January 2014 Issue

5 Steps to Beat Type 2 Diabetes

Of the more than 23 million Americans who have type 2 diabetes, 7 million don’t even know they have it. Another 79 million adult Americans have pre-diabetes, and the prevalence of both disorders is growing. Unless trends change, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. will have diabetes by the year 2050. Diabetes complications can lead to heart disease, stroke, eye problems, kidney disease, and nerve damage. But you don’t have to be part of these grim statistics.

Insulin resistance, the inability of liver, fat and muscle cells to use insulin properly, characterizes both type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Insulin’s job is to usher excess glucose (blood sugar) from the blood and into the cells, where it’s used as energy or stored for later use. Your genes influence your risk of insulin resistance, but consuming a poor diet, and being overweight or inactive are risk factors you can control. Here’s how you can beat type 2 diabetes:

1. Drop a few pounds. In the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a study of more than 3,000 people at high risk for type 2 diabetes, researchers learned that weight loss and increased physical activity could prevent or delay the onset of the disease. The DPP participants aimed to lose seven percent of their body weight (14 pounds for someone starting at 200 pounds). In this three-year study, participants reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Even 10 years after the start of the study, lifestyle interventions lowered the risk by one-third.

2. Eat healthy fats. The type of fat you eat matters. Ditch saturated and trans fats (fatty red meats, butter) in favor of the good-for-you unsaturated fats, such as avocados and olive oil. The unhealthy saturated and trans fats appear to worsen insulin resistance.
Snack on a handful of nuts instead of cheese doodles.
When baking, replace ¼ cup of butter with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, such as olive or canola oil.
Substitute all or half of the butter in your recipe with canola oil.
Check food labels for the presence of partially hydrogenated oils. Choose packaged foods with non-hydrogenated canola, soybean and olive oils instead.

3. Limit sugary drinks. Sugary drinks are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, presumably because the excess calories lead to weight gain. Drink water, flavored water, unsweetened iced tea and coffee instead of sugary sodas, lemonade, sweet tea and others.

4. Eat whole grains. Some studies show that eating more whole grains is associated with less risk of diabetes. Switch a few daily servings of refined grains for whole grains.

5. Be active. Engage in moderate physical activity, such as walking for 150 minutes each week. It helps with weight control and improves insulin resistance.  — Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE