Dr Sheri Colberg: exercise for diabetics Q and A

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Diabetes in Control Nov 6, 2021

Author: Sheri R. Colberg, PhD, FACSM

Q: Can you speak to the ability or inability to “cure” T2D? Does it have to do with the loss of the pancreatic beta cells?

A: Yes, it has generally been shown that new-onset type 2 diabetes is easier to “reverse,” meaning that blood glucose levels can be so well managed that it appears diabetes has been cured. Over time, a loss of some insulin-making capacity occurs in people with long-standing T2D, particularly if it has not been well-managed, related both to the impairment of pancreatic β-cell function and the decrease in β-cell mass. (PMID: 27615139)

Q: Isn’t insulin resistance now found to be in T1DM as well?

A: Yes, anyone can develop insulin resistance, and it occurs in at least a third of people with type 1 diabetes as well, although it is not always associated with excess weight gain or overweight. Since people with T1D lack insulin due to the body’s own immune system killing off the pancreatic β-cells, greater resistance increases the total doses of insulin needed (whether injected, pumped, or inhaled). Thus, they have developed characteristics of both types and have “double diabetes.” (PMID: 34530819)

Q: Under lifestyle goals, would you include stress management?

A: Stress management was not assessed in the large multi-center clinical trials on type 2 diabetes prevention, but mental stress can certainly raise blood glucose levels due to the greater release of glucose-raising hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It certainly would be beneficial to address better ways to manage mental stress as part of lifestyle goals for optimal blood glucose outcomes. (PMID: 29760788)

Q: As each person has their own limitations, how important is it to get a physician clearance and exercise guidelines before working with the client?

A: It really depends on the person’s circumstances. How intense will the planned activities be? Is the person currently sedentary? Has he/she been getting annual checkups to monitor blood glucose management and to check the status of any complications? Does he/she have diabetes-related or other health complications that could be worsened by physical activity? The lower the intensity, the more active an individual has been, and the lower the risk for cardiovascular complications, the less likely medical clearance is absolutely necessary.

The latest ACSM Consensus Statement on activity and T2D will be released in early 2022 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and states, “For most individuals planning to participate in a low- to moderate-intensity physical activity like brisk walking, no pre-exercise medical evaluation is needed unless symptoms of cardiovascular disease or microvascular complications are present. In adults who are currently sedentary, medical clearance is recommended prior to participation in moderate- to high-intensity physical activity.”

Q: Can flexibility training be used for warmups, or do you recommend it only after the workout?

A: While it is possible to do flexibility training at any point during a workout, joints tend to have a greater range of motion after blood flow to those areas has been increased with a light or short aerobic warmup. It may be prudent to do a quick aerobic warmup, some stretching, the full workout, and then more extensive stretching afterwards for optimal results.

Q: Was there any particular protocol for strength training? sets, reps, periodization? What is considered “intense” resistance work? Would fatigue based off of several sets of moderate intensity be recommended then?

A: That is a tough question, and it depends on who you ask. I have seen a lot of debate over the optimal strength training protocol during the many years I have been in the exercise/fitness world. If people are just starting out with resistance training, they will gain from doing even a minimal amount of training.

Starting out with 1-3 sets of 8 to 10 main exercises that work all of the large muscles groups at a light to moderate intensity is considered appropriate for most older or sedentary adults, many of whom have joint limitations or health issues. Moderate intensity is considered 50%-69% of 1-RM (1 repetition maximum) and vigorous is 70%-85% of 1-RM. Both intensity (fewer reps at a higher intensity) and the number of sets (3-5) or days of training (starting at 2, progressing to 3 nonconsecutive days) can increase over 2 to 3 months. Periodization is usually not undertaken by older adults, but may be appropriate for younger, fitter ones.

Q: Do you have any insight or are aware of any studies that involve high intensity (%1-RM) resistance training and T2DM? Or any studies that compare resistance training volume (Sets x Reps x Load)?

A: Some older studies have determined that glycemic management is improved by supervised high-intensity resistance training in people with type 2 diabetes (PMID 12351469). Others have also found that home-based (and, therefore, unsupervised) resistance training results in a lesser impact on blood glucose levels, likely due to reductions in adherence and exercise training volume and intensity (PMID 15616225).

Q: I’m still confused about glucose response to acute exercise. Which is better if you want to bring down your BG right now? Can you speak to the possibility of increased blood sugars with intense aerobic exercise?

A: Most light-to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise will lower blood glucose levels, assuming that some insulin is present in the body. (People who are very insulin deficient may have a rise in blood glucose from doing any activity.) Any activity that gets up into the intense/vigorous range, even if only during occasional intervals, has the potential to raise blood glucose due to a greater release of glucose-raising hormones during the activity. This is particularly true if the activity is short and intense. In individuals with any type of diabetes, declines in blood glucose during high-intensity interval exercise are smaller than those observed during aerobic exercise.

That said, if someone wants to lower blood glucose right now with exercise, it also depends on the timing of exercise. Doing something light to moderate for at least 10 to 30 minutes is the best bet, particularly after a meal when insulin levels are generally higher. Avoid doing intense aerobic or heavy resistance training as those may have the opposite effect. For early morning exercise, any intensity can potentially raise blood glucose due to higher levels of insulin resistance then and lower circulating levels of insulin in the body.

Q: I had an endocrinologist say that long runs or walks are better, and another one said to do a bit of weights.

A: Which activities someone chooses to do should depend on the goal of the training. Is it increased fitness, lowering blood glucose levels acutely, or gaining strength and improving overall blood glucose management? Long, slow aerobic training does have the benefit of increasing cardiorespiratory fitness and lowering blood glucose levels (in most cases). Resistance training, on the other hand, increases muscular strength and endurance and helps people gain and preserve muscle mass, which is where most carbohydrates are stored in the body. It may not, however, lower blood glucose levels, at least not acutely.

Both have their place in a weekly training regimen. Insulin resistance is lowered for 2 to 72 hours following a bout of aerobic training. Resistance training has more of a long-term impact on insulin action by enhancing carbohydrate storage capacity. The best advice is to do some aerobic training at least every other day and some resistance training at least 2, and preferably 3, nonconsecutive days per week. These activities can be done on the same days or different ones.

Public Health Collaboration Edinburgh

I attended the PHQ conference in Edinburgh on 17 March 23. This was the first such meeting in Scotland and it was well organised, interesting and well attended.

Moira Newiss is on your far left of the photo in her navy dress and black boots. Moira organised the meeting and also spoke about her experience of having post viral fatigue twice in her life. This led her to explore the functioning of the mitochondria in our cells. She found that the mitochondria don’t function normally and become depleted in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia but that primitive pathways in the cell using ketones for fuel are still active. She started a ketogenic diet and recovered completely from her chronic fatigue syndrome. She now runs for a hobby.

Dr David Unwin is standing next to her and is wearing a bow tie and suit. He is now 65 years of age and has been promoting low carb diets in his practice for the last ten years with great results. He is having so much fun that he doesn’t want to retire!

He found that in many cases type two diabetics can reverse their condition completely by the adoption of a low carb or ketogenic diet. Statistical analysis showed that the people most likely to reverse their condition had had been diagnosed in the previous 18 months. There is thus a great window of opportunity for advice and coaching to be provided to these patients at the earliest opportunity after diagnosis.

Results after 18 months are more variable, with a great improvement in diabetes seen, but sometimes not to the extent that complete remission occurs. Some medication support is often still necessary. Insulin may be able to be substantially reduced or stopped but some alternative medication may still be required.

Monitoring of patients blood sugars will still be required for both groups lifelong in case high blood sugars return. This can be due to secondary beta cell failure and may require tightening up of the diet, the addition of medication and sometimes insulin. If higher blood sugars and weight loss is reported, pancreatic cancer requires consideration and this is detected by urgent MRI scans. Sometimes a patient has been wrongly diagnosed as type two when they are really type one. In all cases they will need to see their GP for diagnosis.

Dr Iain Campbell is standing next to Dr Unwin and is wearing a waistcoat and white shirt. Iain told us about his struggles with bipolar disorder. There certainly could be a creative advantage to this illness, as Iain spent his young day in a rock band and even now is a successful composer. He has now settled into fatherhood and medicine and since starting a ketogenic diet has been mentally stable. My comment: Dr Christopher Palmer in the USA has also researched this phenomenon and there is a blog article on this site about him. Iain works at the university of Edinburgh, and has done preliminary studies in other patients who have bipolar disorder and has found that anxiety, depression, mood swings and impulsiveness all improve with a ketogenic diet. Further research is planned.

Dr Rachel Bain, on your far right, is a psychiatrist and works with Ally Houston, who is standing beside her, to promote coaching for mental health patients in the low carb diet. The site is metpsy.com.

Rachel explained that the gut and brain are very intimately connected and share the same neurotransmitters. The gut microbiotica are affected by what we eat. This affects our mood. If leaky gut occurs inflammatory substances can gain access to our blood vessels and cross the blood /brain barrier to cause neuro-inflammation. This is one cause of degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The foods most likely to disrupt the junctions between the gut cells are sugar, starch, gluten and alcohol. She and Ally as well as other team members treat people who have Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Binge Eating Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. They don’t aim for a person to stop their medication so much as to gain control of their lives.

Ally Houston used to be a physicist but is now a chef and low carb coach. Comment: Ally also appears in a previous blog post on the site. He explained what coaching was and wasn’t. It isn’t telling someone what to do. It is exploring with the person how their life works now and how they can introduce positive changes around eating sugar, starch, vegetable oils, exercise, stress reduction and sleep.

The services at met.psy.com are out with the NHS and there is a fee for the services, but it is very reasonably priced.

PHQ are expecting videos of the conference to be available on You Tube now or very shortly.

Total mortality rates are improved when type two diabetics follow a low carb diet

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Adapted from Diabetes in Control March 24 2023

Mortality Reduced With Adherence to Low-Carb Diet in Type 2 Diabetes

Mar 24, 2023

Lower mortality seen with increases in total, vegetable, and healthy low-carbohydrate diet score

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter


FRIDAY, March 24, 2023 (HealthDay News) — For individuals with incident type 2 diabetes (T2D), a greater adherence to low-carbohydrate diet (LCD) patterns is associated with lower mortality, according to a study published online Feb. 14 in Diabetes Care.

Yang Hu, Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues calculated an overall total LCD score (TLCDS) among participants with incident diabetes identified in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Vegetable (VLCDS), animal (ALCDS), healthy (HLCDS), and unhealthy LCDS (ULCDS) were also derived.

The researchers documented 4,595 deaths, of which 1,389 cases were attributable to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 881 to cancer among 10,101 incident T2D cases, contributing 139,407 person-years of follow-up. Per each 10-point increment of postdiagnosis LCDS, the pooled multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for total mortality were 0.87, 0.76, and 0.78 for TLCDS, VLCDS, and HLCDS, respectively. Significantly lower CVD and cancer mortality was seen in association with VLCDS and HLCDS. From the prediagnosis to postdiagnosis period, each 10-point increase in TLCDS, VLCDS, and HLCDS correlated with 12, 25, and 25 percent lower total mortality, respectively. For ALCDS and ULCDS, no significant associations were seen.

Our findings provide support for the current recommendations of carbohydrate restrictions for T2D management and highlight the importance of the quality and food sources of macronutrients when assessing the health benefits of LCD,” the authors write.

PHC: How low carbing can help the NHS, meeting in Edinburgh

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The Public Health Collaboration is hosting a morning meeting on Saturday 18th March in Edinburgh from 9 am till 1pm.

The morning speakers will be explaining the role low carbing has on:

Improving mental health and particularly the results with bipolar disorder.

Improving weight and glycaemic control in type two diabetes.

Reducing the costs of managing type two diabetes.

Public education and group coaching initiatives in Scotland.

The PHC Ambassadors are having an afternoon meeting to discuss their projects.

The meeting is at the Quaker Meeting House in the old part of Edinburgh at the bottom of the castle and the fee is £15.

Please contact Sam Feltham at the Public Health Collaboration for more details and to register for the event.

Metabolic Multiplier: Help for type two diabetics who want to adopt a low carb diet

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The site Metabolic Multiplier have compiled a toolkit that you can use to educate yourself about the low carb diet and have included information that you can give to your doctor or other health care professional so that they will be more likely to help you monitor your condition.

I was part of the development group last year.

The dietician Adele Hite was extremely active in the group and always seemed so full of energy and enthusiasm. She put in many hours into the project as well as her day job. Little did I know that she had a returning cancer and that she was to die from it in less than a year. In retrospect, I think that this is what drove her. She was determined to leave a legacy to help others.

If you know of any newly diagnosed diabetics or any who are experiencing friction with their GPs or health care providers, please let them know about the Metabolic Multiplier site. It is organised by the highly efficient and versatile Cecile Seth.

Diabetes UK and British Dietetic Association finally recognise value of low carb diets for diabetics

I have personally been campaigning for low carbing for diabetics since 2003. I’m pleased to say that FINALLY Diabetes UK and the BDA have accepted low carbing as a valid option for management of type two diabetes. Presumably they will catch up with Type 1 diabetes in another 20 years or so.

Here are the main points from a paper that they issued on the subject in 2021.

Dietary strategies for remission of type 2 diabetes: A narrative review

Adrian Brown,Paul McArdle,Julie Taplin,David Unwin,Jennifer Unwin,Trudi Deakin,Sean Wheatley,Campbell Murdoch,Aseem Malhotra,Duane Mellor

First published: 29 July 2021



Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is a growing health issue globally, which, until recently, was considered to be both chronic and progressive. Although having lifestyle and dietary changes as core components, treatments have focused on optimising glycaemic control using pharmaceutical agents. With data from bariatric surgery and, more recently, total diet replacement (TDR) studies that have set out to achieve remission, remission of T2DM has emerged as a treatment goal. A group of specialist dietitians and medical practitioners was convened, supported by the British Dietetic Association and Diabetes UK, to discuss dietary approaches to T2DM and consequently undertook a review of the available clinical trial and practice audit data regarding dietary approaches to remission of T2DM. Current available evidence suggests that a range of dietary approaches, including low energy diets (mostly using TDR) and low carbohydrate diets, can be used to support the achievement of euglycaemia and potentially remission. The most significant predictor of remission is weight loss and, although euglycaemia may occur on a low carbohydrate diet without weight loss, which does not meet some definitions of remission, it may rather constitute a ‘state of mitigation’ of T2DM. This technical point may not be considered as important for people living with T2DM, aside from that it may only last as long as the carbohydrate restriction is maintained. The possibility of actively treating T2DM along with the possibility of achieving remission should be discussed by healthcare professionals with people living with T2DM, along with a range of different dietary approaches that can help to achieve this.

Practice points

  • Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) remission should be considered as a treatment goal for people living with T2DM (especially for those within 6 years from being diagnosed). The ability to achieve this may be influenced by duration of diabetes, weight loss and gender. Therefore, it should be positively discussed with this in mind.
  • Based on the evidence from clinical trials weight loss (typically 15 kg or greater) is the main driver and predictor of remission. However, more data are needed so that it is more reflective of an ethnically diverse population.
  • Based on evidence from clinical trials, maintenance of weight loss appears to be the main driver of continued remission, and this therefore needs to be a key focus of the planning and delivery of all services designed to achieve remission. If a diet low in carbohydrate is sustainable to the individual, normoglycaemia may be maintained in the absence of weight loss, although evidence is limited and loss of remission is likely to occur if carbohydrate restriction ceases.
  • Total dietary replacements (TDR) and low carbohydrate diets have been demonstrated as being effective in facilitating weight loss and remission of T2DM. Evidence of effectiveness beyond 2 years is limited. The dietary approach should be one which the individual can maintain for the long term.
  • TDR and low carbohydrate diets, if appropriately supported, are considered safe and should not be avoided in suitable individuals who find these approaches acceptable. Clinicians should therefore aim to support their use within clinical practice as part of person-centred diabetes care.
  • Programmes supporting people toward achieving remission need to be structured and offer continued, regular support, including the involvement of dietitians (mandated by the National Health Service England).

Cardiovascular outcomes are improving for type two diabetics

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There have been large reductions in myocardial infarction, cardiac death, and all cause mortality over the last fifteen years in Denmark for type two diabetics. For instance, the cumulative seven year risk of myocardial infarction reduced from6.9% to 28%. These reductions occurred over a period of time when there has been a lot more emphasis on using drugs to reduce cardiovascular risk. (Diabetes Care 2021)

In Sweden blood was tested to see how much dairy products were being consumed. Those who consumed the most dairy fat had 25% less risk of myocardial infarction compared to the lowest risk.

As many dietary guidelines recommend limiting dairy products in order to limit saturated fat intake, perhaps they should take note.

An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that if the carbohydrate – insulin model of obesity is correct, then instead of calorie control diets and exercise to reduce obesity, focus should be put on low carbohydrate diets.

Dr Mark Cucuzella: Online resources for low carbing for patients and doctors

Adapting Medication for Type 2 Diabetes to a Low Carbohydrate Diet- Frontiers 2021


The above link gives the full paper from Dr Cucuzella about the medication adaptations, including insulin adaptations that need to be done if you are transitioning to a low carb diet. There is a helpful traffic light summary. Some medications do not need altered and these are discussed too.

Diet Doctor video on article “Why deprescription should be your new favorite word”

What your new diet will consist of and how to avoid unnecessary expense or complicated recipes is fully discussed in the following links. They are the same booklet but in different formats.

Our new “Low Carb on any Budget  – A Low-carb Shopping and Recipe Starter Begin a Life Free of Dieting and Indulge Yourself in Health” patient guide- Print and share with your patients

Pdf version


online flipbook


For clinicians through guideline central

These booklets are quite complex and are for doctors who want to know more about low carb diets and fine tuning of medication and insulin. The first is in USA units and the second is the UK format. It does no harm for any diabetic or their carers to read these too but bear in mind that they do go into some depth.

-Guideline Central: Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition Approaches in Patients with Obesity, Prediabetes and  Type 2 Diabetes


UK version – http://eguideline.guidelinecentral.com/i/1183584-low-carb-nutrition-queens-units/0? 

Physical activity can improve cognitive function if you have type two diabetes

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Adapted from Diabetes in Control Aug 10 2021 by Macrina Ghali, Pharm D candidate, Florida.

Hyperglycaemia has been linked to reduced cognitive function and can impair life through impairing memory and language. Mistakes with medication are more likely. Some studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of dementia on the long term.

The meta-analysis sought to answer the question, does cognitive ability change from baseline, while on the exercise programme compared to the non-exercising controls? Just over 2,500 patients with diabetes were analysed, almost evenly split to control groups and exercise groups.

The exercise group did aerobic exercise, resistance exercise and non aerobic exercise. The control groups did monthly telephone calls, stretching, gentle movement and education. The interventions ranged in time from 12 months to 9.8 years and sample sizes ranged from 47 to over a thousand.

Standard tests such as the mini-mental state examination, mental state examination and global cognitive score were undertaken.

Surprisingly the study found that the greatest change in cognitive scores between both groups was in the studies done for 12 months rather than longer periods. They were not sure if this was due to patient drop out or the development of dementia. They think that more studies would need to be done to clarify the issue.

Meanwhile they think that physical activity programmes should be started soon after diagnosis of type two diabetes to prevent a worsening of cognitive functioning as time goes on.

Tim Noakes: Nutrition Network Courses for Health Professionals

Homepage | Nutrition Network (nutrition-network.org)

Tim Noakes shot to fame in the low carb community by being accused of malpractice by two South African dieticians for giving dietary advice when he was not a registered dietician. After five long miserable years and the support of international colleagues he won the case. Anna Dahlquist, a Swedish GP had gone through the same thing a few years before this, and not only won her case, but managed to get the Swedish food guidelines for people with diabetes changed.

Professor Noakes has established online training for health professionals covering a variety of useful topics. Participants can be from all over the world and will receive accreditation. The full list of topics can be found by clicking on the homepage in BOLD above.