Written by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE
Recently, I’ve been seeing more and more people with prediabetes. This is a good thing. It’s not because I’m happy that more people have prediabetes, but I am very happy that doctors are diagnosing insulin resistance earlier than in years past and because my patients are coming to me early enough to reverse the problem. It’s the people who think that prediabetes is pre-problem who worry me. It’s not pre-problem. Rather it’s confirmation that insulin resistance has been occurring for quite some time and that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is looming.
If you have pre-diabetes or a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, you are not doomed. There are plenty of things you can do to tame insulin resistance. Perhaps the most important thing is to lose a few pounds if you are overweight. Losing just 10 or 20 pounds can have significant benefits. In the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) – a study of more than 3,000 people at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes – researchers learned that weight loss and increased physical activity prevented or delayed the onset of the disease. The goals for DPP participants were to lose 7% of their body weight (14 pounds for someone starting at 200 pounds) and to exercise at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes per week. Most chose to walk. In this three-year study, participants lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%. Even 10 years after the study began, the lifestyle interventions reduced the risk by 34%. This is proof that small changes add up to give big results.
What more can you do?
- Exercise at least every third day. In general, all types of exercise – even without weight loss – improve insulin resistance for two to 72 hours. .
- Lift weights. Resistance training such as lifting weights or using elastic bands at least twice weekly also improves insulin resistance.
- Eat breakfast. In a small study of women, eating breakfast improved insulin resistance.
- Enjoy oats and barley. Beta-glucan, a fiber in these two whole grains, lowers both glucose and insulin levels.
- Replace saturated and trans fats with healthier vegetable fats. Skip the fatty meats, full-fat dairy and packaged foods with partially hydrogenated oils. Instead enjoy seeds, nuts, avocado, olives and vegetable oils.
- Get your zzz’s. Researchers in the Netherlands found that even one night of inadequate sleep impairs insulin sensitivity by as much as 25%.
Take action before prediabetes becomes diabetes.