Weight loss helps control diabetes

You hear it from your doctor. You hear it from your friends. You even hear it from your spouse. You hear it so often that instead of well-meaning advice it starts to sound like nagging… so you tune it out.

Don't.

The advice is to lose some weight, and it's not just nagging. It's life-changing and even life-saving advice that could help prevent diabetes.

If you don't have diabetes, weight loss can help you prevent diabetes. And if you already have the disease, it's even more important than ever to drop those extra pounds -- because weight loss is the single most effective way to slow the disease and even reverse some of the damage.

And now, new research backs the benefits of weight loss in diabetics in a big way, showing how diabetics who lose about 9 percent of their body weight and keep 6 percent off for a decade are less likely to develop kidney disease, vision problems and depression than patients in a control group.

More importantly, the new study shows how weight loss can also help prevent diabetes symptoms for getting worse by controlling blood sugar levels and reducing your need for medication.

And most importantly of all, weight loss can decrease your risk of hospitalization and increase your overall quality of life, according to the study of more than 5,000 obese diabetics assigned to either weight loss or counseling sessions.

The only surprise here is that weight loss didn't do much to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke among patients in the study -- but that may be more because of how they lost their weight and kept it off.

The program in the study consisted of calorie counting and, at times, meal replacement drinks -- and while these types of diets can be effective at weight loss, they're not necessarily the best ways to get the nutrients you need for heart protection, especially over the long term.

In fact, a strict calorie-control diet can actually allow for junk foods and other unhealthy treats as long as they're within your daily allotment -- and those low-nutrition foods can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and more even if you're at a normal weight and even if you're not diabetic.

So lose the weight -- but do it with a diet that's proven to lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Do it by limiting saturated fats, avoiding processed foods and junk foods, and making sure you get plenty of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids your heart needs.

I recommend the Mediterranean diet for diabetics and non-diabetics alike to prevent diabetes symptoms from getting worse, and for both weight loss and heart protection.

I'm not done with natural heart protection yet. Keep reading for the most rewarding way to fight off heart disease yet.