Health Team

Simple diet changes can help diminish risk of diabetes

Posted December 5, 2012
Updated December 6, 2012

— There are 26 million people with diabetes in the United States, and millions more are at risk of developing the disease. 

Efforts by doctors to prescribe both better diets and more exercise, for the most part, haven't slowed the advance. Researchers at Duke University Hospital are looking at easier dietary changes that could make a bigger dent in the growing problem. 

Researchers have started by looking at fiber intake and how small changes can help bridge the gap many people often have in their diets because they don't get enough nutrients.. 

Government guidelines show that most men should get 38 grams of fiber per day, with women needing 25. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains make that easy. 

"Who do you know that sits down and eats fruits and vegetables and the whole grains every meal?" Duke endocrinologist Mark Feinglos said. 

According to Feinglos, the standard American diet contributes directly to the skyrocketing number of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and doesn't help those others who are risk for Type 1. 

Stephanie Yates, 56, is one of the study participants who has a family history of diabetes. 

"It actually runs in both sides of my family," she said. "My mom is a diabetic and my father had the beginnings of diabetes as well."

Simple diet changes can help diminish risk of diabetes Simple diet changes can help diminish risk of diabetes

Yates and others in the study are helping doctors compare different fiber supplements, seeing which ones best compensate for the fiber most people don't get in their daily diet. 

Participants drank one glass with the supplement before breakfast and another before dinner. 

"It was a pretty simple thing to add into my daily routine," Yates said. 

Researchers at Duke and in other places have found that adding something as simple as a daily supplement can make all the difference. Another suggestion? Kicking the coffee habit. 

Cutting out caffeine can help improve blood sugar levels.

"Caffeine exaggerates the rise in glucose level that occurs after a meal if you have Type 2 diabetes," Duke psychiatrist James Lane said.

Feinglos said the inexpensive changes can go a long way to helping reverse the trends. 

"This also becomes extraordinarily important, because there are so many things you have to do for diabetes that are very, very expensive," Feinglos said.

For more information about enrolling in the Duke study, call 919-681-4453.


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  • sammy Dec 14, 2012

    I was told 6 months ago that I was borderline diabetic. That got my attention. I started a regular exercise program. (I am not really overweight, but led a sedentary life), started watching what I ate, leaning heavily on veggies, proteins, along with carbs in moderation. I bought a meter and began trying out different foods and then checking to see what these foods did to my blood sugar. I am happy to say that I am now WELL under the threshhold to be classified as borderline diabetic. (A1C is 5.5).

    The key is to get busy! Be active and eat right. That doesn't mean you can't have sweets now and then. Just not all day, every day!!

  • vegeman12 Dec 13, 2012

    The real problem is that most Americans are lazy slobs who are hoping for a magic pill rather than taking responsibility for their own health. That is why obesity is called a disease. That way people can place the blame on something other than their own inability to stop stuffing their faces and learning to eat correctly.

  • missprissdi Dec 10, 2012

    Type II Diabeties also is in my family. At the fine age of 58 I was finally told that I was going to be on a prescription med soon. Well I changed some things in my life and so far am not on a med. I don't think we should have the mindset that we can take a pill and be done with it. We need to try to make some changes first and if that dosen't work then we have tried. Now I am aware so I do know what I need to do.

  • In Decisive Dec 7, 2012

    Higher % of lean protein and healthy fats (like olive oil) and no simple sugars, fruit juices or anything with sugar in it makes a difference. Carbs should come from low glycemic whole fruits (in moderation) low glycemic veggies (i.e. avoid the potatoes), and some whole grain foods, but a smaller percentage than what the USDA suggests.

  • thefensk Dec 7, 2012

    Fiber is important, but I still think health professionals discount the amount of hidden sugar in our diet, especially in the form of corn syrup and corn syrup solids. Amounts sometimes seem insignificant on an individual unit but when you add all of these things up it must be noted by our body chemistry. If you eat a lot of prepared foods, read the label. Almost everything has either sugar or corn syrup or corn syrup solids in it. Yes, there needs to be some focus on the heavy hitters but people need to realize there is a hidden danger too. Finally they realized the danger of transfats (and they still sneak those in, make no mistake -- even if it says 0% and it says hydrolyzed anything it contains transfats ... just less than 1/2 a percent allows them to say 0%). They need to start thinking about the sugar additives too.

  • hollylama Dec 6, 2012

    The problem with many diabetics is that they are told their condition is lifelong. Diabetes has to be "sold" as a chronic condition that can be MANAGED with the appropriate lifestyle changes. The current medical model says that a diabetic should be prescribed medication along with lifestyle changes. But for many, being put on medication says to them "I've got it under control". The model should be changed to empower people in their ability to manage THEIR condition. That means personalizing interventions and treatment to their lifestyle and eating habits. The cookie-cutter way for improving health must change because everyone's metabolism is not the same.

    Just my opinion.

  • anderson Dec 6, 2012

    Don't eat so much...that helps!

  • ronnazimmer Dec 6, 2012

    The fiber study is ongoing at Duke. If anyone is interested in learning more about the study they can conact Jeanne Kimpel at 919-681-4453 or visit the Duke website at