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29-06-2011 | General practice | Article

Diet key in treating new diabetes


Lancet 2011; Advance online publication

Patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes can markedly improve their blood sugar control if they are given specialist dietary advice, UK researchers report.

Their study found that patients who received an intensive dietary intervention on top of usual care had a significant drop in their glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, from 6.64% at baseline to 6.57% at 6 months. This compared with an increase in HbA1c from 6.72% to 6.81% among patients who received usual care only.

The intensive approach involved a dietary consultation every 3 months, with additional nurse support each month, amounting to 6.5 hours of extra dietary advice per year.

Although patients who also took exercise had numerically greater reductions in HbA1c, the gain was not statistically significant compared with just being given extra dietary advice.

The research, published in The Lancet, was led by Dr Robert Andrews (University of Bristol).

Presenting the findings at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in San Diego, California, Andrews suggested that one reason patients who exercised as well as being given the dietary advice did not gain any further benefit is that people "often make a trade - that is, if they go to the gym, then they feel as if they can have a treat".

"Getting people to exercise is quite difficult, and can be expensive. What this study tells us is that, if you only have a limited amount of money, in that first year of diagnosis, you should focus on getting the diet right," Andrews added.

Noting that glycemic control tends to worsen over time, he suggested that exercise could be more useful later on in the progression of type 2 diabetes.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price and Helen Albert