Get Moving and Eat Right to Lower Diabetes Risk
Yet more proof points to the importance of exercise and healthy eating to reduce the chance of developing diabetes in people at risk for the disease. With the onset of type 2 diabetes, the body’s ability to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels in check begins to diminish. Losing weight, exercising regularly, and eating well can help improve insulin sensitivity, protecting against diabetes or possibly halting its progression.
“In people with impaired glucose tolerance, group-based interventions targeting lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise produce a durable and long-lasting reduction in incidence of type 2 diabetes,” said the authors of a new study in the Lancet.
As part of the 20-year study, 577 people with impaired glucose tolerance (a prediabetic condition) were assigned to a control group (no intervention), or to one of three lifestyle intervention groups (diet, exercise, or diet plus exercise). The dietary intervention focused on eating more vegetables and consuming less sugar and alcohol. The exercise intervention concentrated on increasing leisure time physical activity.
The interventions lasted for 6 years; then the people were followed for 14 more to determine the long-term effects of the lifestyle changes on the risk of developing diabetes and related complications, including heart disease.
During the first 6 years, the people in the intervention groups had a 51% lower incidence of diabetes than did people in the control group. After 20 years, the intervention groups sustained a 43% lower diabetes incidence, and people in the intervention groups were diabetes-free for almost 4 years longer than people in the control group. The interventions did not seem to affect the risk of cardiovascular disease and other diabetic complications.
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 180 million people worldwide are living with diabetes. The risk of type 2 diabetes is higher in people with a family history of the disease; being overweight, having high triglycerides (a fat in the blood), and high blood pressure also raise risk.
Simple steps to protect your blood sugar
Dr. Leon Hecht, a New Hampshire naturopathic doctor specializing in diabetes, offers these tips for stabilizing blood sugar and avoiding diabetes and related problems.
- Focus your diet on whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean animal proteins, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Eat a larger breakfast and a smaller dinner.
- Each day, make one meal a large salad with all the fixings.
- Decrease foods with flour in them—this means all cakes, cookies, and breads—as these foods will raise your need for insulin, causing you to store fat.
- Aim to lose abdominal fat, as weight in this area is a principal risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
June 26, 2008
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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