Cut the Fat, Keep the Weight

Type 2 diabetes risk is reduced by lower fat diet

May 21, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Millions of people in the United States are at risk of getting diabetes. Doctors usually tell their patients to lose weight so that they don't get the disease. However, new research shows that you don't have to lose weight to reduce your risk of diabetes.

You may only have to change your diet. Eating a lower fat diet reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes. Overweight people who ate a diet with lower carbohydrates did not see the same improvement.

"Eating less fat may fend off diabetes without having to lose weight."

It can be hard to lose weight, says Barbara Gower, Ph.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the study's lead author. The important thing about this study, Gower points out, is that a change in diet can keep diabetes at bay without any weight loss.

For their research, Gower and colleagues studied 69 overweight people who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These people were put on one of two diets: a diet slightly lower in fat (27 percent fat and 55 percent carbohydrate) or a diet slightly lower in carbohydrates (39 percent fat and 43 percent carbohydrate).

All the participants were given just the amount of food to keep the same body weight.

After eight weeks, people who ate a lower fat diet were producing more insulin, which is needed to control blood sugar. They were also more sensitive to insulin, and as a result they had better blood sugar control.

Lots of sugar in the blood, rather than in cells, increases the risk for diabetes. So, people who ate the lower fat diet had a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes.

These improvements were even greater for African-Americans.

While the researchers found this link between diet and the body's response to insulin and glucose, Gower says that more research is needed to see if diet is the direct cause of these improvements.