2 Studies Examine Role of Diet, Exercise in People with Type 2 Diabetes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Everyone keeps harping on the importance of diet and exercise for people who have developed type 2 diabetes. But is it really worth it? Two new studies provide some interesting fodder to think about.


    Diet and Exercise


    A study out of Brown University involved 5,000 adult participants who had type 2 diabetes. These participants were overweight, with the average starting weight of approximately 220 pounds. The participants were between the ages of 45 and 75 and had been diagnosed with diabetes for five years or longer.


    The participants were assigned to two groups. One group was tasked with losing weight by exercising and cutting calories. They were asked to try to eat between 1,200 and 1,800 calories per day and to do at least 175 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly.  The participants also used shakes and snack bars as a substitute for two meals each day. Furthermore, the participants were given a fat-blocking drug orlistat for a short period of time if they had not lost 10 percent of their initial weight during the first six months of the study. The other group met three times yearly for group counseling sessions, where they learned about the importance of exercise, diet and social support to help them manage their diabetes.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    As the study progressed, researchers checked in with the participants. They found that both groups were able to lose a modest amount weight and most were able to keep it off. The group assigned to diet and exercise shed about eight percent (18 pounds) of their starting weight after the first year and managed to keep off six percent (14 pounds) of that loss over the next eight years. The comparison group last 10 pounds during the study.


    The researchers also looked at health incidents between the two groups. They found that the diet and exercise group had as many heart attacks, strokes, hospitalizations for chest pain and deaths from heart-related reasons as the people who were assigned to the therapy group. Because the results between the two groups were so similar, the researchers ended the study four years earlier than planned due to what they termed as “futility.” 


    Exercise Only


    A small study out of the Netherlands suggests that exercise alone may be an effective intervention on organ-specific fat accumulation for people who have type 2 diabetes. This type of fat accumulation has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.


    This study involved 12 people who were, on average, 46 years of age. Measurements were taken of the fat located in the abdomen and around the liver and heart using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers also assessed cardiac function as well.


    After taking baseline measurements, the researchers followed the participants’ progress during six months of moderate-intensity exercise. Their exercise program involved two endurance and two resistance training sessions that took up between three-and-a-half hours to six hours per week.  Additionally, the participants undertook a 12-day high-altitude walking expedition at the end of the study.  


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    By the end of the time period, researchers found that the exercise intervention decreased the amount of the fat around the heart, liver and abdomen. However, the assessment determined that participants’ cardiac function did not change.

    "In the present study, we observed that the second layer of fat around the heart -- the pericardial fat -- behaved similarly in response to exercise training as intra-abdominal, or visceral fat. The fat content in the liver also decreased substantially after exercise," said Dr. Hildo Lamb, of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and the study’s senior author.


    So what should you do if you have type 2 diabetes? Experts note that making intensive lifestyle interventions related to diet and exercise can improve the function of the kidneys, eyes and overall physical function as well as lessen serious depression. 


    Therefore, it is important to embrace a healthy diet and regular physical exercise when you have type 2 diabetes. While these choices may not always make a difference with cardiovascular disease, they can provide protection to other systems in your body.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Jonker, J. T., et al. (2013.) Exercise and type 2 diabetes mellitus: Changes in tissue-specific  fat distribution and cardiac function.


    MedlinePlus. (2013). Diet-exercise combo doesn’t cut heart risks in type 2 diabetes patients.


    Preidt, R. (2013). Exercise alone may help those with type 2 diabetes. Medline Plus.

Published On: June 29, 2013