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A clinical trial now enrolling at UAB is taking an unusual approach to help patients with Type 2 diabetes. Instead of medications, the study is using diet alone to improve blood sugar control and remodel the body “by re-partitioning energy away from metabolically harmful lipid stores,” said Barbara Gower, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences.

Gower's study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first randomized clinical trial of an intriguing hypothesis. Lipid stored around body organs, particularly the pancreas, damages the beta cells that manufacture and release insulin, Gower believes. In a pilot study, she has already demonstrated that diet modification can remove these lipid stores and dramatically increase the first phase of insulin production in people at high risk for Type 2 diabetes.

For this new study, Gower is recruiting people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but are not using insulin. Study participants are assigned to eat one of two diets: a low-fat diet or a low-glycemic diet that is designed to minimize spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. A low-glycemic diet limits carbohydrates in favor of foods that break down slowly in the body, such as meats, poultry, nuts, eggs, whole grains, and certain fruits and vegetables. All study foods are sent to the participants’ homes weekly.

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