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Position statements

Here, you'll find our position on a range of issues. You can also download PDF versions via the links at the end of each statement.

JDRF Position Statement on the use of animals in biomedical research

Reviewed and updated November 2016

JDRF is the world’s leading charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research and exists to find a cure for type 1 diabetes and its complications.

JDRF’s principal focus is to support the research necessary to move scientific advances from the laboratory to the medical clinic as rapidly as possible. This is the only way to ensure our goal of finding the cure and creating a world without type 1 diabetes.

In pursuit of our mission, JDRF provides grants to leading researchers at universities, medical schools and research institutions, some of whom use non-human animal subjects. Understandably, many people are concerned about the well-being of animals used in medical research. JDRF shares those concerns and takes animal welfare very seriously. JDRF supports, in principle, well-regulated animal research where there is no alternative.

All JDRF-funded researchers conducting animal research in the UK are required to comply with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and other guidance issued by the Home Office; these are widely considered to be the best regulations for such work anywhere in the world. All animal laboratories and all people working with animals must hold a government licence and researchers must prove that they have looked at alternative methods to using animals and that their research cannot be successfully conducted without the use of animals. In addition, every project using animals must get its own licence; these are only granted to those projects that meet strict ethical criteria.

JDRF expects researchers to treat animals humanely and with respect and we are fully committed to the “3R” agenda. Every experiment that uses animals is directed by a set of principles called the 3Rs, which stands for:

  • Reduction (of the number of animals needed by using the best design for the experiments);
  • Replacement (with non-animal alternative techniques wherever feasible);
  • Refinement (to enhance animal welfare and keep any distress to a minimum).

Prior to 1921, a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes was a death sentence. Research initially using animals resulted in the discovery of insulin. This Nobel Prize-winning discovery has saved the lives of millions world-wide. Insulin, however, is not a cure; it is merely life-support. Diabetes adversely affects every physiological system in the human body. Successful treatments for some of the most devastating complications of diabetes such as kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage have advanced through the use of animals in biomedical research.

While JDRF encourages progress in developing techniques for improving non-animal testing and developing alternatives to animal research, non-animal models cannot yet fully replace animal models in pre-clinical testing. Therefore, until suitable and reliable alternative methods are developed, regulated and humane use of non-human animals in research is necessary to design and develop effective cures and treatments for people with type 1 diabetes.

Note that as a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), JDRF also supports the AMRC position statement on animal research.

Download the JDRF Position Statement on animal research as a PDF.

JDRF Position Statement on low-carb diets and type 1 diabetes

21 March 2018

Low carbohydrate diets are increasingly being suggested as an option for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.  Some people with type 1 have been exploring whether low carbohydrate diets can improve their blood glucose control, their health outcomes and quality of life with type 1.

There is very little research evidence on the health outcomes for people with type 1, but here we review what we do know at the moment, including possible risks.

Adults with type 1

At the moment, there is simply not enough evidence to say whether or not low carb diets have an overall positive or negative long term impact on health outcomes for adults with type 1 diabetes.  Very small studies (10 participants or less) have indicated that:

  • Restricted carbs may lead to reduced weight, lower insulin doses, and improved HbA1c,
  • Indications are mixed about whether there is improvement in glucose level variation, one trial founds an improvement, one found no improvement as measured with continuous glucose monitoring
  • Low carb diets may make people less sensitive to glucose taken to treat a mild hypo
  • ‘Low carbing’ may cause ketone bodies and free fatty acid levels to be higher, as the body breaking down fat for energy instead of using carbohydrates, some advocates suggest these can be adapted to provide energy for the brain – SEE ‘What is Not Known’

A further Swedish study retrospectively tracked 48 people with type 1 who had decided to adopt a low carb diet, and had attended a course to do so.  23 people stuck to the diet over four years. They appeared to have reduced risk of complications and better HbA1c, but the study also indicates that eating low carb can be tough to stick to over a prolonged period of time.

What is not known:

The effect of reducing carb intake to very low levels and following a ketogenic diet may result in lower blood glucose levels. Although the brain can use ketones for a fuel in place of glucose the implications from a legal perspective in relation to driving and DVLA recommendations is not known.

The effect of exposure to ketones on unborn babies is unknown, there has been an association between high levels of ketones and adverse pregnancy outcomes. It is not clear if this is an effect of poor diabetes control or the ketones.

Children with type 1

Growing clinical evidence in this area shows that low carbs may have a significantly detrimental effect on children with type 1 diabetes, as both carbohydrates and insulin are essential for growth.  Standard dietitian advice is that low carb diets are not appropriate for children and young adults who are still growing.

A review of six cases of children on low carb, high protein diets showed that the children experienced low energy levels, very high blood pressure for their age, high cholesterol, weight loss or gain that was slow for their age and increased hypoglycaemia.  The authors conclude that these cases support the current clinical guidelines that children with type 1 diabetes should be eating a diet that balances proteins, fats, carbohydrates and is high in fruit and vegetables.

What next?

If adults are considering a low carb diet it is very important that they discuss it, and all of the potential health consequences, with their diabetes team first.  This is so that their wider nutritional and health needs can be considered in order to support them in developing a sustainable way to manage their diabetes.

Download the JDRF Position Statement on low-carb diets and type 1 diabetes as a PDF.

Other topics

If there’s a topic that you would like to know our position on that is not listed, email us on [email protected] or call 020 7713 2030.