Dear Dietitian – Is a special diet needed for prediabetes?

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Published Thursday, June 17, 2021
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

My husband was just diagnosed with prediabetes.  We were given a sheet of paper with information on this, but it left us with many questions.  Does he need a special diet?  Will he have full-blown diabetes in a few years?  We need more information, please.

Suzanne

Dear Suzanne,

A new diagnosis can be overwhelming and often leaves us with many questions.  You are wise to seek information. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugars are high but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 84 million American adults have prediabetes, and of these, 90% don't know they have it.

The good news is you can prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle changes.  Some estimate you can reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 40-70%!

According to the American Diabetes Association, prediabetes is defined by one or more of the following criteria:

  • An A1C level of 5.7% to 6.4%. Your A1C is a 3-month average of blood sugar levels.
  • Fasting glucose level of 100 - 125 mg/dl. Fasting means you haven't eaten for at least 8 hours before the glucose test.
  • Two-hour oral glucose tolerance test of 140-199 mg/dl. This test is used to diagnose gestational diabetes.

Your risk factors for prediabetes are:

  • Family history 
  • Being overweight
  • Age 45 or older
  • Being physically active less than 30 minutes per week
  • Having had gestational diabetes
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Ethnicity- Prediabetes rates are higher in African American, Hispanic, and Native American nationalities.

Of these risk factors, there are two things you can change: weight and physical activity. If you need to lose weight, do it. Losing weight can seem overwhelming, so commit to a new health plan for thirty days. By the end of thirty days, you will see the fruits of your labor, and hopefully, it will motivate you to carry on.

When choosing a weight loss plan, beware of diets that are too restrictive, both in calories and food groups.  A program that is too restrictive only makes us feel deprived, which sets us up for failure. 

Exercise is as important as eating healthy when it comes to prediabetes.  Physical activity moves blood sugar from your extremities to your core, where it can be utilized. Again, don't overdo it. Begin with a half-mile walk three times a week, then gradually increase time to 150 minutes per week. You may also enjoy a better mood and improved sleep from physical activity.

Remember, what you do makes a difference. Taking care of yourself is one of life's greatest privileges. No one else can do it for you.

Until next time, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri.  Do you have a nutrition question? Email her at DearDietitian411@gmail.com. Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.

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