Type 2 diabetes: a diet based on potatoes or beans can help lose weight

Type 2 diabetes: a diet based on potatoes or beans can help lose weight

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Certain types of diets can affect insulin resistance and weight loss results in people with diabetes. Design by MNT; Photography by Jenny Dettrick/Getty Images & Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Images
  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease influenced by diet and other lifestyle factors.
  • People with diabetes can work with nutritionists and other specialists to develop varied and nutritious meal plans.
  • Carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes are one food that nutritionists may advise people with diabetes to avoid or reduce their intake.
  • Data from a recent study, however, found that low-energy bean and potato diets may be effective in helping to reduce insulin resistance and promote weight loss.

Diet is an essential part of good health, especially for people with diabetes or who are at higher risk of developing diabetes. Researchers are constantly examining how food choices can impact people in this demographic.

A recent study published in the Medicinal Food Journal explores how potato and bean diets can help people with insulin resistance.

Researchers found that participants consuming a diet rich in beans and potatoes lost weight and reduced their insulin resistance.

Importantly, the study received funding from the Alliance for Potato Research and Education.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic disease in which the body does not respond normally to insulin. Insulin is an essential component that allows cells in the body to use glucose as an energy source.

People at risk for diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes can follow eating plans that help them manage their diabetes and improve their physical well-being. Each person will have slightly different needs, but organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer some general recommendations.

For example, some people with type 2 diabetes should limit carbs and increase their intake of non-starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables such as beans and potatoes contain carbs, but that doesn’t mean people with diabetes or insulin resistance should cut them out completely.

Dietitian nutritionist Yelena Wheeler, who was not involved in the study, told DTM:

“Potatoes and beans are not inherently ‘bad foods’ when it comes to glucose management. However, preparations of these foods can determine how beneficial or detrimental these foods may be to blood sugar management.

“Also, not all potatoes are created equal. Sweet potatoes and yams cooked with the skin on can, in fact, be great additions to a well-balanced diet by providing their high fiber content,” she said.

“The fiber content helps with satiety and blood sugar management. This, in turn, can diminish a person with [type 2 diabetes] insulin dependence and therefore may also improve weight maintenance and even weight loss,” Wheeler explained.

This particular study was a randomized dietary equivalence trial. It included 36 adult participants with insulin resistance.

The researchers compared two diets: one rich in potatoes and the other in legumes (beans and peas) and the impact of the diets on blood sugar control. Participants followed one of two controlled diets for eight weeks with regular follow-ups.

Kristian Morey, a registered dietitian and clinical dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education Program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who also was not involved in the study, noted DTM:

“An interesting detail they mention in the study is that they cooked and cooled the potatoes before serving them to the participants. This process may make some of the starch in the potato slower to digest than before, which can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance when consuming such foods.

“It is also important to note that they consumed other foods, such as protein foods, along with the potatoes, which may also improve the glycemic response,” she added.

Overall, the researchers found that participants on both diets did not experience a significant drop in blood sugar. However, both groups experienced weight loss and a reduction in insulin resistance.

Amy Kimberlain, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Media Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who was not involved in the study, said DTM:

“This study has shown that the use of foods that reduce the energy density of the diet will not only improve the insulin response, but also promote weight loss.”

“Additionally, this study helps continue the conversation that we can improve different risk factors in people by changing our diets (eating habits) while still eating foods we enjoy.”
—Amy Kimberlain

The study had several limitations. First, it included a small sample size, so that future studies can work on including more participants. Most of the participants were women, indicating that more diverse follow-up may also be needed.

The study also only lasted eight weeks, so longer-term studies are needed to examine long-term results.

The researchers noted that differences between the participants’ body mass index (BMI) and fasting insulin levels ultimately affected the study results. There were also some difficulties in completing the study due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kimberlain also noted that researchers had tight control over food preparation, but translating this into real-life practice might be more difficult.

“These meals were prepared for people in a metabolic kitchen, which meant the ability to confirm what people were eating (calories/content/etc.) was there. And although this is a study and they used it to have the opportunity to confirm intake, verify and/or see if it works long term with people, it would be important that people can do this on their own (after being given instructions on how to prepare the sample meals they were given),” she said.

Overall, the study demonstrates that food preparation and food choices are critical components of diabetes control. More research is needed to confirm how starchy foods like beans and potatoes can contribute to a healthy diet for people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

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