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Weight loss: the key to managing and even preventing diabetes

Yet another reason to add weight loss to your lists of New Year’s resolutions: shedding excess pounds can help with the management of diabetes and even prevent the disease in the first place. Weight loss can help prevent many lifelong diseases, including diabetes. If you already have diabetes, dropping pounds can help your body better manage blood glucose levels, reducing your chances of serious complications.

“When someone has diabetes, it affects how well their body can use insulin,” says Denise Bennett, R.D., clinical lead of diabetes education at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. “We know that decreasing body fat can play a major role in helping them use their insulin hormone more efficiently and that will help them manage their glucose better.”

The problem with excess body fat is that blood moves more slowly through fat than it does through lean muscle tissue. “In fact, if we looked at a muscle next to fat, the muscle would be bright red because of good blood flow,” explains Bennett. “However, the fat tissue would be globular-looking and would have very slight red, showing the fact that there’s not good blood flow. “Because insulin travels through our blood and then hooks into different receptor sites that are on our muscle cell walls, the blood flow that’s being hindered by having more body fat on board can affect how the body efficiently utilizes insulin,” she adds.

“If a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, for type 2 diabetes particularly, at least 95 percent of those people are overweight,” she explains. “Typically, they are not getting enough physical activity.” Diabetes educators like Bennett address both diet and exercise with their patients because these lifestyle factors play such a key role in the management of blood glucose levels.

The three keys to a diet plan for someone with diabetes would be to look at what foods they are eating, eat more fiber and watch their fat intake. They should also watch how much food they’re eating and when they eat. If meals are several hours apart, a diabetic may need to include snacks in their meal plan to keep blood glucose levels steady.   People diagnosed with prediabetes should also be vigilant about their meal plan, says Bennett. This, coupled with regular exercise, can help patients lose weight and even prevent the onset of diabetes.

In addition to meal planning, exercise is crucial for those with diabetes because not only does it help with weight loss, it can actually help the body utilize insulin more efficiently for a full 24 hours afterward. Bennett recommends that patients work up to 30 minutes a day of moderately-paced activity. “This would help them manage their insulin more effectively,” she says. “Also, their goal could be related to putting off the diagnosis of diabetes for several years or even decades of their life, or perhaps even preventing diabetes altogether.”

For more information, visit the Diabetes Resource Center at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital or Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

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