In 2015, 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with Diabetes with 95% of cases being Type 2, related to excess body weight. In recent decades, even with abundant information about diet and exercise habits that affect risk, that number increases each year (Centers for Disease Control, 2017).
Attempts at a long-lasting healthy lifestyle often fall short when we try to make drastic changes too quickly. If you are at risk, it might be easier than you think to start making the right changes.
Eliminate 100 calories, three times a day.
Researchers in South Korea have identified a small but effective change to reduce diabetes risk by decreasing visceral (deep abdominal) fat and improving certain fatty acid levels. In an article published in Nutrition Journal (2018), a 12-week trial comparing a calorie-reduction group to a no dietary-change group revealed improvements in a number of measures.
In a sample of overweight people without diabetes, subjects were randomly assigned to either removing 1/3 of a bowl of rice at each meal per day for the study period, or the control group who made no changes. Calorie-reduction subjects also received nutritional counseling at the start, and each subject in the study supplied three-day journals of diet and physical activity at baseline, halfway through the study, and after 12 weeks. Here’s what they found that relates to diabetes risk:
At 12-week follow up
- Body Weight – The calorie-reduction group lost an average of 2.42 kg (5.3 pounds), and the control group gained .44 kg (almost one pound).
- Deep Abdominal Fat – As measured by CT scan, the calorie-reduction group decreased visceral fat by 17.7 cm (almost 7 inches), but the control group added 3.65 cm (1.43 inches).
- Insulin – The calorie-reduction group reduced their body’s insulin by 2.61 IU/dl, while the control group’s increased by almost 2.
- Insulin Resistance – The body’s resistance to using insulin properly decreased in the experimental group, but increased in the control group.
- Eicosadienoic acid (eye-cos-a-dee-in-o-ic) is an unsaturated fatty acid that signals inflammation. The calorie reducers saw a decrease in this fatty acid, but controls had an increase.
- Delta 5 desaturase is an enzyme that promotes long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which decrease risk of diabetes and heart disease (Current Opinion in Lipidology, 2012). After calorie reduction this enzyme increased, but it decreased in the control group.
A few things from this study are worth mentioning: Participants were in Korea, where rice is more of a diet staple than the U.S. Removing 1/3 portion of rice each time reduces a certain type of nutrient. Rice is a carbohydrate which raises blood sugar relatively quickly (known as it’s glycemic index, or GI). High-glycemic index carbohydrates such as white rice are more strongly related to diabetes risk, therefore results may be due to the particular nutrient that was reduced.
Researchers also provided up-front nutritional counseling to the calorie-reducing group, so it’s possible this group also made some other dietary changes. However, subjects recorded what they ate at three-day intervals during the study and the net reduction per day was still 100 calories, three times per day, which in practical terms is not a big change.
A Change that Can Start Today
For overweight nondiabetic people, these improvements demonstrate this is a manageable step to move toward lasting change. Here are some other examples of 100 calorie cutbacks you can make three times each day to start gaining benefits:
- One Tablespoon of peanut butter
- Two medium chocolate chip cookies
- 4 1/2 chocolate kisses
- Four Tablespoons of hummus
- Twelve potato chips
- 21 unsalted mini-pretzels
The benefits of this small change may not be immediately noticeable without tests to get a close look, but this study demonstrated that improvements are happening.
If you think lifestyle change has to be hard, start by making small dietary changes to get you going in the right direction. Success from small shifts can be motivating and drive momentum for even more improvements. Talk to your doctor about your risk and start moving yourself toward a future without diabetes.