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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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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.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

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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:

  • Lower blood sugar.
  • Reduce blood pressure.
  • Improve cholesterol levels.
  • Lighten the stress on hips, knees, ankles and feet.

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.

The Right Balance for Diabetes and Weight Loss

Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, warns: "You don't want to run the risk of high or low blood sugar while you're dieting. You want tight glucose control while you lose weight."

Gerbstadt suggests cutting 500 calories a day, "which is safe for someone with diabetes," she says. "Cut calories across the board -- from protein, carbohydrates, and fat -- that's the best way." She recommends that people with diabetes maintain a healthy ratio of carbs, fat, and protein. The ideal:

  • 50% to 55% carbs
  • 30% fat
  • 10% to 15% protein
1 | 2 | 3

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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