There are no high quality data to assess how well dietary treatments for type 2 diabetes work in people who have just been told they have the disease, but there is evidence that taking on exercise seems to be one way of improving blood sugar levels, according to the findings of a Cochrane Systematic Review.
Type 2 diabetes leaves a person at danger of having elevated levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. This high sugar content then causes damage to blood vessels, which in turn harms many organs including the eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart.
When people are first diagnosed with this disease they are given dietary advice in the hope that this will enable them to take more control over the level of sugar in their blood. However, after searching published scientific literature, a team of Cochrane Researchers was unable to find high quality data that showed whether dietary advice did indeed alter the risk of developing long-term complications, affect overall quality of life or the likelihood of dying.
"We did find 36 published articles that reported work from 18 different trials which included a total of 1467 people with type 2 diabetes, but only a minority of these trials examined hard clinical endpoints such as death or vascular disease, and those that did offered no details; most talked about factors that are easier to measure such as weight or blood sugar control," says lead researcher Nield, a researcher at the University of Teesside in Middlesbrough, UK.
The team did, however, find data suggesting that if people with type 2 diabetes increase the amount of exercise as an adjunct to dietary advice they do, then they can see an improvement in their blood sugar levels after six and twelve months.
"There is an urgent need for well-designed and well-reported studies which examine a range of interventions and see how they influence many of the features that are important in type 2 diabetes," says Lucie Nield.
The researchers point out that there is some good news, in that one promising study is already underway.
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