Lose weight, lower your diabetes risk
Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can feel overwhelming. Research suggests the initial period after your diagnosis may be the most critical time to lose weight.
Dropping a few extra pounds may help you maintain better control over your blood pressure and blood sugar – even if you gain the weight back.
A four-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research was the first clinical study to indicate the health benefits of weight loss may remain even if patients regain weight.
According to the researchers, diabetes patients who lost weight within an average of 18 months after diagnosis were almost twice as likely to achieve their target glucose (also called blood sugar) and blood pressure readings. Surprisingly, these blood pressure and glucose targets were measured during the final year of the study and, by that time, most of the participants had gained back the weight.
“Our study shows that early weight loss can reduce the risk factors that so often lead to diabetes complications and death,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Adrianne Feldstein. “We’ve known for a long time that weight loss is an important component in diabetes treatment and prevention. Now it appears there may be a critical window of opportunity following diagnosis in which some lasting gains can be achieved if people are willing to take immediate steps toward lifestyle changes.”
Though the researchers aren’t sure exactly why the benefits of weight loss remained for the patients who regained the weight, they believe it may be related to increased insulin sensitivity. Christine Miller, a diabetes care educator, said losing weight after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may make the body more receptive to insulin. When a person loses weight, she says their cells often become more responsive to smaller amounts of insulin.
“While it is somewhat surprising that there were still benefits when patients regained the weight, it could be that the initial weight loss helped preserve the functioning of the pancreas,” Miller says.
Another possible explanation for the benefits the patients who dropped pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes received could be related to the lifestyle changes accompanying weight loss. Miller says that switching to a healthier meal plan can often improve blood sugar and blood pressure – even if no weight loss occurs.
“Eating proper portion sizes and including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet has often been shown to improve blood pressure and blood sugar control,” Miller says.
Managing blood sugar and blood pressure effectively may also prevent or delay the development of other health complications related to diabetes, such as heart and cardiovascular disease, blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage. Reducing these diabetes risks can help people enjoy longer and more active lives.
According to the American Diabetes Association, following a healthy meal plan should help you to drop those extra pounds or maintain a healthy weight. Whatever meal plan you choose to follow, the ADA suggests you include a wide variety of foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, poultry and fish.
Those living with diabetes need a diet that contains an optimal balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats. If you have type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic, losing just 7% of your weight can dramatically lower your risk for health complications.
Planning meals in advance is a great way to ensure you stick to a healthy, balanced eating regimen. The Meal Plan Map program simplifies meal planning so you can lose weight and lower your risk of diabetes and other health issues with less stress. Try out our Diabetes-Friendly guided meal plan for complete confidence that you’re on the right track to losing weight.
John McGran has been writing about health and weight loss for several national companies since 2000. He brings his knowledge of diets — and his passion for dropping pounds — to Meal Plan Map because he believes it is the future of smart, stress-free eating and improved health.