Advancements in the Nutritional Management of Type 2 Diabetes

Good nutrition has long been recognized as a key tenet of diabetes management. Those who take the time to learn about and implement good nutrition and lifestyle modifications, including regular exercise and medication adjustments, can make huge progress in their diabetes control. 

Similar to how other aspects of diabetes management have evolved and progressed with the introduction of new tools and technology, the knowledge and understanding of the role of nutrition in diabetes management has also advanced thanks to science.

Very Low-Calorie Diets and Type 2 Diabetes Remission

Recent research shows that remission of type 2 diabetes is possible for some individuals using certain interventions, like following very low-calorie diets.

“We have seen encouraging results when individuals with type 2 diabetes participate in a multifaceted weight management program,” said Osama Hamdy, MD, PhD, Joslin Diabetes Center’s Medical Director, Obesity Clinical Program and Director of Inpatient Diabetes Program, during an Abbott symposium at the American Diabetes Association’s 83rd Scientific Session. “Following a very low-calorie diet and time-restricted fasting for 16 hours helps individuals with type 2 diabetes lose weight, which ultimately can induce diabetes remission.”  Dr. Hamdy presented the Diabetes Remission Outcome Protocol (DROP), which used this nutrition intervention for 12 weeks—combined with strength training—followed by 9 months of a low-calorie diet and exercise. Individuals with diabetes for less than five years had remission from diabetes.

In one study, one year after individuals followed a very low-calorie diet as part of a weight management intervention, almost half were in remission of type 2 diabetes. At 2 years, nearly 1 in 3 remained in remission. Because of this emerging data, very low-calorie diets using meal replacements, including diabetes-specific nutrition formulas, are recommended by diabetes medical societies like Diabetes Canada.

Personalizing Nutrition Care for Individuals with Diabetes

While very low-calorie diets may work for some individuals, others with diabetes may benefit from personalized medical nutrition therapy to manage their condition.

“Speaking with a healthcare professional can help individuals develop a nutrition plan that is customized to their needs and lifestyle; but nutrition recommendations can be hard to customize to specific cultures or lifestyles,” said Jose Rodolfo V. Dimaano, Jr. MD, MD, Area Medical Director for Pacific Asia at Abbott. “For this reason, Abbott and an international group of experts developed the transcultural Diabetes Nutrition Algorithm (or tDNA)—a global diabetes nutrition care model that translates nutrition recommendations based on cultural differences in diets and lifestyle to improve diabetes management and outcomes.”

Local experts have started to adapt tDNA in many regions and countries around the world. A clinical trial in Malaysia studied the effect of implementing tDNA in the country and found that a lifestyle intervention program using tDNA helped adults with type 2 diabetes improve their diabetes control and body weight.

Nutritional tools, like tDNA, and advancing research, like studies looking at the potential impact of weight management programs that incorporate lifestyle modifications like low-calorie/low-carbohydrates diets, can empower healthcare professionals and individuals with type 2 diabetes to successfully manage their condition.