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Ohio State study sheds new light on dietary needs for Type 2 diabetics

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Eating cautiously has proven to be as effective as following a Type 2 diabetes-specific nutrition plan, a new study by Ohio State researchers has shown.
“It means that people with diabetes have a choice in the type of education and support that they could pursue,” said Carla Miller, lead author of the study and OSU associate professor of human nutrition. “Since both programs are effective they have a choice potentially about which program interests them more.”
Miller’s co-authors were Amy Headings of the Department of Human Nutrition, Haikady Nagaraja, a biostatistics professor, and Fred Miser, a family medicine professor, as well as Indiana State University professor Jean Kristeller.
The study’s subjects were broken into two groups. One group used Smart Choices, the traditional diabetes self-management program that focuses on nutrition information, while the other group used “mindful meditation and a mindful approach to food selection and eating,” according to a university press release.
Eating mindfully is defined as “consuming food in response to physical cues of hunger and fullness,” the release said.
Both groups also recommended physical activity.
Subjects of the study were adults between ages 35 and 65 that had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for at least a year. These adults were also classified as overweight based on their body mass indexes (BMIs) and had abnormally high blood glucose levels for at least two months before the study began, measured by a hemoglobin A1c reading, according to release.
After three months, the study found that subjects in both the mindful eating program and the Smart Choices program lost about the same amount of weight and lowered their long-term blood sugar levels significantly, according to the press release.
The study lasted a total of six months: the first three months included weekly and biweekly group and trained facilitator meetings that encouraged either the mindful eating program or the Smart Choices program. The second three months did not include these meetings, but researchers checked on the subjects’ progress at the end of the time to gauge the programs’ effectiveness, the release said.
The subjects in the Smart Choices group lost an average of six pounds while those in the mindful eating group lost an average of 3 1/2 pounds. However, the differences in averages were not significant when looked at statistically, according to the release.
The study is relevant to everyone this time of year because of the typical feasting that occurs around the holidays, Miller said.
“We all need to eat more mindfully around the holidays instead of just pigging out,” Miller said. “It’s not just the holidays but anytime. The mindful eating program was really designed to tune people into their physiological cues … We have Thanksgiving to go through, Christmas cookies, holiday parties, one event after another with a lot of food present.”
Some OSU students with diabetic family members felt the study reflected their own experiences. Max Kovacs, a third-year in political science, said his grandfather, who has Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, got healthier by eating cautiously.
“He just kind of watched what he ate and kind of tried to diversify what he was eating, trying to get all the nutrients and stuff and trying to kind of keep the sugar low and that really helped him out,” Kovacs said.
Other OSU students were surprised by the study’s results.
“I find it kind of interesting that they don’t really need to follow a certain diet plan like you would think,” said Kylie Breeding, a third-year in communications.
The study was published Nov. 8 and was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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