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Quinn on Nutrition: Steps to prevent diabetes

Monterey County Herald (CA)


Got a call from a family member ... from his wife actually. She explained that his doctor was concerned about the results from his recent blood tests.

"His doctor told us he has 'pre-diabetes,'" she said. "Should we worry?"

Sure enough, his lab results confirm the diagnosis of pre-diabetes: A fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125. And an A1C test between 5.7 to 6.4.

Numbers higher than these indicate type 2 diabetes. Which explains why this condition is called "pre-diabetes" _ blood sugar (glucose) levels that are too high ... but not yet high enough to be called diabetes.

And yes, he should worry. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, up to half the people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

So how do we stop pre-diabetes from turning into full-fledged type 2 diabetes? The answer comes from solid research from a landmark study called the Diabetes Prevention Program.

In this study of people with pre-diabetes, those who took a medication called metformin reduced their risk for developing diabetes by 31 percent. But hold the presses. Those who made changes in their lifestyle reduced their risk by 58 percent. And people who made lifestyle changes who were over the age of 60 lessened their risk for diabetes by a whopping 71 percent.

These are the lifestyle changes that helped prevent diabetes in this now-famous study:

Lose some weight if you are overweight. Even a modest 5 to 10 percent weight loss significantly lowered risk.

Cut the extra fat from your diet. Diabetes risk went down when these people ate not more than a third of their daily calories from fat.

Especially cut out saturated fat. Why? Saturated fat contributes to insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes.

Eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day. In other words, a high fiber diet rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains and other plant foods helped to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Exercise at least 150 minutes every week. Like a potent diabetes medication, moving muscles use up glucose from the blood and improve the action of insulin. Because of how they benefit blood sugar levels and the body's use of insulin, exercise and weight loss are extremely effective in treating pre-diabetes, says endocrinologist Dr. James Chu.

And the best diet to prevent diabetes? "The new hot thing is balance," says registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Marilyn Uwate.

What a novel idea. And with an estimated 1 of every 3 people in the United States now with pre-diabetes, we might want to take this a bit seriously.


(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at


(c)2014 The Monterey County Herald

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