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How does changing my diet lower my risk for type 2 diabetes?

Dr. William E. Brown, MD
Internist

The risk factors for type 2 diabetes are: family history, age over 45, race/ethnic background, metabolic syndrome, inactivity, history of diabetes in pregnancy as well as several other medical conditions.

While some of these risk factors can not be changed, the other 50 percent can. Improving ones diet has direct implications on preventing the metabolic syndrome and changing one's cholesterol profile thereby lowering ones risks for developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Heart Association, the metabolic syndrome should be diagnosed in anyone having: a waist greater than 40" in men or greater than 35" in women, triglycerides greater than 150, HDL less than 40 for men or less than 50 for women, blood pressure greater than 130/85 and a fasting blood sugar greater than 100. Triglycerides and HDL are components of the cholesterol profile. While it is recommended to keep triglycerides less than 150, the higher the HDL the better.

Eating a nutrient, protein and fiber rich diet deplete of excess carbohydrates, simple sugars, salt and saturated fats promotes weight loss, lowers blood pressure and improves your cholesterol profile. Combining dietary modification with a progressive exercise regimen enhances the effect, further improving blood pressure control, weight loss and insulin resistance. This is the mechanism whereby changing your diet lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes may be able to prevent diabetes with weight loss, healthy eating and exercise.

One of the most famous studies that looked at the prevention of type 2 diabetes is called the Diabetes Prevention Plan study or DPP. Scientists studied whether changing lifestyle habits, such as choosing healthier foods and physical activity, or taking diabetes medication could delay or prevent type 2 diabetes in people at high risk for the disease. The study ended a year early, when scientists discovered some amazing results!

DPP study results:

  • People who lost about 7 percent of their body weight through eating well and increasing their physical activity (30 minutes a day five times a week) had a 58 percent lower incidence of diabetes than people who took a placebo (dummy pill).
  • People in the study who took the diabetes medication metformin had 31 percent lower incidence of diabetes than people who took a placebo.

Find out if you are at risk for prediabetes or diabetes at www.diabetes.org/risktest.

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Research shows that being overweight or obese puts us at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The kind of food we eat and the timing of our meals can make a difference in our weight and blood sugar levels. For example, eating small frequent meals with half of the plate filled with non-starchy vegetables instead of loading up on white rice, bread and sweets will have a positive effect when it comes to diabetes prevention. It is important to balance out the amount of carbohydrate containing food throughout the day. Keep in mind a healthy lifestyle includes a healthy diet in conjunction with regular physical activity to significantly lower diabetes risk.

Continue Learning about Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.