A diet for diabetes prevention

A diet high in carbohydrate and fibre and low in fat helps weight loss in people at high risk of type 2 diabetes.

The development of type 2 diabetes is largely lifestyle driven with poor diet, minimal physical activity and obesity being common risk factors. Most people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes will be advised to achieve moderate weight loss, predominantly through healthy lifestyle interventions like a healthy diet and increased exercise.

The best diet for weight loss in people at high risk of type 2 diabetes is debated – with no general consensus on the ideal quantity of carbohydrates and fats for this goal. Some studies have suggested that any diet that results in sustained reduced caloric intake is as effective for weight loss but specific macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat or protein) may have particular benefit for people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is a clinical trial in which people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes were assigned to a range of treatments – medication, lifestyle changes, placebo – with the goal of losing weight. Researchers analysed data from this trial to investigate the association between dietary intake and weight in the group and assess the dietary changes and patterns that led to the most weight loss. Dietary data was collected at the beginning of the study and again a year later.

The results showed that at one year in the context of overall calorie reduction, weight loss was associated with increased carbohydrate intake and fibre intake. High fat intake was associated with reduced weight loss in this cohort.

Implications

This study suggests that a high carbohydrate, high fibre and low fat diet may be a good option for people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Foods reported by the researchers that were found to be particularly good for weight loss in this study are fruits, namely non-citrus fruit, and vegetables, specifically tomatoes and dark green and bright yellow vegetables.

References

Sylvetsky, A et al. (2017). A High-Carbohydrate, High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Results in Weight Loss among Adults at High Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition doi: https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.117.252395.