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Metabolism and Diabetes

Does metabolic rate affect how you manage your weight?

Many of us have heard rumors about the people who say they can chow down something like an entire pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream without gaining an ounce of weight. Often they claim they have lightning speed metabolism. But is it really possible to trick one’s body into becoming mega-calorie burning machine?

Learning about “metabolic rate”

Metabolism refers to the process by which the body converts food and drink into energy; metabolic rate refers to the speed of that process. There are three components to metabolic rate.

  1. Basal metabolic rate: This is the largest portion, accounting for more than two-thirds of your daily calorie usage. These are the calories used for basic bodily functions like breathing, circulating blood, maintaining body temperature and more. Simply put, basal metabolism is what’s going on behind the scenes. A person’s age, sex, weight and body composition drive their basal metabolic rate.
  2. Food processing: It takes calories to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients from food. This rate stays relatively steady and isn’t easy to change.
  3. Physical activity: You have the most control here. The more active you are, the more calories you burn.

Can metabolic rate be boosted?

If there were safe, reliable tricks to significantly boost metabolic rate, they probably wouldn’t be kept secret. Many people would likely use them and blaze through their calories.

Research does show some effects of caffeine, green tea and spicy peppers. In the case of capsaicin, however, the compound responsible for the burn of peppers, test subjects failed to take the recommended dose because of its pungency.

I recommend that my clients focus their energies on behavioral changes that more broadly impact health – such as taking a walk or planning and preparing healthful meals. Be sure to talk to your diabetes care team before making changes to your meal plan or physical activity routine.

(Learn more about eating and diabetes, including tips for a balanced diet.)

What we don’t know about weight loss

There is still much to learn about weight management. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that obesity and excessive weight gain result from a combination of factors, including dietary patterns, physical activity, genetics and family history, certain medications and other factors.

Losing weight if you live with diabetes

Studies do find that long-lasting weight loss is both possible and health-boosting. Take the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which involved more than 3,000 people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Participants in the intensive lifestyle change group, who were advised to lose 7% of their body weight (14 pounds for someone starting at 200 pounds) and engage in exercise for 150 minutes weekly, were more likely to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The Look AHEAD study involved more than 5,000 overweight or obese adults with type 2 diabetes. After 8 years, half of those in the intensive lifestyle program lost 5% or more of their body weight, enough to have clinical significance.

Tips for taking action

There are many ways to healthful weight loss. The American Diabetes Association (the Association) finds that calorie-reduced diet plans that differ in protein, fat or carbohydrate content are equally effective in achieving weight loss.

The Association also recommends programs that emphasize calorie reduction; focus on diet, activity and behavioral strategies; provide for frequent contact with program facilitators; and are individualized for each person. (Learn more about finding and working with a registered nutritionist.) You can find a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area who specializes in both diabetes and weight management at eatright.org.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Diabetes Forecast and Kids Eat Right. She has a private practice in Newport News, VA. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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