Patients Unlikely to Change Dietary Habits After Diabetes Diagnosis, Despite Health Benefits

January 14, 2016
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Ideally, patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity would take steps to address lifestyle factors. Often, their treatment teams are disappointed when these patients fail either to improve their diets or make healthy changes.

Ideally, patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity would take steps to address lifestyle factors. Often, their treatment teams are disappointed when these patients fail either to improve their diets or make healthy changes.

A multinational team of researchers conducted a cohort study to determine if patients actually make needed changes after diagnosis with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity. Their findings, published ahead-of-print in Diabetes Care, indicate that most patients don't make lifestyle changes.

This study enrolled 4,703 participants with mean a age of 49.5 years. The researchers screened patients for metabolic syndrome (MetS), and obesity. They informed patients if they had diabetes or obesity, but did not tell them if they had MetS. Patients were not given dietary counseling. The researchers then followed participants' diet.

After adjustment for age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, marital status, total energy intake, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity, patients with T2D, MetS, or obesity identified as having unhealthy diets at baseline generally did not improve their diets.

Among participants with healthy baseline diets, patients with preexisting (as opposed to newly diagnosed) T2D and obesity were more likely to eat deteriorating diets than those who didn't have these conditions.

Simply knowing that they had diabetes or were obese didn't change dietary behavior. Their behavior was similar to that of people with MetS who had not been informed.

Other studies have demonstrated that patients with chronic diseases often fail to make lifestyle changes. For example, they continue to drink alcohol, stay sedentary, or smoke after myocardial infarction.

Plenty of evidence shows that behavior changes can reverse cardiometabolic risk factors.

The researchers conclude that all patients with metabolic disorders need dietary counseling. They suggest that future research should look for interventions that could effectively improve patients’ adherence to dietary recommendations.