Q. What is "prediabetes" and what role does diet play in it?
A. Prediabetes describes “borderline-high” blood glucose levels that consistently fall between what is considered a healthy, normal level and a high level that meets the diagnostic criteria for diabetes. Let’s look at some numbers that might help you understand this a little better. One common blood-glucose test is the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, a measure of glucose in the blood after a period of fasting (after a meal, blood sugar increases significantly). Normal glucose levels with this test would be less than 100 mg/dl and diabetic levels would be greater than 126 mg/dl. Anything between 100 mg/dl and 126 mg/dl falls into a risky range of prediabetes—so called because people with this level of “impaired glucose responses” are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes within 10 years. They also are at an increased risk for heart disease. And the condition is not all that uncommon: 54 million Americans have blood-sugar levels corresponding to a prediabetes diagnosis. The good news: A diagnosis of prediabetes doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop the disease. In fact, if you see it as an urgent wake-up call, the diagnosis could motivate you to make positive lifestyle changes that may help reverse the course and bring your glucose levels back into healthy ranges. In one study of 3,234 overweight men and women, healthy lifestyle changes—eating a healthier diet that provided more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and fewer high-calorie snack foods and desserts, combined with 30 minutes of physical activity five times per week—resulted in a 58% reduction of progression to type 2 diabetes.