Quinn on Nutrition: Diabetes confab in Boston covers the waterfront

June 15, 2015

What have I learned at these 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association? First, that they weren’t kidding when they said this is the world’s largest meeting on the subject of diabetes. Among the more than 14,000 researchers, clinicians and educators in Boston this week, I heard almost every language on earth, including a unique dialect best understood by those who live in this area.

To say this is information overload is an understatement; and we still don’t have all the answers. But we are getting closer to understanding why the simple messages we hear over and over may well be the key to preventing and controlling our worldwide diabetes epidemic.

Lose excess body fat. Type 2 diabetes — the most common form — is related to a disruption in the action of insulin, a hormone produced by specialized (beta) cells in the pancreas. Reducing body fat is the best way to preserve the function of these beta cells, say many of these experts.

Choose your fats. Diets high in saturated fat were confirmed at this meeting to be not so good for folks wishing to avoid or control diabetes. Saturated fats, said many researchers, seem to interfere with the body’s ability to control blood sugars. Most studies seem to support a diet with more fish and plant-based oils and smaller amounts of meat and dairy fats, similar to the eating patterns of the traditional Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating styles.

Feed those gut microbes. There seems to be a relationship between the good and bad bacteria in our intestinal tracts and our risk for developing diabetes, according to several of these researchers. And these microbial mixtures are largely shaped by the foods we eat. Each time we choose to eat fiber-containing plant foods such as fruit, vegetable, beans or whole grains, for example, we fuel the growth of beneficial bacteria that help with weight and blood sugar control. Fascinating. 

The real challenge, it seems, is to translate all this great research into real life. And what fun it was to practice this while visiting Bean Town.

My good gut microbes jumped for joy when I discovered berry and yogurt parfait with granola and flaxseeds on the breakfast menu at my hotel. Throughout the week, I was pleased to see restaurant menus and buffet tables which featured fruit, fresh salads, grilled vegetables, seafood and lean meats.

After throwing a (pretend) box of tea into Boston "hahbor" with other fellow patriots one afternoon, I was directed to a local eatery where I experienced the local "lobstah" roll served with coleslaw and French fries…all in moderation, right? As I enjoyed my meal, a friendly young man and his wife invited me to share a fresh "oystah" with them.

When I told him I was visitor, he said, "You need to go to Joe’s and ask for Josh. Order the clam ‘chowdah.’ Just have a cup, though. It’s pretty rich."

Very good advice indeed. Thanks, Boston.




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