Positive Aging: Diabetes and You
Last month, I wrote about the remarkable book "Genius Food," which gave me a whole new perspective on our health in general and diabetes in particular. According to author Max Lugavere and his co-author, Dr. Paul Grewal, a variety of medical issues stem from our bodies' inability to process all the sugar found in the standard American diet. Some experts have decided to label Alzheimer's disease simply Type 3 diabetes and label macular degeneration little more than "diabetes of the eye."
There's no doubt that more people -- including plenty of baby boomers -- are diabetic today than ever before. In fact, more than 25% of Americans over the age of 65 have the disease, which means that those of us who were born in the 1950s have a higher likelihood of having diabetes than any other age group. For this reason alone, a British study that examined ways to self-control Type 2 diabetes is particularly noteworthy.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow and Newcastle University studied 298 adults (20 to 65 years old) who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the last eight years. This study was labeled DiRECT, or Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial, and was designed to evaluate the possibility of lifestyle choices being able to reverse the disease, rather than relying on medication alone. Participants were divided into either regular physician-monitored diabetic care or an intensive exercise and weight-reduction program.
Members of the 149-person weight management group were only allowed to consume around 850 calories per day, and for a three- to five-month period, their diet was primarily comprised of things like healthy smoothies and soups. Once this stage was complete, food was added back to their diet over a two- to eight-week transition period. To help them maintain their weight loss, group members also received cognitive behavioral therapy and advice regarding additional physical activity.
After a year, the results surprised both the participants and the study directors. Close to 90% of the participants who had lost at least 30 pounds managed to literally reverse their diabetes. More than half of the participants who lost 22 to 33 pounds also achieved remission. And the reversal even worked for 34% of those who only lost 11 to 22 pounds.
While those in the weight management group lost an average 22 pounds during the 12-month period, members of the control group only lost 2.2 pounds. According to nutritionist Mike Lean of the University of Glasgow, with this trial there were "much higher than usual acceptance rates for diabetes clinical trials." The success of this study could signal that dietary intervention alone could drastically change the way we treat this burgeoning disease, which for decades has been labeled a chronic, lifelong condition.
If you are diabetic, it's good to know that weight loss and exercise can lower the amount of medication you need or -- if you're lucky -- eliminate it altogether. In the meantime, here is a suggested list of guidelines for living with diabetes:
No. 1: Get a yearly eye exam.
No. 2: Have your doctor check your kidneys each year.
No. 3: Schedule annual flu and pneumonia vaccines.
No. 4: Keep track of your cholesterol levels.
No. 5: See your dentist every six months to guard against periodontal disease.
No. 6: Get your average blood sugar (A1C) measured every three to six months.
No. 7: Monitor your skin, and be on the lookout for nonhealing cuts or bruises.
No. 8: Check your feet every single day.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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