carb Diet

【"I started following the low-carb diet because I've read that I can lose weight and lower my blood glucose quickly."】

Does the above conversation sounds familiar with you?

Let’s get some insightful thought from dietitian before jump start on low-carb diet.

Is the low-carb diet applicable and practical in our Malaysia context?

The low-carbohydrate or low-carb diet, as its name implies restricts carbohydrate intake. Some propose that the low-carb diet is effective in not only the management, but reversal of type 2 diabetes (T2DM).

1. Cultural-appropriateness

In Malaysia, “eating rice” is synonymous with “having a meal” and we often share our meals within the family.

Imagine if the family is having tosai with dhal curry, the individual on the low-carb diet will not be able to share that meal. When a person is prescribed a low-carb diet, his family will likely have to make changes to accommodate him.

Also, in our culture, refusing food may be deemed disrespectful, especially when prepared by an elder.


2. Sustainability

There will be a handful of people who will be able to practice this diet for a long duration. But for the most of them, compliance and adherence would be relatively low.


3. Availability

It is not impossible, but also not easy to find meals with no carbs in our Malaysiaan food context, which brings us back to the point of sustainability. For example, bakery items made from almond flour or coconut flour are not easily available, if any, in our bakeries.


4. Cost

It is simply not affordable for many to eat as much meats, fish, avocados and nuts daily.


5. Overall nutritional profile

Consider the long-term nutritional implications without fruits, beans and lentils, milk and dairy products.

In addition, people on this diet should also be carefully educated on types and sources of protein and healthy fats, so as not to jeopardize heart health.


6. Not for everybody

Certain conditions such as kidney disease, would require reduced protein intake which is very unlikely to be healthful in combination with the low-carb diet.



The maintenance of a low-carb diet poses many challenges especially in our Malaysian context. In my building dietetics practice, sustained reduction, healthful choice and controlled portion sizes of carbohydrate intake according to the individual’s needs and self-efficacy, is helpful in managing diabetes even to the point of reducing anti-diabetic medications, although yet to the point of diabetes reversal.


Dietitian's Notes:

-Before you decide on low-carb diet journey, always consult your dietitian to come up with a meal plan which focus on nutrient-rich foods to ensure nutritional adequacy.



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Written by,

Dietitian Ivy Cheah