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Diabetes Medications and Diet: Synergistic Success

Help diabetes drugs do their job. A high-fiber diabetes diet and regular exercise are key.

Diabetes Diet Avoids Blood Sugar Spikes continued...

Processed "white foods" -- white bread, white rice, cakes and cookies (made with white flour) -- are digested quickly, which causes sharp spikes in blood sugar. Even an apple -- highly nutritious and high in fiber in its natural form -- is done a disservice in processing. When an apple is made into applesauce or apple juice, it loses its fiber content.

"You see remarkable differences in the effect on blood sugar levels," Nathan explains. "The more processed the fruit, the faster the glucose level goes up -- and the higher it goes up. Getting more high-fiber carbohydrates in your diet will naturally slow the absorption rate, and will help the pancreas keep up with the insulin demand."

What are high-fiber carbohydrates? Everything your mother ever advised: vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads, and cereals. Every colorful fruit and vegetable in your grocery's produce section -- broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, fruits and berries of all types. Oatmeal is another great source of fiber!

Weight Gain vs. Diabetes Drugs

Weight gain poses its own problems for people with diabetes. The fight against weight gain has always been tough, as many older diabetes drugs may cause weight gain -- which further interferes with blood sugar control.

"The heavier you get, the more you're fighting a losing battle," Nathan tells WebMD. "If you're gaining weight, diabetes medications won't work as well, so you need more of the medicines -- which only makes your weight go up more."

Drugs like Byetta, Metformin, Symlin, and Victoza have made weight control a bit easier. These drugs stimulate the body's natural insulin-producing capability, plus patients may experience a decrease in appetite leading to weight loss.

Diabetes specialists typically prescribe these diabetes medications in combination with older diabetes drugs to get optimal blood sugar control. "It helps minimize the difficulties of dieting. ... People can restrict calories, exercise more, have more positive results in losing weight," says Anne Peters, MD, director of the clinical diabetes programs at the University of Southern California and author of the book Conquering Diabetes.

Lose the Weight, Take Less Diabetes Medication

Lifestyle is key to keeping weight off -- and to controlling diabetes in the long run. "There's no way around it, and it's hard work, but you have to address it. You don't have to get skinny, but you do have to lose weight," says Anding.

In fact, research shows that losing just 10% to 15% of body weight -- dropping 20 or 30 pounds, if you weigh 200 -- can have a marked improvement on diabetes control.

These lifestyle changes help preserve the body's insulin-producing function, explains Hermes Florez, MD, director of the Diabetes Prevention Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "With weight loss, patients are able to nearly get off insulin. Some patients are able to come off insulin completely."

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