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Can exercise and nutrition help treat type 2 diabetes?

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Drs. Jonathan Little and Mary Jung are researchers in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBC Okanagan (UBCO). Their research laboratories (the Exercise, Metabolism and Inflammation Lab and the Diabetes Prevention Research Group, respectively), are studying how changes to diet and exercise habits can improve the health of people with or at risk for type 2 diabetes.

The researchers have a significant body of work in both laboratory-based and applied research in the areas of exercise science and nutrition. For example, they found that limiting carbohydrates at breakfast can improve 24-hour blood sugar control in diabetics. Another project suggests that short-term exercise in overweight and obese women at risk of diabetes can positively impact glucose control and blood vessel function.

As with many studies in this field, however, methodological limitations and small samples sizes restrict the ability of the researchers to determine the potential effectiveness of these diet and exercise interventions on a large, population level. In other words, assessment of the real-world application of these findings requires the use of clinical trial methodology.

Dr. Joel Singer

At CHÉOS, Clinical Trials Program Head Dr. Joel Singer and Statistician Dr. Terry Lee provide methodological support to the UBCO group in the form of study design, statistical analysis, and randomization services. The database for one of the ongoing trials is also hosted at CHÉOS. A brief description of three of the current trials from this collaboration are listed below:

Research Question: How does a 50-minute, standardized walking bout impact glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes and is it affected by age, sex, or medication use?

Trial Details: Two-arm, crossover design; 79 participants (8 sites)

Initial findings from this trial do not suggest that the walking bout significantly affected participants’ blood glucose profiles over the following 24 hours. Future studies are planned to examine whether the timing of an exercise bout in the day can be optimized for improving glucose control. The multi-site protocol and methodology developed can also be leveraged for future larger-scale studies.

Research Question: Is high-intensity interval training better than moderate-intensity, continuous exercise for improving cardiovascular fitness and health in overweight or obese adults?

Trial Details: Two-arm, parallel assignment design; 100 participants (one site)

An earlier pilot trial for this study found that high-intensity exercise training is a feasible exercise intervention for inactive, overweight people who are risk of developing diabetes.

Research Question: Can a 12-week, pharmacist-led, low-carbohydrate diet intervention improve glucose control and reduce medication need in people with type II diabetes when compared to treatment as usual?

Trial Details: Two-arm, parallel assignment design; 200 participants (12 sites)