Durham, N.C. — 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."
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.