You’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes – Type 2 diabetes. What do you do?
Take action now, research suggests. “If you make lifestyle changes immediately, you may be able to lower your blood sugar [glucose] to the level where you are no longer defined as having diabetes,” states Dr. James Barnard, UCLA distinguished professor emeritus and author of more than 190 studies on nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention.
Major lifestyle changes like the Pritikin Program are likely to be more effective than medications in reducing the risk of complications associated with diabetes.
Landmark research that Dr. Barnard and colleagues published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care reported the results of 652 people with Type 2 diabetes who changed their lifestyles by attending the Pritikin Longevity Center.(1)
The 652 diabetics were divided into three groups:
1) Those who were newly diagnosed and in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes (not yet taking pills): 243 people.
2) Those who were taking pills to control their diabetes: 197 people.
3) Those who were in the advanced stages of Type 2 diabetes, and were on insulin injections: 212 people.
The 243 newly diagnosed diabetics had, without question, the best results. Within three weeks of adopting the eating and exercise guidelines of the Pritikin Program, their blood glucose was reduced from an average of 164 down to 124. Fully 76% left Pritikin with their diabetes diagnosis reversed.
Most of the 197 diabetics on pills also responded well. More than 70% significantly lowered their blood glucose and had their medications discontinued within three weeks of starting the Pritikin Program.
The results achieved by the Type 2 diabetics on insulin injections were not as dramatic, but still impressive. Nearly 40% left Pritikin no longer needing their insulin shots. With Pritikin lifestyle changes alone, they had done a remarkable job of controlling their blood sugars.
The Need For Early Emphasis
The study was subtitled: “The Need For Early Emphasis.” States Dr. Barnard: “It’s very clear from this study’s results that if we can get people early and get them started on healthy lifestyle changes, we can actually reverse the disease of diabetes.”
Reduced Risk of Complications
“Major lifestyle changes like the Pritikin Program are also likely to be more effective than medications in reducing the risk of complications associated with diabetes, including hypertension and coronary heart disease,” continues Dr. Barnard.
This is a very important benefit. Individuals with Type 2 diabetes are at two to four times the risk for heart disease compared to non-diabetics. They are also at increased risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, the complications of diabetes can be catastrophic. Initiating lifestyle changes like the Pritikin Program can be life-saving.
Other important research has also documented the effectiveness of healthy lifestyle change in preventing and/or controlling diabetes…
Diabetes Prevention Project
In the Diabetes Prevention Project, more than 3,000 overweight men and women with elevated blood glucose (they were diagnosed as having pre-diabetes) were studied.(2) Scientists at George Washington University randomized them into three different groups: lifestyle change, medication, or control (placebo).
The lifestyle-change group involved a lower-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables and 150 minutes a week of brisk walking, similar to the Pritikin Program
After three years, those in the lifestyle-change group reduced their risk of developing full-blown diabetes by 58% compared to the control group. Lifestyle changes worked particularly well for participants aged 60 and older, reducing their risk by 71%.
Participants in the medication group (they were taking metformin) reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 31%.
“Lifestyle intervention was significantly more effective than metformin,” concluded lead author William C. Knowler, MD.
“Participants assigned to the lifestyle intervention group had much greater weight loss and a greater increase in physical activity than did the participants assigned to receive metformin or placebo.”
After 10 years of follow-up, the lifestyle intervention group still had the lowest number of individuals who had progressed to becoming diabetic.(3)
Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study
Results from a similar study conducted in Finland on 827 pre-diabetic individuals, called the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, also proved the preventive power of eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising at least 30 minutes daily.(4)
After three years, those in the lifestyle intervention group were 54% less likely to develop diabetes compared to those in the control group.
China Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Study
Major research in China, as well, affirmed the long-term benefits of diet and exercise in helping those with elevated blood sugars, or pre-diabetes, halt the progression to Type 2 diabetes.(5)
National Institutes of Health
A recent report (2011) from the National Institutes of Health also underscored the benefits of healthy lifestyle change. The report suggested that up to 80% of all cases of Type 2 diabetes in the United States could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle that included proper diet, regular exercise, normal body weight, not smoking, and alcohol in moderation.
“Don’t wait,” urges Danine Fruge, MD, Associate Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
“If you’ve been recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, start changing your lifestyle by exercising daily and eating well. Enjoy lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, as we recommend here at Pritikin. The benefits – and we see them every day here at Pritikin – truly are amazing.”
1. Diabetes Care, 1994; 17: 1469.
2. New England Journal of Medicine, 2002; 346: 393.
3. The Lancet, 2009; 374: 1677.
4. New England Journal of Medicine, 2001; 344: 1343.
5. Diabetes Care, 1997; 20: 537.