Get to Know Diabetes: How Atkins Can Help

November is National Diabetes Month, a time to shine a spotlight on diabetes prevention and control. This challenging disease affects millions of people, but it can be prevented and controlled through important lifestyle changes. Here’s what you need to know:

While there are actually three types of diabetes (see below), when we talk about diabetes in the context of Atkins, we are typically referring to Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

The Three Types of Diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes: This happens when your pancreas can’t make insulin, leading to high blood sugar. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you have to take insulin to help control your blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in childhood.
  • Type 2 diabetes: This happens when your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or your body can’t process insulin effectively. Being overweight heightens your risk of this type of diabetes, and it can happen to a person of any age.
  • Gestational diabetes: This occurs during pregnancy in some women when hormone changes prevent insulin from working properly. You may need to take insulin, but the condition may resolve after childbirth.

And the diabetes statistics are staggering:

  • Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  • Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion.

Both prevention and treatment of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes requires proper nutrition and exercise. Fortunately, a low-carb diet like Atkins can be helpful in stabilizing blood sugar and insulin production, leading to weight loss and reducing other cardiovascular risk factors associated with the disease. And over the past few years, numerous peer-reviewed, independent studies have made a compelling argument for a low-carb diet’s role in preventing and controlling pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Here are more reasons why Atkins may be helpful in the prevention or treatment of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes:

Low-carb diets rule over low-calorie diets. While following a low-calorie diet can certainly have a positive effect on your health, numerous studies show that if you are obese and have Type 2 diabetes, a low-carb diet is the way to go. You will lose more weight and inches, and improve your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and more, while decreasing or even discontinuing your anti-diabetic medications.

Shun the sugar. A study published this year links increased sugar consumption with increased rates of diabetes. In fact, for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day in a county’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent. You are encouraged to eliminate added sugar from your meals and snacks while following the Atkins Diet. Unlike natural sugar, which is naturally found in food such as fruit, added sugar is used to boost flavor and sweetness. Added sugars include table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey and numerous other caloric sweeteners, both manufactured and natural. Added sugars significantly raise your net carb count and are found in foods as diverse as barbecue sauce and breakfast cereal.

Master the metabolic bully.
Clinical studies have shown that the Atkins Diet can help reverse Type 2 diabetes by controlling symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which includes conditions such as abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure and glucose intolerance. Subjects who followed an Atkins-type diet were able to reduce their blood sugar levels and improve their lipid profiles; half of them were able to normalize their blood sugar levels completely and stop their anti-diabetic and blood sugar medications.

Fortunately, if you are following Atkins, you are consuming plenty of fresh vegetables (and eventually low-glycemic fruits), with equal opportunity given to poultry, fish, meat and various other protein sources. And this emphasis on whole foods (vs. packaged or overly processed foods) is an important step in the prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. 

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