SARATOGA SPRINGS — A diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence, says a Skidmore College professor with an extensive research background on the subject.
Paul J. Arciero, professor of Health and Human Physiological Sciences, received a $100,000 grant from the Connelly Foundation for a short-term study on how a patient’s diet can help them overcome the disease.
Arciero is in the process of rounding up 24 volunteers who are “pre-diabetic” or Type 2 diabetics. He hopes to begin screening participants next week for the eight-week study.
Pre-diabetic people are in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes, meaning they have elevated blood sugar, glycated hemoglobin, hemoglobin and insulin levels. Most of these people are already familiar with tracking their blood sugar or being informed that their blood sugar is elevated.
The study is open to people ages 30 to 65, and promises a full analysis of volunteers’ body fat, glycated hemoglobin, lipid, and sugar levels, along with monitoring of their physical activity and diet. They will also receive $50.
Arciero, who’s also the college’s director of the Human Nutrition, Performance, & Metabolism Laboratory, conducts clinical trials and lifestyle interventions with people who are both healthy and diseased.
He says the majority of people who have Type 2 diabetes are in a position to “reverse it and completely cure it and prevent it from ever happening again” with lifestyle changes.
“I don’t think we send that message to the general public enough,” said Arciero, who works with people of all ages and fitness and health levels to study lifestyle interventions that incorporate diet, exercise or cognitive brain training – sometimes incorporating all three components in his work.
But this particular study focuses on diet because it’s the primary treatment solution that’s been proven to have a significant, profound and relatively quick response in Type 2 diabetics, he said.
Refraining from foods with simple sugars and high-fructose corn syrup can be helpful. He said foods that have sugar as one of its Top 3 ingredients — such as soda, candy and baked goods — wreak havoc on a person’s blood-sugar levels, along with foods that have high amounts of processed refined grain and fat such as French fries and doughnuts.
As a second and often overlooked part of the equation, Arciero advocates for increasing the amount of high-quality protein that Type 2 diabetics eat, a longtime subject of Arciero’s research. He’s written several books on the concept of “protein pacing.”
“The pacing means that you evenly distribute high-quality protein feedings,” he said, adding that it is not a high-protein diet.
“It’s just eating the right type of protein and the right amount at the right time,” Arciero said.
Protein pacing also helps people with cardiovascular disease, he said.
In addition to the diet study being open to the wider community, Arciero said a number of Skidmore administrators, staff and faculty have already expressed interest in volunteering.
Eight weeks is not long, Arciero acknowledged, but it’s enough time to detect changes in diabetics through their diet.
“It’s not out of the question for people to completely reverse their diabetes in a month,” he said. “But it’s not 100% guaranteed because some people have had the diabetes for so long that they have arrived at a place where their bodies no longer can produce insulin,” the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.
Those patients often will need to stay on insulin therapy.
Arciero is a fellow with a trio of world governing bodies and organizations in their respective fields — the American College of Sports Medicine, the Obesity Society and the International Society in Sports Nutrition.
But he called his work with diabetics and their diets some of the most rewarding research he’s done.
“Because you see people with this diagnosis who completely reverse it without any medication,” he said. “They do it completely through lifestyle and diet and it’s for sure the much more proven treatment strategy.”
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.