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Take 5: Diabetes

Our diabetes expert answers five questions about lifestyle and blood sugar control.

4. Why do I need to exercise? continued...

The key is to exercise on a regular basis: 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. That recommendation comes from the Diabetes Prevention Program study, which was designed to see if we could prevent diabetes in people who are at high risk. The lifestyle intervention included a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet and 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity physical activity -- mostly people did brisk walking. The intervention was very effective at reducing the rate of diabetes -- by 58% -- in people who were at high risk.

Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program to find out which exercise is best for you, and whether you need to make changes to your medication.

5. Are there any promising treatments ahead for type 2 diabetes?

The most promising treatment is something that's gotten some play in the news recently, and that's bariatric or weight-loss surgery. It obviously can lead to dramatic weight loss, [and] in most cases reverses diabetes completely, which is an amazing thing. Even before people have lost any significant amount of weight, blood sugar levels often dramatically improve. It probably has to do with alteration of hormones that are secreted within the intestine, and factors that regulate appetite and energy expenditure.

Not everybody who is overweight or obese would want to have weight-loss surgery or would be appropriate for it. But what we're learning about how these procedures can radically change how the body handles calories and regulates appetite may lead to new insights that will result in other treatments.

Bonus Question: Is weight loss important if you have type 2 diabetes? Why?

Losing even a modest amount of weight can help you manage type 2 diabetes. That's really a No. 1 goal for just about everybody because most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. If you lose weight, your blood sugar control will be much better. Sometimes when people lose weight they don't even need any medication.

We don't want people to feel that unless they lose 50 pounds, [weight loss] won't help them. That's not true. A number of studies suggest that losing 15 or 20 pounds, or 7% of your body weight, can be helpful in improving blood sugar.

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Reviewed on July 15, 2012

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