Does intensive diet and exercise help reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes?

by Barbara Hewitt on December 26, 2012

Does intensive diet and exercise help reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes?

A year on an intensive diet and exercise programme can help people with type 2 diabetes get their blood sugar levels back to normal, a new study in the United States has found. Indeed, one in nine people with diabetes saw their blood sugar levels go back to pre-diabetes levels after 12 months, the research found. However, they also warned that complete remission of type 2 diabetes is still very rare although the results showed that people can come off medication and lower the risk of diabetes related complications.

The research looked at 4,503 US adults with a body mass index of 25 or higher with type 2 diabetes. They were randomly assigned to an intensive lifestyle intervention programme or a regime of three group sessions per year on diet, physical activity and social support.  The intensive programme included weekly group and individual counselling in the first six months, three sessions per month for the next six months and twice monthly contact and regular refresher groups in the second, third and fourth years of the study.

Those who took part in the intensive programme lost significantly more weight and had greater fitness levels. Their goal had been to cut back to 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day and increasing their physical activity to just under three hours per week. After one year, 11.5% had at least partial diabetes remission, meaning that without medication their blood sugar levels were no longer above the diabetes threshold. That compared to just 2% of participants in the non-intervention group who saw their diabetes improve significantly.

People who’d had diabetes for fewer years were more likely to have blood sugar improvements, as were those who lost more weight or had stronger fitness gains during the study. However, less than one third of people whose diabetes went into remission during the program managed to keep their blood sugar levels down for at least four years, the researchers found.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “Since I had been DX I had been exercising everyday but really had no idea what benefit I was receiving. So, two weeks ago I stopped exercise altogether so I could establish a baseline and all that stuff. I did NOT change my diet to account for the drop in caloric use and was willing to accept a 3-5 weight gain accordingly. What I found was exercise did nothing for my weight. Lol. I gained one pound, but since my weight could vary up to two pounds from day to day I discarded that variance.”

‘Kind of a long term assumption really is that once you have diabetes there’s no turning back on it, and there’s no remission or cure,’ said Edward Gregg, the lead author on the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘This is a reminder that adopting a healthy diet, physically active lifestyle and reducing and maintaining a healthy weight is going to help manage people’s diabetes better,’ he added.

The study concluded that although an intensive lifestyle intervention was associated with a greater likelihood of partial remission of type 2 diabetes compared with diabetes support and education, the absolute remission rates were modest.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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