A few months ago (March 2005), the American Diabetes Association announced the findings of the comprehensive Diabetes Prevention Program. The DPP was conducted at over 25 medical centers nationwide and involved thousands of participants who volunteered to have their habits monitored and to follow dietary and exercise recommendations. All participants had been diagnosed with ‘pre-diabetes’, a condition where the blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet in diabetic ranges. Untreated, more than half of those people diagnosed with pre-diabetes will develop full-blown type 2 diabetes within a decade.
For the study, the participants were divided into two groups. One half were given dietary recommendations. The other half got the same dietary recommendations, plus the recommendation to exercise at least 30 minutes daily, five times a week.
The results? Those who included daily exercise in their routines and followed the diet recommendations cut their risk of developing diabetes by 58%. The reason? Those who made the recommended changes in their lifestyle lost ‘a moderate amount’ of weight. Even more important, researchers found something that they didn’t expect. Those in the treatment group had a substantial chance of reducing their blood sugar level to normal, something that had been assumed was impossible.
Apparently, losing weight not only prevents a worsening of diabetes, it reverses the damage that obesity causes to the cells that produce insulin.
How much weight loss does it take to have an effect on the progression of diabetes? The key is in the definition of ‘a moderate weight loss’ – 5-7% of your body weight. In other words, depending on your boy weight, a loss of as little as 7-10 pounds can make a difference!
The recommendations suggested by the American Diabetes Society for a healthy diet to prevent diabetes is an ideal diet for steady, gradual weight loss – the kind of weight loss that stays lost. The diet includes the following suggested daily diet allowances:
* Grain – 6-11 servings per day (Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta)
* Vegetables – 3-5 servings per day
* Fruits – 2-4 servings per day
* Milk – 2-3 servings per day
* Meat – 4-6 ounces per day (Meat, eggs, fish, dried beans, nuts and peanut butter)
* Fats, Sweets, Alcohol – Occasional treats
(Recommendations for portions are based on gender and activity level. For instance, a sedentary 40 year old woman needs fewer portions than an active 25-year-old woman.)
Look familiar? It’s also the dietary recommendation for the Heart Healthy diet from the American Heart Association, and the recommendations from the USDA’s new MyPyramid. The results just keep coming in, but the message is clear: losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet can help prevent most major health problems. Why wait till you’re diagnosed? Start today – and it may never happen.