I had a blood test at my doctor’s office, and my blood sugar was a little high. She said that I didn’t have diabetes, and that if I lose weight and exercise, I can probably get my blood sugar under control. Where do I begin?
Shedding some weight, exercising and eating a better diet may be just the lifestyle changes needed to lower your risk of getting diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Tuomilehto, J., et.al. Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus By Changes In Lifestyle Among Subjects With Impaired Glucose Tolerance. NEJM 2001;344:1343-50).
In this study, over 500 individuals with impaired glucose (blood sugar) tolerance (which means that their blood sugar was higher than it should be, but not in the category of full-blown diabetes) were divided into two groups: the control group and the intervention group. The control group received only general, written information about diet and exercise, whereas those in the intervention group met regularly with a nutritionist to receive tailored guidance to help achieve the following lifestyle goals:
- Lose 5 percent or more of their body weight.
- Keep their fat intake to no more than 30 percent of their daily calories.
- Keep their saturated fat (the heart-unhealthy type) to less than 10 percent of their daily calories.
- Consume 15 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. (If a person consumed 2,000 calories, their goal was to eat 30 grams of fiber.)
- Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes daily.
The individuals were also advised to eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk and meat products, soft margarine and vegetables oils rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. (By the way, if some of the above looks familiar to you, it should. Much of it is the same dietary advice that is currently being recommended in the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines For Americans.)
While the average weight loss was small in the intervention group (less than 10 pounds), the results show that the risk of diabetes was 58 percent lower in the intervention group than in the control group during the study. Interestingly, the authors found that those who achieved more of these lifestyle goals had a lower incidence of diabetes, no matter which group they were in. The authors of the study concluded that lifestyle changes may prevent the onset of diabetes in individuals at risk for this disease.
You may want to meet with your own nutrition expert, a registered dietitian, for a tailor-made, personalized plan to help you lose your excess weight, eat more healthfully and commit to a regular exercise regime. Look for one at your local hospital outpatient department or by contacting the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org.