If you think that you are at risk for developing diabetes, you’ll find this article very heartening and useful. From the new book Food Synergy, by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, it highlights the details of what you can do.
Several recent studies have shown that when people take the following five steps, they achieve greater weight loss and improve their glucose and insulin concentrations, compared with control subjects. One recent study led by Jaakko Tuomilehto, MD, of the National Public Health Institute in Helsinik, Finland, showed that key lifestyle changes reduced the risk of progression to diabetes by a striking 58 percent over four years in overweight people with impaired glucose tolerance.
1. Get as close to your ideal weight as possible. The low incidence of diabetes in people who lost at least 5 percent of their initial weight underscores the importance of even small weight loss when trying to prevent diabetes, according to results from the Helsinki study. Obesity is the most notable modifiable risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes; in fact, more than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
2. Increase physical activity. Both weight loss and improved fitness have been associated with the reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes. And even if it doesn’t result in weight loss, regular exercise seems to pay off. For the study participants who did not lose weight, tallying more than four hours of exercise a week was still associated with significantly less diabetes risk.
3. Eat less saturated and total fat. Not only do saturated fats tend to raise blood levels of LDL cholesterol (and high LDL is is associated with heart disease), but meals high in animal fat (much of which is saturated) stimulates higher blood sugar in some people. Some researchers think that in these people, fat-laden meals make insulin less effective. Avoiding high-fat meals also makes caloric sense because each gram of dietary fat contributes 9 calories, compared with the 4 calories contributed by each gram of protein or carbohydrate.
4. Keep excess calories to a healthy minimum. One of the keys to losing extra weight and maintaining a healthy weight is to keep excess calories to a minimum. It’s when we eat more calories than we can burn day after day that ensures the extra pounds will accumulate.
5. Increase dietary fiber. Eating too little fiber day after day has been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (as well as cancer, obesity, and heart disease). Fiber, particularly soluble fiber (the type that dissolves in water and forms a gel), helps regulate blood sugar, possibly by slowing down the absorption of other nutrients, including carbohydrates, eaten at the same meal.
Adapted from Food Synergy, by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, (Rodale, 2007).