Diabetes Diet Tips - Do You Really Need To Follow A Diabetic Diet

by Michelle Spencer - Date: 2010-04-08 - Word Count: 833 Share This!

A couple of years ago, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine undertook a survey to examine what effects being overweight had on diabetes. The objective of the survey was to help a control group lose about 7 percent of the excess bodyweight and monitor the impact it had on their diabetes symptoms.

The main difference this study had over others of a similar nature was how they planned to help the diabetics achieve their weight loss. They did not place the participants on any kind of diabetic diet. The plan was to follow a healthy lifestyle rather than adopt any kind of 'type 2 diabetes diet'.

At a little over 6 months into the study, all of the participants in the control group had over achieved on their weight loss goals, having lost an average of 10 percent body fat.

The study noted that the corresponding reduction in blood sugar levels of the members of the group were particularly impressive.

Remarkable Results

Participants in the study, officially called the Diabetes Obesity Intervention Trial (DO IT), were given basic dietary guidelines to follow, and then they made their own choices about what to eat. Each week, a dietitian offered suggestions on how to make the meals and snacks they were eating slightly healthier. The idea was to improve the participants' current eating habits here and there, a little at a time, instead of trying to get them to adopt a whole new diabetic diet or way of eating.

The other key component of the study was physical activity. Here, too, the goal was not to start an exercise 'program' as such, but to introduce more activity into people's everyday routines, starting with small amounts of walking and gradually building more steps into each day.

For six months, the participants went about their normal lives while applying the principles of the plan. Then they went to the clinic for an extensive series of tests and evaluations that required an overnight stay - something they had done at the start of the study as well. One of those tests (not available at your doctor's surgery but used by researchers) is for insulin sensitivity, and indicates how well cells are able to use insulin.

Six months later the participants returned to the lab again. The results were nothing short of spectacular. By sticking to simple guidelines, the study participants:

Exceeded the 7 per cent weight-loss goal, losing an average of 10 per cent of body weight after six months.

Kept weight off through to the end of the year-long study. Although average weight bounced back slightly, on average, the participants were still more than 8 per cent below their starting weights after a year.

Reduced their fasting blood glucose from an average of 9.4mmol/l - well into dangerously elevated territory - to 6.9mmol/l, which crosses the border into non-diabetes territory. That's a significant 2.5 point difference.

Brought their hemoglobin Alc levels (a measure of blood glucose averages over a three-month period) down from an average of 8 (typical for people with diabetes) to 6.7, which is below the goal of 7.

Improved their insulin sensitivity by fivefold in some cases and, in many cases, by twofold. Because the sophisticated laboratory tests for insulin sensitivity are not generally available you won't be able to check your own sensitivity improvement, but if you have better sugar control with less medication, your sensitivity will have improved.

Were able to stop taking medication. This was true for 18 of 25 people who were taking drugs at the start of the study.

Matched the weight loss of a control group that followed the plan and also took the weight-loss drug orlistat (Xenical). By using entirely natural methods, participants in this study achieved the same results as people who tried to get a boost from a weight-loss drug.

Not everyone can expect these exact results, of course. For research purposes, none of the participants weighed more than 136kg (21st 41b) - the laboratory measuring equipment couldn't cope with people heavier than this. To enable researchers to tell which results came from lifestyle changes, none of the participants was on insulin. Those who were on medication needed to be able to come off their regimens for the study and safely maintain fasting blood glucose levels under 11.1 mmol/1 - well above the level of 7mmol/l that indicates diabetes, but low enough not to pose acute danger.

Regardless of these factors, though, anyone with Type 2 diabetes can significantly benefit from the approach used in the study.

As if the results of the DO IT study aren't impressive enough, there's even more you can do to bring blood sugar down naturally and reduce your risk of diabetes-related health problems. These measures won't necessarily help you to lose weight, but they will help to lower your blood sugar levels. They include:

Relaxation techniques which help to improve your glucose control by reducing levels of 'stress hormones' that raise blood sugar.

Improving sleep patterns and battling sleep deprivation, which has been linked to increased insulin resistance.

Simple strength training exercises that build muscle and boost your metabolism, so you'll burn more calories.

Related Tags: diabetes diet, diabetic diet, blood sugar, diabetes diet tips, insulin sensitivity

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