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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.

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

Watch the Carbs on a Diabetes Weight Loss Diet

For people with diabetes, a refresher course on carbs may also be in order, Gerbstadt says. With diabetes and weight loss, dietary changes must be made carefully.

That's because carbs have the biggest effect on blood sugar, since they are broken down into sugar early in digestion. Eating complex carbs (whole-grain bread and vegetables, for example) is good because they are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, cutting the risk of blood sugar spikes, Gerbstadt explains.

"Worst-case scenario is sliced white bread," she says. "Whole-wheat bread is an improvement. Adding a little peanut butter is even better."

Simply cutting lots of carbs -- a common dieting strategy -- can be dangerous for a diabetic diet, Gerbstadt says. When your body doesn't have carbs to burn for fuel, your metabolism changes into what's known as ketosis -- and fat is burned instead. You'll feel less hungry, and eat less than you usually do -- but long-term ketosis can cause health problems.

"Ketosis decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues, which puts stress on eyes, kidneys, heart, liver," Gerbstadt says. "That's why the low-carb, high-protein Atkins diet is not really safe for people with diabetes. Diabetics need to try to stick with a more balanced diet so your body can handle nutrients without going into ketosis."

Exercise, Diabetes and Weight Loss

One of the benefits of exercise is that it helps keep your blood sugar in balance, so you won't have to cut as many calories.

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