can a dietitian help with prediabetes
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Can A Dietitian Help With Prediabetes?

Perhaps you recently visited your doctor and were told you had an elevated blood sugar or A1C in the range of prediabetes. Your provider likely made some general recommendations about losing weight, changing your diet, and getting more exercise, and then sent you on your way. They may have even recommended you to work with a dietitian, although this does not always happen.

However, getting quality information and support to follow general prediabetes recommendations is not always straightforward or easy. So, if you’re looking for support, and wondering “can a dietitian or nutritionist help with prediabetes?”, the answer is yes. Absolutely.

Why Dietitians are Preferred for Prediabetes Nutrition Counseling 

For prediabetes, lifestyle modification is considered the cornerstone for diabetes prevention, suggesting it can reduce risk by 40-70% (1). An important part of lifestyle modification is making dietary changes, which can be supported by nutrition counseling with a Registered Dietitian. 

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Registered Dietitians have the unique skills, training, and expertise which makes them the preferred provider for diabetes related nutrition counseling. For that reason, they recommend that all patients with prediabetes be referred to a dietitian for one-on-one nutrition counseling, or to a lifestyle intervention program like the Diabetes Prevention Program (2).

Lifestyle modifications that involve nutrition counseling, increased physical activity, and motivational support have been shown to be more effective than medication alone (3), and nutrition counseling with a Registered Dietitian was shown to be more effective at lowering A1C in those with prediabetes, compared to those receiving the usual level of care (4). 

What Can a Dietitian Do for Prediabetes?

The Diabetes Prevention Program has shown that diabetes can be prevented by supporting people to make dietary changes, and increase physical activity (5). To most people it’s no surprise that nutrition and exercise are important. But we sometimes overlook the importance of having additional support. And, that’s where one-on-one support from a dietitian can make a big difference. 

Ditch the Diet Confusion With Personalized Support

If you’re trying to navigate nutrition recommendations by yourself, it can be overwhelming. If you ask “What is the best diet for prediabetes?”, you’ll easily end up with a variety of different answers. Some of them even feel entirely contradictory.

The reason for this is that there really is no “one size fits all” diet for prediabetes. Instead, there are a variety of diet patterns and food choices that can be beneficial (2). And, just because one diet worked for somebody, it does not mean that is the only diet option for you.

Instead of getting lost in nutrition information, a dietitian can help you learn what meal patterns can improve your blood sugar levels, and what foods to watch out for, so you can ditch the diet confusion, and start making dietary changes that fit your lifestyle and preferences. 

Understand Your Risk Factors and Increase Awareness

To make lifestyle changes, it’s important to understand the risk factors for diabetes. Then you can prioritize where to focus your own efforts, based on which risk factors are most specific to you. This empowers you to take control of your own health. 

A dietitian can help guide you on where to focus your efforts, and then help you create a realistic game plan to take significant steps to reduce your overall risk. They’ll help you prioritize and set goals that are achievable, instead of overwhelming. 

nutrition counseling for prediabetes

Set Goals to Make Lifestyle Changes that Last

Setting goals is just as important for your health as it is for your career, finances and life ambitions. After all, how do you get to where you want to be, unless you define it?

The challenge with goal setting is that we often see big picture outcome goals, like “to lower my A1C” or “lose weight”. But, we struggle to set smaller behavioral goals that help serve as stepping stones to those larger outcome goals. 

This is where a dietitian can help you turn your larger health goals into smaller steps. They’ll also help you identify and practice the skills that will keep you successful for the long term. 

setting nutrition goals

Accountability and Support to Ensure You Take Action

Nutrition knowledge and setting goals are super important. But, you know what’s most important for success? Taking action. 

For many people, we are great at absorbing information and learning, but we struggle to take action. Many people even jump from diet to diet, looking for the best one without ever taking action. But, this keeps us stuck, because if we’re endlessly researching, and not give ourselves an opportunity to learn through action. 

A dietitian can not only direct you toward quality nutrition information, they can help hold you accountable to take action. That way, even if you’re not perfect, at least you’re making progress. Then, as you move forward, your dietitian can help you make modifications to consistently improve as you go. 

Change is not easy. Sometimes what helps most is simply having an expert on your side, who has compassion, and knowledge, who believes in you and wants to see you succeed. 

Should I Work with a Dietitian or a Nutritionist for Prediabetes?

Before seeking help, people often want to know “should I work with a dietitian or a nutritionist?” For a comprehensive explanation of the differences you can see my article, Dietitian Vs Nutritionists: What’s the Difference?

In general, nutritionists and dietitians can both be helpful sources for nutrition education. However, dietitians are required to complete more formal education and training than nutritionists, which makes them more qualified to work with people on nutrition related health conditions like prediabetes.

Most research on nutrition counseling looks at medical nutrition therapy, which can only be provided by a Registered Dietitian. In addition, research suggests that working with a dietitian was more effective than working with a non-dietitian for weight loss (6), which is associated with a reduced risk for developing type-2 diabetes. 

Where to Get the Prediabetes Support You Need

As a Registered Dietitian, I specifically work with people to help them understand their risk factors, set goals, and make lifestyle changes to reverse their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. You can learn more about why I became a dietitian here, and learn more about my prediabetes services here

I also recommend using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website to find a dietitian in your area. Or, check out the Diabetes Prevention Program here.

Learn More about Prediabetes

References:

  1. Tabák AG, Herder C, Rathmann W, Brunner EJ, Kivimäki M. Prediabetes: a high-risk state for diabetes development. Lancet. 2012;379(9833):2279-2290. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60283-9
  2. Tabák AG, Herder C, Rathmann W, Brunner EJ, Kivimäki M. Prediabetes: a high-risk state for diabetes development. Lancet. 2012;379(9833):2279-2290. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60283-9
  3. Echouffo-Tcheugui JB, Perreault L, Ji L, Dagogo-Jack S. Diagnosis and Management of Prediabetes: A Review. JAMA. 2023;329(14):1206-1216. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.4063
  4. Parker AR, Byham-Gray L, Denmark R, Winkle PJ. The effect of medical nutrition therapy by a registered dietitian nutritionist in patients with prediabetes participating in a randomized controlled clinical research trial. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(11):1739-1748. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.07.020
  5. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) Research Group. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP): description of lifestyle intervention. Diabetes Care. 2002;25(12):2165-2171. doi:10.2337/diacare.25.12.2165
  6. Sun Y, You W, Almeida F, Estabrooks P, Davy B. The Effectiveness and Cost of Lifestyle Interventions Including Nutrition Education for Diabetes Prevention: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017;117(3):404-421.e36. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.11.016

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