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Can Diet and Lifestyle Changes Prevent Diabetes in Prediabetics? - Prediabetes Wellness

Can Diet and Lifestyle Changes Prevent Diabetes in Prediabetics?

The Right Approach to Prediabetes

Type II diabetes is difficult to treat, so it is important to take the right steps for prevention.  A number of medications have been presented to help in the prevention of diabetes, but the results need to be weighed against the side effects and cost of this approach. Some of the most effective medications have been removed or restricted based on negative side effects.

Diet and lifestyle is not only the safer option, but it has been shown to be twice as effective as the safest available medication.³ The necessary changes are not as difficult as you might think. Small, but consistent, adjustments can make an impact on your risk of diabetes and its crippling side effects.

Small Change, Big Difference

The question of whether or not diet and lifestyle can help delay or prevent diabetes has been answered by 3 large, landmark studies¹²³. Even though each of these studies posted a small change in weight, the reductions in risk of diabetes was significant. One study showed diet and lifestyle intervention reduce the risk of diabetes by 42% while the other 2 studies both showed a 58% reduction compared to the control group.

Low Fat or Low Carb

Contrary to what most people today would guess, the prescribed diet in all three of these studies was low fat.  Calorie reduction was also a hallmark of all three diet interventions. The goal of the diet was weight reduction and the researchers felt the best chances were with a low fat diet.

Many people believe eating more carbs will increase blood sugar issues. This is largely because we eat mostly highly refined carbs in the form of refined flour, processed sugars and fried, starchy potatoes. These forms of carbs make it difficult to control our blood sugar and can lead to weight gain.

Whole food sources of carbohydrates are generally high in fiber which can help balance blood sugar and fight hunger. Therefore, a low fat diet full of whole food sources will be the best approach if you choose a low fat diet. Instead of restricting your diet, a whole food diet opens you to a whole new world of foods that taste great. A whole foods diet can introduce new, fresh dishes to share with family and friends .

Changing 3% Can Significantly Reduce the Risk of Diabetes

Of these three studies, none of them asked the participants to do more than 30 minutes of physical activity every day. This 3% of your waking hours can mean the difference between facing diabetes in the future or taking back control of prediabetes now. The exercise requirements in these studies were also not intense.  The general recommendation was to do exercise that would be equal to 30 minutes of brisk walking.

Exercise can be fun and is best enjoyed with friends and family. Rediscover some of your favorite activities such as volleyball, tennis or swimming. Being active won’t only lower your risk for diabetes but it will make you feel more energy throughout the day and give you a greater sense of well-being. Exercise might even make you happier.

Overcoming Genetic Influence

What if even genes couldn’t determine your fate of diabetes? It is easy to believe that we have no control over what will happen with our health, especially if we have a family history of diabetes. There is mounting evidence that even our genetic predisposition is no match for diet and lifestyle changes. In 2 of these landmark studies mentioned above the researchers showed that diet and lifestyle was able to significantly reduce risk of those genetically prone to have diabetes.4

Taking the Right Steps

When beginning your own journey to reduce your risk of diabetes consider getting some extra help. One of the shortcomings of these three studies was the amount of intervention needed to achieve the results.  This means you too will likely need consistent advice from trusted sources to stay on track. It is always best to enter this journey with a partner that will hold you accountable and keep you moving forward.  You may also need to be under the care of a health care practitioner that can give you the guidance needed to make sure you are moving in the right direction. Check with your insurance provider and find out what services they will cover. If needed, you can get a referral from your primary doctor or specialist.

It is best to start any journey with someone else. If you and a friend or family member can wake up an extra 1/2 hour earlier, and go for a brisk walk, you will change the course of both of your lives. You can also keep each other accountable, teach each other new recipes and share the struggles together. If you can’t find someone close that is ready for the change, join a group of people just like you that are motivated to start a new health  journey.

You have more control then you think but it will take some initial momentum to get you going in the right direction. Leave a comment below or let us know how we can help you with the next step on your journey.

1.  Tuomilehto, Jaakko, et al. “Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance.” New England Journal of Medicine 344.18 (2001): 1343-1350.
3. Lifshitz, Fima, and Judith G. Hall. “Reduction in the incidence of type II diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin.” J Med 346 (2002): 393-403.
4.  Dagogo-Jack, Samuel, Nonso Egbuonu, and Chimaroke Edeoga. “Principles and practice of nonpharmacological interventions to reduce cardiometabolic risk.” Medical Principles and Practice 19.3 (2010): 167-175.

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