Better Than Meds
A new study adds to the growing body of convincing evidence that diabetes can be controlled by lifestyle changes.
What’s new in this published research is that diet and exercise kept the debilitating disease away for a decade in more than a third of those most susceptible more effectively than prescription drugs.
About 24 million Americans, children and adults, have diabetes, primarily Type 2, which comes from a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to properly use sugar, instead letting it circulate in the bloodstream where it can destroy arteries and organs and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Type 2 diabetes usually develops in middle age, with 80 percent of adults being overweight. Low protein and fiber intake as well as a high intake of refined products are presumed to lead to the development of diabetes. Stress is also a contributor.
About 57 million people who are overweight have a pre-diabetic condition with elevated levels of blood sugar. The new researched published in today’s issue of The Lancet, shows that losing weight and exercising can fight diabetes more effectively than prescription drugs, typically metformin.
For this study, more than 3,000 overweight or obese adults, who had elevated blood sugar levels were assigned to either a placebo, lifestyle changes, or metformin groups.
After a decade, those remaining in the trial who were taking metformin saw an 18 percent drop in the rate of developing diabetes compared to those in the placebo group.
But the group that had made the lifestyle changes – exercising at least 150 minutes per week and reducing both calorie and fat intake – had reduced the risk of diabetes by 34 percent.
The research was done out of the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.
According to study author, Dr. William Knowler, “Interventions that result in weight loss lower the risk of diabetes, and that lower risk appears to persist for a long period of time.”
As if lowering the risk of diabetes wasn’t enough. The exercising group lost an average of 15 pounds and over ten years, regaining all but five pounds. People on metformin also lost five pounds. Those participants on the placebo lost less than two pounds over 10 years.
Eventually the participants all made lifestyle changes and the annual diabetes incidence dropped to equal the original lifestyle group.
"Lifestyle intervention, even when provided later, also seemed to lower diabetes incidence rate," Knowler said.
Dr. Knowler acknowledges telling someone to lose weight or change their lifestyle usually doesn’t work. He suggests weight loss clinics that can teach and motivate about diet and exercise.
The National Institutes of Health has a publication, “4 Steps to control Your Diabetes. For Life” for those newly diagnosed.
In developing countries, incidence of diabetes is seeing a rapid rise and Dr. Anoop Misra, author of an accompanying journal editorial, says prevention of diabetes is important globally.
In particular, regulations should apply for advertisement and sale of energy-dense junk food to children, and regular physical activity should be encouraged starting at a young age. Spreading awareness about proper lifestyle and adverse consequences of obesity and diabetes should be at the top of health agenda of all nations," Misra said. #