In adults with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, adopting certain dietary patterns — namely a lower fat intake, and a higher intake of fiber and vitamin C — is linked to better long-term cardiovascular outcomes, according to a recent study published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.
Treatment guidelines for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes recommend that for most people who are newly diagnosed, healthy lifestyle changes should be central to the treatment strategy — in addition to taking medications as needed to lower blood glucose levels. But previous studies have shown that many people are hesitant to change their diet or exercise habits in the face of a diabetes diagnosis. It’s well known that diabetes raises the risk for cardiovascular disease, and that making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce this risk — but there haven’t been many studies looking specifically at the long-term impact of adopting certain lifestyle patterns shortly after a diabetes diagnosis, including the long-term effect on cardiovascular disease risk.
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For the latest study, researchers looked at a group of 867 adults with type 2 diabetes that was detected through diabetes screening, who were followed for 10 years after their diagnosis. At the time of their diabetes screening and one year later, participants completed a questionnaire on a number of lifestyle habits including diet, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and smoking. The researchers compared cardiovascular outcomes after 10 years in participants who adopted healthy lifestyle habits in the year following their diabetes diagnosis, and in those who didn’t make healthy lifestyle changes.
Healthy lifestyle changes linked to lower cardiovascular risk
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that participants who smoked were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, with a 73% higher risk. Those with the highest fat intake were also more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, with a 70% higher risk (this analysis didn’t differentiate between different types of fat, such as “healthy” unsaturated fats or “unhealthy” saturated fats). On the other hand, participants with the highest blood levels of vitamin C — most likely due to higher vitamin C intake — were 56% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and those with the highest fiber intake were 40% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
When it came to the impact of lifestyle changes, the researchers found that participants who reduced their fat intake following their diabetes diagnosis saw a reduced long-term cardiovascular disease risk. Among those with the highest fat intake at the time of their diagnosis, reducing this intake was linked to a 25% lower risk for cardiovascular disease after 10 years.
“Following [type 2 diabetes] diagnosis, decreasing fat intake was associated with lower long-term [cardiovascular disease] risk,” the researchers wrote. “This evidence may raise concerns about low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets to achieve weight loss following [type 2 diabetes] diagnosis.” But the researchers cautioned that more data is needed on the sources or types of dietary fat — and the associated risk for cardiovascular disease — before any sweeping recommendations can be made about reducing fat intake in people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
Want to learn more about protecting your heart? Read “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers,” “Does Diabetes Hurt Your Heart?” “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods” and “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.”