Treating Diabetes with Medical Nutrition Therapy

The complexities surrounding diabetes can be a challenge to understand and treat, both from the patient and physician perspective. Whether the aim is short-term goals, long-term goals or both, it’s important to establish a trusted health care team of physicians, nurses and educators to help work through these complexities. Because of the direct relationship between diet and diabetes management, medical nutrition therapy (MNT) provided by a registered dietitian and monitored by your health care team can greatly improve treatment.

MNT involves individualized, in-depth care provided over time for patients with a variety of diseases or conditions. A registered dietitian addresses nutrition-related issues specific to the disease, then provides a nutritional plan to the patient. These dietary suggestions or interventions are planned actions designed to change a nutrition-related behavior, like reducing and monitoring carbohydrate intake for those with diabetes or controlling sodium intake for those with kidney disease.   

“At Texas Health, all nutrition counseling is done by a registered dietitian,” says Joni Killen, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Texas Health Arlington Memorial. “MNT is a vital part in the prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes by moderate weight loss through individualized dietary changes, along with increased exercise, monitoring blood sugars and regular health care visits.”

Multiple studies by the American Diabetes Association that show diabetes nutrition therapy is effective for improving glycemic control and decreasing A1C by one to two percent. The key is individualization. With MNT, a registered dietitian creates a meal plan and meal modifications specific to the individual. In addition to managing diabetes, MNT has been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15 to 25 points and reduce hypertension within three to six months, according to the National Diabetes Education Program.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the three goals of medical nutrition therapy in diabetes management are to achieve and maintain:

  • Blood glucose levels in the normal range, or as close to normal as is safely possible
  • Lipid profile that reduces the risk for vascular disease
  • Blood pressure level in the normal range, or as close to normal as is safely possible

The Texas Health Diabetes Management Program offers MNT with a physician order to everyone with prediabetes and diabetes. Many health insurance policies cover MNT visits and Medicare covers 100 percent of the cost of MNT for patients with diabetes.

“To get started, you will need a physician order,” Killen says. “You may ask your physician or call the Diabetes Education Centers for assistance in obtaining an order. After receiving an order, the scheduling department will call you for an appointment.”

MNT can play a life-changing role in reducing complications associated with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. With diet affecting our health in so many ways, it’s important to have regular checkups. Seeing a dietitian at least once a year can help improve your diet or steer you back in the right direction if you’ve fallen off track, whether you have diabetes or not.

For more information about prediabetes and diabetes or Texas Health’s diabetes outpatient centers, or to take a diabetes risk assessment, visit TexasHealth.org/Diabetes.

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