Using Personalized Nutrition to Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

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Raedeh Basiri’s new clinical trial seeks to answer whether personalized nutrition intervention can be effective in lowering blood sugar (and thereby help to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and related cardiovascular diseases) in people with prediabetes.

Raedeh Basiri
assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies Raedeh Basiri

One in 10 Americans has diabetes and of those who do, 90% have type 2 diabetes. More than 1 in 3 Americans (96 million people) have prediabetes, many of whom don’t know it. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease and Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies Raedeh Basiri’s new study hopes that personalized nutrition can stop prediabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes.

“Many people know general health tips, such as eat more vegetables, yet are not following the health guidelines, which can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases,” said Basiri, who is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. “We understand that there are many factors that influence individual’s food choices – and sometimes those factors are outside their control. I want to study the why behind why people aren’t following health/dietary guidelines that can help prevent/delay these diseases. Is it access to foods? Their culture? The lack of knowledge? This study looks at how can we as dietitians help people put education into practice based on their individual body and personal desire.”

Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is too much sugar in someone’s bloodstream and it impairs the way the body processes insulin, a hormone that helps the body process sugar (glucose) as fuel. High blood sugar levels can lead to disorders including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, non-healing foot ulcers, and stroke. With the correct diet and lifestyle adjustments, a person’s blood glucose levels can decrease and return to the non-diabetes range, but type 2 diabetes does not have a cure.

Prediabetes, when blood sugar levels are elevated but not yet at diabetes levels, is reversible if the appropriate lifestyle changes are made. A new study from Basiri and colleagues will help determine to what extent personalized nutrition intervention can help lifestyle changes in participants, who are unaware of having prediabetes or have been diagnosed with prediabetes.

The study emphasizes healthy eating and not weight loss or changing routine exercise to determine if only adjusting food intake will decrease blood glucose level, which in the long term could prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. In the study, the treatment and control groups will receive general dietary recommendations, similar to what would be provided to them in  clinical settings currently, and be visited by the researchers once a week.

Participants in the treatment group will receive more individualized nutrition education. The goal is to lower participants’ blood sugar levels while meeting their dietary needs with foods they enjoy. Each person has a unique physiology, which makes food affect people differently. For example, if a person is very sensitive to a certain type of carbohydrates and it raises their blood sugar levels, but they love it, the dietitian will work with the participant on portion size and the best time of day for them to eat it. This is personalized nutrition.

The study, “Individualized Nutrition Therapy for Preventing or Delaying Onset of Type-2 Diabetes,” is a clinical trial. It has been approved by Mason’s Institutional Review Board and ClinicalTrials.gov and is funded by Mason's College of Health and Human Services. Nutrition and Food Studies Chair Larry Cheskin and associate professor Lilian de Jonge are co-investigators on the study.