10 Ways to Lose Midlife Weight and Prevent Diabetes

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on October 22, 2020

10 Ways to Lose Midlife Weight and Prevent Diabetes

Avoid Midlife Weight Gain

Are you pear shaped or apple shaped? Many women put on weight in the thighs and buttocks and develop a pear shaped body. While others maintain thinner legs and buttocks, but develop an apple shaped abdomen.

It is the apple shaped body that is associated with higher rates of elevated insulin levels, which can lead to further weight gain and inflammation, diabetes and heart disease.

Are you at Risk for Diabetes?

Risk factors for diabetes and metabolic issues in women

  • Gestational diabetes (having diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Having had a large baby over 9 pounds
  • Pre-eclampsia or toxemia of pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Other risk factors for both women and men

  • Genetic factors such as family history of type-2 diabetes
  • Race, including Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian descent
  • Advancing age, especially over age 45, is a non-modifiable factor
  • Fat distribution in the abdomen and physical inactivity

All adults should have a fasting blood sugar every three years after age 45.

Decrease your Risk for Diabetes

  1. Lower elevated blood sugar levels
  2. Sensitize the body to insulin to promote abdominal weight loss
  3. Intermittent fasting

If you are insensitive to the effects of insulin, more insulin is made which in turn causes other problems like disruption of ovulation. Excess insulin secretions are hard on your pancreas and this occurs due to ‘insulin resistance’ of the excess fat cells in one’s body. For folks with type-2 diabetes, lowering the sugar levels to normal is so important.

10 Ways To Lose Weight and Prevent Diabetes

Top 10 Insulin Sensitizers

1. Healthy diet

A healthy diet should eliminate all simple sugars (white bread, white rice, sweets and sugars) and focus on ingesting heart-healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA like fish, flax, walnuts, chia seeds and almonds), complete proteins and complex carbohydrates such as legumes, beans and lentils.

Many folks will count carbs instead of counting calories and find it easier to lose weight on a higher protein, lower carb diet than a traditional low fat diet.

2. Exercise and more exercise!

Exercise is a powerful insulin sensitizer by directly helping your muscles take up blood sugar, thus reducing the secretion of insulin needed. Exercise that strengthens and builds muscle improves the basal metabolic rate and reduces diabetes risk and helps control blood sugar in folks with type-2 diabetes.

3. Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is an excellent way to drop insulin levels which reduces hunger and thus reduces caloric consumption. This leads to weight loss, which leads to lower glucose levels. Paradoxically fasting blood sugar may elevate slightly as there is ‘relative glucose sparing’ with low carb diets combined with intermittent fasting. However the HGBA1c (blood test to reveal average blood sugar) over prior 3 months is usually LOWER!

4. Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery can be a cure for type-2 diabetes in folks with a very high BMI and multiple medical problems. The diabetes can go into remission even before weight loss because of the effects on gut hormones. This is major surgery and still requires the person to focus on diet and exercise for the rest of their life.

5. Medications

A medication such as Metformin (Glucophage) is an insulin sensitizer and can help lower blood sugar, lower body weight and is even used in women with PCOS to improve menstrual disorders and infertility associated with insulin resistance. Metformin and other medication therapies may help with weight loss.

6. Berberine

Berberine is an ancient remedy from traditional Chinese medicine that is derived from plants. It exhibits a broad range of pharmacologic effects ranging from anti-cancer to anti-ineffective.

However, berberine’s ability to lower blood glucose and blood fat levels is most relevant to people who have elevated blood sugars. Berberine’s blood sugar lowering effect in combination with lifestyle modification showed greater improvements in glucose levels, HbA1c, and plasma lipids than lifestyle modifications alone.

Berberine is an exciting natural compound that can be found cheaply over-the-counter, however individuals with diabetes should not rely on this alone and should consult a physician before use.

7. Anti-oxidants

Anti-oxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is an anti-oxidant found in many foods and is made in our bodies. Studies have shown that there is improved insulin sensitivity with ALA. ALA is present in many foods such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, beets and red meat.

8. Supplements

Supplements such as D-chiro-inositol (DCI) is a secondary messenger in insulin signal transduction. It is found in buckwheat farinetta and has been used in women with PCOS which has shown improved glucose control and thus promoted regular ovulation.

9. Trace minerals

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that is a cofactor in various enzymatic reactions in the body and it is involved in the regulation of blood sugar. Good chromium food sources include black pepper, thyme, brewer’s yeast and lean meats.

10. Spices

Cinnamon reduces serum insulin levels after mealtime (3-6 grams have been used in studies). However, 3-6 grams are not typically the doses found in food dishes, and adding sugar to your cinnamon will not be helping your blood sugar!

11. Acetic acid

Specifically, apple cider vinegar which is high in acetic acid has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity as it suppresses disaccharidase activity (similar to prescription medicines like Acarbose). So, instead of “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” try a capful of apple cider vinegar instead!

Whether you eat an apple sprinkled with cinnamon after your workout or put some sliced pears on your buckwheat farinetta waffles, remember food can be healthy medicine. And you’ll likely need less medicine if you eat right and exercise regularly.

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!

-Holly L. Thacker, MD

Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Her special interests are menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health. Dr. Thacker is the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.


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