Diet and Exercise Reduce Diabetes Risk Beyond Weight Loss

May 19, 2015
Rachel Lutz

In patients at risk for type 2 diabetes, diet and exercise have beneficial effects on regulating glucose levels beyond those associated with weight loss.

In patients at risk for type 2 diabetes, diet and exercise have beneficial effects on regulating glucose levels beyond those associated with weight loss.

In a recent study published in Diabetes Care, researchers observed sedentary, overweight men and women aged 45 to 65 years who were randomized to lose 6% to 8% of their bodyweight through calorie restriction, exercise, or a combination of both. Throughout the study, the researchers recorded the patients’ insulin sensitivity, as low levels are a marker for diabetes risk.

Even though weight loss was similar across the 3 groups, insulin sensitivity improved 2 times more in the combination group, suggesting both exercise and calorie restriction have additive beneficial effects on glucoregulation than either approach alone. Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, exercise-induced weight loss did not lead to greater improvements in glucoregulation than calorie restriction alone, which further supports the combined approach.

“Even with modest weight loss, healthy diet and exercise habits have a powerful effect to improve blood glucose control,” lead author Edward Weiss, PhD, told Pharmacy Times in an e-mail. “…Although exercise and healthy diets are ‘miracle pills’ for many health conditions, probably the biggest effects are seen on diabetes and diabetes risk.”

In light of these findings, Dr. Weiss said pharmacists should be aware that the additive effects of healthy diet and exercise habits could potentially lead to overmedication in diabetics and thus increase their risk for hypoglycemia and related issues.

“Patients should adopt healthy diet and exercise regimens for the sake of good health, and be aware that this may reduce the need for medication—a good thing–but can cause hypoglycemia if not monitored and if medications are not adjusted accordingly,” Dr. Weiss continued. “Pharmacists should make it clear to patients that they should work with their physicians for blood sugar monitoring and medication adjustments as needed when they adopt healthy diet and exercise behaviors.”