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Five Ways to Manage Diabetes with Nutrition

June 27, 2019

As a general internist and obesity specialist at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, I recently had the great honor of serving as a co-chair on a panel that wrote the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Consensus Report on Nutrition Therapy for Adults with Diabetes or Prediabetes. The report provides guidance to practitioners and people with diabetes and prediabetes to help them achieve optimal diabetes management, reduce complications, and improve quality of life.

Will Yancy at ADA Presentation Nutrition Consensus Report.jpg

Dr. William Yancy ADA Medical Nutrition Therapy 2019
Dr. Will Yancy at the ADA nutrition consensus report symposium in early June, 2019.

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While the report covered nutritional strategies for a broad range of topics, here are five key points from the nutrition consensus statement:

1. Personalized nutrition plans for diabetes are effective

There is not one single recommended nutrition plan for all people with diabetes (or prediabetes) given the broad spectrum of people affected and the various nutritional approaches that have been shown to be safe and effective. Because of this, the statement recommended that macronutrient distribution (the proportion of calories from carbohydrate, fat, and protein) should be personalized to each patient.

2. Reducing overall carbohydrate intake is important

While several eating patterns have shown effective for managing diabetes, the consensus statement recognized that reducing overall carbohydrate intake has the most evidence for improving blood sugar control and may be applied in a variety of eating patterns to meet an individual’s needs and preferences. For example, some people may choose to follow a very low carbohydrate eating pattern while others may choose a lower carbohydrate version of a Mediterranean eating pattern.

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3. There are four key factors for effective eating patterns 

Even though widely different eating patterns (for example, meat-based diets or vegetarian diets) have been effective in research studies, four key factors were quite consistent among the many eating patterns:

  • Emphasize non-starchy vegetables
  • Minimize added sugars and refined grains
  • Choose whole foods over highly processed foods to the extent possible
  • Replace sugar-sweetened beverages with water as often as possible.

4. Weight loss improves blood sugar control

 In people whose weight is above goal, weight loss was emphasized as a highly important strategy to improve blood sugar control in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and to prevent diabetes in people with prediabetes. It also improves other health issues that might be present like high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, arthritis, and sleep apnea.

" For people with type 2 diabetes, research shows that nutrition therapy can result in blood sugar control that is similar to, or better than treatment that uses medication." Dr. Will Yancy, Medical Director of the Duke Diet & Fitness Center.

5. For type 2 diabetes, nutrition therapy has similar or better results than medication

For people with type 2 diabetes, research shows that nutrition therapy can result in blood sugar control that is similar to, or better than treatment that uses medication!

You can read more about the ADA’s Nutrition Consensus Statement here.

The Duke Diet and Fitness Center can assist with goals related to diabetes and nutrition. Discover 1-4 week residential-style personalized programs for optimal weight loss, fitness, diet, and behavioral health. To learn more about how the Duke Diet and Fitness Center can help you, visit dukedietandfitness.org or call 800-235-3853.

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Dr. William S. Yancy Jr. is the program director for the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. Dr. Yancy received his undergraduate degree from Duke University, his medical degree from East Carolina University, was a resident and Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and earned a Master’s in Health Sciences degree from Duke.  He is a Research Scientist in Health Services Research and Co-director of the MOVE! Weight Management program at the Durham VA Medical Center. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a physician in the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. He is a fellow of The Obesity Society, member of the Obesity Medicine Association and a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He has performed multiple clinical trials investigating the safety, effectiveness, tolerability, and feasibility of diets and medications for weight loss. He has received several awards for his research as well as the Duke University School of Medicine Excellence in Professionalism Award.

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