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Diabetes and Weight Loss: The Right Path

If you've got diabetes, weight loss can get you off insulin and other medications. But diet safely, with the help of experts.
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WebMD Feature

Diabetes and weight loss: They're the yin and yang of optimal health. There's no question about it: If you're overweight and have type 2 diabetes, dropping pounds lowers your blood sugar, improves your health, and helps you feel better.

But before you start a weight loss plan, it's important to work closely with your doctor or diabetes educator. That's because while you're dieting, your blood sugar, insulin, and medications need special attention.

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Make no mistake: You're on the right path.

"No matter how heavy you are, you will significantly lower your blood sugar if you lose some weight," says Cathy Nonas, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

A 2001 National Institutes of Health study found that a combination of diet and exercise cuts the risk of developing diabetes by 58%. The study involved people who were overweight (with an average body mass index of 34) and who had high -- but not yet diabetic -- blood sugar levels.

"We know it's true -- that if someone with diabetes loses 5% to 10% of their weight, they will significantly reduce their blood sugar," Nonas tells WebMD.

"We see it all the time: people can get off their insulin and their medication," she says. "It's wonderful. It shows you how interwoven obesity and diabetes are."

Even losing 10 or 15 pounds has health benefits, says the American Diabetes Association. It can:

Plus, you'll probably have more energy, get around easier, and breathe easier.

Diabetes, Weight Loss, and Changes in Blood Sugar

Cutting back on just one meal can affect the delicate balance of blood sugar, insulin, and medication in your body. So it's important to work with an expert when you diet.

Check with your doctor before starting a weight loss plan, then consult with a diabetes educator or nutritionist, advises Larry C. Deeb, MD, a diabetes specialist in Tallahassee, Fla., and past president of the American Diabetes Association.

"Don't try to lose weight on your own," says Deeb. "With a doctor and a good nutritionist, it's very safe to do. This is very important if you're taking insulin or medications.

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