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Type 2 diabetes: diet is important but should not be rigid

In type 2 diabetes patients, losing weight and adopting a "Mediterranean" diet, without being totally inflexible, reduces cardiovascular events and increases life expectancy.

In type 2 diabetes, diet is one of the basic treatments. Prescrire’s nutritional advice is based on a vast review of the evidence.

In overweight or obese diabetic patients, weight loss of 5% to 10% increases life expectancy and helps control blood glucose levels.

When diabetes is diagnosed, following dietary and lifestyle advice helps control glucose levels, sometimes without the need for drug treatment. Losing weight and maintaining a lower weight are achieved by reducing calorie consumption, through eating low-density foods (bread, starch, pulses and some fruit, such as apples and oranges) and by increasing physical activity. Patients can have snacks, as long as they do not add to the daily calorie intake.

To reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in these patients, it is preferable to restrict consumption of saturated fats (chiefly animal fat, processed foods) and to opt for the so-called "Mediterranean" diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrain cereals. It is not helpful to prohibit certain foods or to impose too stringent limitations.

©Prescrire November 2009

"Dietary measures for type 2 diabetes" Prescrire Int 2009 (103): 224 (pdf, subscribers only).

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