Diet vs. drugs in diabetes management

September 27, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

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When it comes to the management of type 2 diabetes, the appropriate diet may actually “trump up” medications.

Researchers in New Zealand looked at 94 high-risk diabetes patients which were split into 2 groups. All patients received optimal medical care for diabetes but one group received regular one-to-one dietary advice from a dietician. The advice did not focus on a strict diabetic diet but was customized to the needs of each individual patient based on socio-economic and cultural circumstances.

The study lasted for 6 months and at the end of the study period, patients who received dietary advice showed significant improvements in terms of glycemic control. Some of the patients in this group were even able to reduce their doses of hypoglycemic drugs or insulin.

According to lead author Kirstin Coppell:

“The patients in our study were already under intensive drug treatment to optimise their glycaemic control, which remained unsatisfactory. We found that by also following carefully tailored dietary advice they could significantly improve this control.”

In addition, the group who had dietary advice also experienced reduction in body weight and abdominal fat, with an average weight loss of 2.1 kg and 3 cm waistline reduction.

Over the years, anti-diabetic drugs have been developed to help patients with diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels. But with time, the efficacy of these medications wanes as insulin resistance increases. No matter how intensive the drug therapy maybe, control of blood sugar levels eventually deteriorates.

“Since the widespread introduction of anti-diabetic drugs, the traditional focus on diet and lifestyle in managing diabetes has faded into the background. Our findings suggest that there needs to be a renewed focus on these elements if we want to improve diabetes outcomes.”

The study, aptly called Lifestyle Over and Above Drugs in Diabetes (LOADD), shows that lifestyle changes in terms of modifying eating habits compliment the effect of medications and bring more benefits to the diabetes patient. However, making the step towards this change and sticking to it is not an easy task. It is thus necessary to have the guidance of health professionals such as a dietician as well as a strong support group to sustain this lifestyle.

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