More than 24 million Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes - which means they cannot store glucose in their cells and their blood sugar levels can either jump to dangerously high levels or dip dangerously low.
Lifestyle changes like weight loss and cutting calorie intake have been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of diabetes complications - but which diet plans work best?
Diabetes specialists at Western Sussex Hospitals recently reviewed the results of 20 studies to compare the effects of seven popular diets on adults with type 2 diabetes. According to their findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Mediterranean, low-carb, high-protein and low glycemic index diets all successfully lowered blood sugar.
Diets lean on meat and rich in healthy fats like olive oil were most effective at promoting weight loss and lowering blood sugar among people with diabetes. Diets low in carbohydrates, high in protein or low in simple sugars were also beneficial.
People on a Mediterranean eating plan for at least six months lost 4 pounds on average - no other diet had a significant impact on weight. A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes, whole grains, fish, and uses olive oil and herbs in place of butter and salt. Saturated fats from red meat and dairy products are usually less than eight percent of the total calories consumed.
Other studies have linked Mediterranean diets with reduced risks of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and death from heart attack.
The review found no evidence that vegetarian, vegan or high-fiber diets aided in weight loss. However, they might still be able to improve blood sugar management.
Low-carb, low-glycemic and Mediterranean diets all increased markers of heart health - HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol rose by 4-10 percent, while triglycerides fell by up to 9 percent.
However, while weight loss is important, so is nutrient quality. Portion control and regular consumption of nutritious food are the most important elements of a diet plan for type 2 diabetes. It's important to take a balanced approach by including fruits and vegetables, eating moderate portions and talking to a doctor or dietitian before embarking on a diet plan to effectively manage type 2 diabetes.