Can diet reverse diabetes?

14 November 2018 . United Kingdom

This World Diabetes Day (14 November), Dr Petra Simic, Interim Medical Director at Bupa Health Clinics, looks at whether or not diet can help reverse type 2 diabetes and offers her advice on how to manage the blood sugar condition well.
Taking blood pressure

Dr Petra said: “Patients with type 2 diabetes often ask me if it can be reversed if they improve their diet. There have been studies with people on a strict, calorie-controlled diet. While the results were positive, more needs to be done to determine if it would be suitable and safe for everyone.

“We do know that most people with type 2 diabetes will get their best outcomes if they maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if they are overweight or obese. We know that significant weight gain for these people can be associated with worse health outcomes.”

Here are Dr Petra’s top seven tips to help live life well:

Have regular health checks

Type 2 diabetes can put you at risk of other health conditions, like heart and vascular disease. It’s important to have regular check-ups with your nurse or GP. If they identify any risks they'll be able to help you make lifestyle changes.

Know your risk

Being overweight, inactive and living an unhealthy lifestyle can mean that your risk of health complications is higher if you have type 2 diabetes.

During a Bupa Heath Assessment, we screen for diabetes and also give a diabetes risk score. This risk score measures your risk of developing diabetes and helps identify interventions to reduce this risk.

Keep active

Getting regular exercise is beneficial for everyone, however for type 2 diabetics it is exceptionally beneficial as it lowers your blood glucose levels and in some cases it can make your body’s insulin work better. It can also improve your overall physical and mental wellbeing.

Being active can help you manage your weight, help build muscle and boost your metabolism, all of which can help manage type 2 diabetes.

Make meal plans

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important if you have diabetes. We know that convenience foods often are high in fat, carbohydrates and salt, which is not good for maintaining health sugar levels. Therefore, planning your meals will help you avoid the situation where you are stuck with only ‘unhealthy’ convenience foods to choose from. There’s plenty of meal ideas available on websites like Diabetes UK which can help you get some inspiration.

Limit your alcohol intake

Alcohol is high in sugar, and drinking alcohol has been shown to link with poor choices in what we eat. Therefore, it is very important to minimize alcohol intake if you have type 2 diabetes and if you do drink, have less than recommended weekly amount. Men and women should stick to less than 14 units per week. If you’re not sure how much you drink, try our alcohol calculator.

Try to keep your weight down

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly will help you to maintain a healthy weight. Our figures show that 60% of people who had a Bupa Health Assessment last year were overweight or obese, however 73% of customers said they had seen an improvement to their health and wellbeing after their health assessment.[1]

Understand your condition

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is a lifelong condition in which your body can’t control the amount of glucose in your blood. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes and it can’t be reversed, but you can live well with type 1 diabetes if you manage it.

Type 2 diabetes is when your body can’t control the amount of sugar in your blood and doesn’t respond to insulin, which causes your blood sugar levels to become too high. Type 2 diabetes is the most common and is usually linked to being overweight and not being active. It's preventable through a healthy diet and exercise.

Notes to editor

[1]The outcome data is collected prior, during and after the health assessment. The data is self-reported by each customer. The period the data covers is January 2017-December 2017.

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