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9 Surprising Ways to Lower Your Diabetes Risk

You might not know that these small steps can produce big results

By Sheryl Kraft and

(This article previously appeared on

The most common form of diabetes, Type 2 (once called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes), affects 90 to 95 percent of the 26 million Americans with diabetes. But a diabetes diagnosis isn't inevitable, according to Gayl J. Canfield, Director of Nutrition Research at Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Fla. It comes down to living a healthy lifestyle and doing all the things you already know you should do: keep your blood glucose (blood sugar) under control, eat healthy, exercise and monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

What else can help? Try these surprising tips, shown by research to lower your diabetes risk.

Go ahead and refill your cup. People who increased the amount of coffee they drank each day by more than one cup over a four-year period had an 11 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes than those who made no changes to their coffee consumption, says a new study from Harvard School of Public Health.

(MORE: The Surprising Risks of Energy Drinks for Boomers)

Almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts, to be exact. Studies have shown that eating tree nuts frequently is associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Even peanuts — classified as a legume, not a nut — can be beneficial. But frequent consumption doesn't mean large amounts: keep the quantity to about a handful to avoid the calories from piling on.

(MORE: Eating to Cure Diabetes Type 2)

Hold those multiple martinis. A new study suggests that binge drinking (consuming four alcoholic beverages within a two-hour time span for women and five drinks for men) may increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes by disrupting the effects of insulin in the brain.

(MORE: How Not to Drink So Much — The New Happy Hour)

People who sit six to eight hours a day are 19 percent more likely to have diabetes, according to research in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Something as small as a 15-minute walk a half hour after eating can lower your post-meal blood sugar levels for at least three hours.

And a new study published in the Journal of the European Association for the Study of Disease shows that brief bursts of intense exercise before meals is a more effective way to control blood sugar than doing one longer workout during the day.

(MORE: 4 Ways to Turn Your Walk Into a Workout)

Weight lifting or resistance training can keep blood sugar levels lower then even aerobic exercise can, according to a study out of the University of Ottawa. In fact, because of this increased evidence of resistance training's health benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine now recommends it for adults with type 2 diabetes. (An added plus: It also helps maintain muscle mass and speed metabolism, which naturally decline with age with increased age.)

(MORE: The Fiftysomething Workout: Increasing the Intensity)


Just drinking one or two sugar-sweetened (or non-diet) beverages a day can increase your risk of diabetes by 26 percent according to a Harvard School of Public Health review of studies. So ditch the soda and instead sip on green tea or seltzer flavored with unsweetened pomegranate or cranberry juice.

(MORE: The New Dangers of Diet Soda)

Scientists from Harvard School of Public Health have found that higher consumption of red meat, especially processed meats, may increase a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A few marks against red meat: it's a major source for saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein.

And processed meat fares even worse: it contains certain types of preservatives, additives and other chemicals which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study found that substituting meat with other foods, like whole grains, nuts, low-fat diary, fish and poultry could significantly lower diabetes risk.

(MORE: Is it Time to Go Vegan?)

A study from Preventive Medicine finds that oranges and orange juice can actually assist in the management of diabetes. And it's not just oranges that help: grapefruits, lemons, lemons and other citrus fruits have protective powers. An earlier (animal) study found that citrus extracts have the ability to slow glucose uptake as well as inhibit its movement through the intestines and liver.

(MORE: Surprising Benefits of Frozen Fruits and Vegetables)

To help educate patients on evidence-based behaviors to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control has launched The National Diabetes Prevention Program.

The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program is an evidence-based lifestyle change program for preventing type 2 diabetes. Participants work with a lifestyle coach in a group setting at local YMCAs to receive a one-year lifestyle change program that includes 16 core sessions (usually one per week) and six post-core sessions (one per month). To find out if the program is offered in your community, click here.

Sheryl Kraft is a freelance journalist, essayist and writer of non-fiction based in Fairfield County, Conn. Her writing covers all areas, with a concentration in health, wellness and fitness. Read More
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