Diabetes Management: Recent Studies Reinforce Observations [PCRM]

Recent studies suggest a diet low in fat and sodium, with an emphasis on plant-based foods is the key to both diabetes prevention and management of the disease.

The International Conference on Diabetes met last month to discuss new dietary recommendations for management of the disorder, which affects an estimated 371 million people around the world. The conference welcomed a panel of 35 world-renowned experts in the field from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, University of Bern, University of Bristol, Kaiser Permanente, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the German Diabetes Center.

Experts presented information supporting a diet which emphasizes low-fat, low-glycemic, plant-based foods along with vitamin B12 supplements. Recommendations also include a restriction on sodium intake, a known culprit in developing additional health problems, to a maximum of 1,500 milligrams daily. A recent study found that diabetics with high sodium intake (average of 6,000 milligrams daily) were twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to those with low sodium intake (average 2,800 milligrams per day).

At the conference, jointly sponsored by the George Washington University School of Medicine and Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., researchers noted the main cause of an increase in diabetic patients: a decline in healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

The Future of Diabetes Treatment

Researches have long understood the connection between type 2 diabetes and diet. More than half of the 29 million sufferers in the United States patients are obese and report a lack of fruits and vegetables in their diet, often with improvements upon adopting a healthier lifestyle. Nearly 18 million new cases of diabetes are expected by 2015 and a staggering 51.7 million by 2030. On average, patients with type 2 diabetes will see their life expectancy reduced by a decade. With these numbers suggesting a worrisome future for our nation, experts hope the well-understood importance of diet in diabetes management will soon lead to practical changes in treatment of the condition.

The International Conference on Diabetes emphasized the importance of diet in both preventing and managing diabetes.

The International Conference on Diabetes emphasized the importance of healthy diet in both preventing and managing the disease. While research has long supported this concept, physicians have been slow to implement these guidelines into treatment plans for diabetic patients.

“The Institute of Medicine shows it takes 17 years for the latest research to make its way into clinical practice,” says guidelines author Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “If you have enough research that shows a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and beans will significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease, why wait?”

Diabetes Management: A Team Effort

Although many physicians do actively encourage patients to adopt healthy lifestyles, evidence suggests that health professionals should play a more integral role in management to truly have a positive impact on sufferers. Diabetes self-management education (DSME) is a critical part of care for those with diabetes and, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), is necessary to improve patient outcomes.

Hospitals are increasingly recognizing the importance of a multifaceted approach to diabetes management.

Hospitals are increasingly recognizing the importance of a multifaceted approach to diabetes management, including ongoing clinical support paired with peer encouragement.

Recently, 1,263 diabetic patients took part in a DSME program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Network. The approach included a comprehensive initial assessment followed by four 30-minute sessions with a diabetes nurse educator focused on helping patients achieve health goals. Additionally, participants attended group sessions focused on deepening their understanding of their condition while reinforcing crucial self-management behaviors and individual goals.

The study showed that after receiving diabetes education for 15 months the subjects experiences a dramatic drop in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This suggests that the increasingly hands-off approach to patient care is missing an important opportunity for health care providers to have a sustainable impact in their approach to treatment of the disease. With a combination of self-management and dietary education, physicians are significantly more likely to curb the development of diabetes and improve treatment for those already afflicted.

Workers Lose Weight, Improve Diabetes on Plant-Based Diet [Source: Physicians Committee's Clinical Research; Good Medicine Magazine Summer 2013 Vol. XXII No. 3]

Related Links:

International Diabetes Conference [PCRM]
Diabetics Who Eat Lots Of Salt Double Their Risk Of Heart Disease [Medical Daily]
International Conference on Diabetes Provides Dietary Recommendations for Type 2 Diabetes [Digital Journal]
Diabetes Education ‘Necessary’ for Patients [HNGN]
Workers Lose Weight, Improve Diabetes on Plant-Based Diet. [PCRM]
Good Medicine Magazine [Summer 2013; PCRM]

The Michelson Medical Research Foundation is a proud supporter of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine thanks to the generous support of Dr. Gary Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson.