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Diet, Goals, and Diabetes

By Anne Ballard, Ph.D.

WebMD recently published an article on some Danish research that tracked a significant number (874) of people with Type 2 diabetes over 6 years.  This is the type of diabetes that generally develops in adults and is associated with being overweight and sedentary.  This in turn may further increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and circulatory problems.

In the experiment (which has not been replicated), one group continued regular diabetes care, including routine doctor visits and annual testing.  The second group saw their doctor every three months, and talked in detail with him/her about treatment goals for fasting blood sugar levels, diastolic blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the blood test called "HbA1c."  A set of three levels (good, acceptable, and poor control) was established for each measure, and the patients worked with the doctor towards the "good control" in each measure as a goal.

To get to these goals, the subjects in the second group were also given these diet guidelines:

  • Increase complex carbohydrates to at least 50% of diet and in particular increase water-soluble fiber
  • Reduce fat content to maximum of 30%
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Eat 5-6 smaller meals a day
  • Increase physical exercise

At the end of the six years, the people who followed these guidelines and tracked their progress with their doctor significantly improved on the four measures, to a level previously been shown to reduce complications associated with diabetes.  Similiar lifestyle changes are frequently recommended both for control of diabetes and for individuals at risk for diabetes.  

From the article, it wasn't clear how much relative emphasis the researchers placed on the goal setting, frequent meetings with a doctor, or changes in lifestyle.   The frequent meetings and review of measurable goals may have helped to motivate the individuals to stay within the diet/exercise guidelines.

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