Western Diets and Diabetes Prevention


Western Diets and Diabetes Prevention

Holiday Overindulgence Poses Patient Risk 

This article is brought to you by a diabetes prevention partnership of the Oregon Medical Association and American Medical Association.

December 11, 2017 

It’s impossible for physicians to monitor all aspects of their patients’ lives to improve their health. But it is possible for physicians to help patients help themselves, especially when it comes to their diets.

A recent study co-funded by the American Heart Association revealed that even short-term exposure to the average American, or western diet raised the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that after exposure to a diet typical to an American one, over a short period of time, rats’ abdominal fat increased nearly four times than normal, a type 2 diabetes risk factor. They also experienced an increase in blood pressure and blood vessel damage.

With many Oregonians entering a period of problematic holiday overindulgence, this is the ideal time to educate patients about their risk for diabetes and help them understand their options when they are at risk. 

The Problem with a Western Diet 

Numerous studies, along with this one, have found that consuming a western diet means a diet rich in excessively high levels of fat and refined sugars, which has been shown to cause metabolic syndrome or prediabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 out of 3 U.S. adults—or nearly 84 million—have prediabetes, and of those, 90 percent don’t know they have it.

The research also found that a western diet puts individuals at risk for developing vascular damage, a symptom common among people with diabetes, long before the tell-tale signs of diabetes are present. This indicates that this type of diet puts your patients at risk for not only developing type 2 diabetes, but heart disease and stroke as well.

This research makes screening for prediabetes a high priority and the need for patient participation in lifestyle interventions critical. In fact, lifestyle change programs, such as the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), have been proven to work.

Research showed that those with prediabetes who participated in the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a structured lifestyle change program that the National DPP is founded on, reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 60 percent and 71 percent for those aged 60 years and older.

National DPPs encourage healthier eating, stress management, and 2.5 hours of physical activity each week, which in turn helps people lose between 5 and 7 percent of their body weight or 10 to 14 pounds. 

Patient Tools to Raise Awareness

To help raise awareness of your patients’ risk of prediabetes and give them solutions when they are diagnosed, the American Medical Association along with the CDC have developed several easy-to-use tools and resources. 

Tools that can help with screening and educating your patients on prediabetes include:

  • Online patient risk assessment, a 1-minute test that determines whether a patient has prediabetes with results that can be emailed to patients or printed out to take with them to their physician visit
  • Prevent Diabetes STAT toolkit, designed to help physicians screen, test and act to refer patients with prediabetes to a National DPP
  • Prediabetes Awareness Campaign toolkit, which features downloadable PSAs and a guide on how to use them, customizable templates and marketing materials and social media messaging to help spread awareness
  • AMA DPP Cost Saving Calculator, an online tool that calculates the net savings and ROI for starting a DPP that serves your patient population

Armed with facts about how diet impacts patients’ health and tools to help them take control of their own health will empower patients and gives physicians the ability to have a measurable impact on type 2 diabetes. 


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