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Comparing Weight Loss Diets

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2021.

Dropping pounds is one of the best ways to control your diabetes if you are overweight. Of course, that is easier said than done. The good news is that there is no shortage of weight-loss eating plans to choose from.

The first step in finding the right weight-loss plan is to talk with your doctor, a certified diabetes educator, or a dietitian. A diabetes educator or dietitian can help you set realistic weight loss goals and make suggestions for how to change your eating habits so you lose weight and gain better control of your blood glucose.

Weight loss diet plans for type 2 diabetes

There are nearly as many weight-loss diets as there are people with diabetes. A few of the most popular diets for weight loss or diabetes include:1

  • 3M or 6M (3 meal or 6 meal)
  • Atkins
  • DASH
  • Jenny Craig
  • Keto
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Mediterranean
  • MIND
  • Nutrisystem
  • Ornish
  • Paleo
  • WW (Weight Watchers)
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian or flexitarian
  • Very low calorie
  • Volumetrics

Each of these diets has pros and cons. Some meal plans are more expensive than others. Some emphasize vegetables and fruits over meat. Others require more meal planning and home cooking.

Some of these diets are recommended for people with diabetes, while others are not. Some may not be safe if you have kidney disease or other health issues. Your doctor, diabetes educator, or dietitian will be able to tell you which diets are best for your specific needs.

Diets recommended for type 2 diabetes

In general, the DASH, Mediterranean, and vegetarian/flexitarian diets are considered the best for people with diabetes. All of these diets focus on portion control and eating more vegetables and lean proteins. Low- or no-carb diets, long-term fasting, very low calorie, cleanses, and diet pills are usually not safe or effective for people with diabetes.2

A recent study found the 3M (3 meals a day) diet controlled weight and blood glucose better than 6 small meals a day in people with type 2 diabetes. The 3M recommends a large breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner with no starches or sugars. The idea is that this diet syncs with your biological clock, providing more energy in the morning and mid-day, and less when you are close to sleep.3

There is an easy way to sort through information about these plans. U.S. News & World Report creates an annual list of the best diets as rated by a panel of experts. The most popular diet plans are ranked by how well they work for weight loss, heart health, diabetes management, and more.1

Why losing weight helps diabetes

Many studies show that losing even a few pounds can help someone with prediabetes prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes. In people who already have type 2 diabetes, losing 10 percent of body weight over 5 years doubles the chances a person’s diabetes will go into remission, according to a study from the United Kingdom. If you weigh 200 pounds, that means losing 20 pounds, or just 4 pounds a year.4

Studies repeatedly show that gradual changes in eating habits and exercise are easier to stick to long-term and show the most health benefits. The health benefits of losing weight include:5

  • Better glucose control
  • More energy
  • Better mobility
  • Fewer complications of heart, kidney, and vascular disease

Finding reliable nutritional support and information

Most insurance companies and Medicare will pay for you to use a Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) service. Usually, the services must be prescribed by your doctor.

These services cover diabetes education and support provided by a diabetes educator certified by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. A diabetes educator specializes in helping people with diabetes make lifestyle changes that support good health. Some of the main topics of discussion will be weight loss, exercise, healthier eating habits, monitoring blood glucose, and problem-solving.

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