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How reversing diabetes cost to drive savings impact is viable

The healthcare system could save $10 billion annually if Type 2 sufferers used dietary changes to reduce HbA1c levels by 1 percent.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As Americans head to the polls this coming Tuesday, a top issue for many voters is the rising cost of healthcare. A new report has found that addressing chronic diseases, and in particular diabetes, could save tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs annually.

Published in the Food and Nutrition Journal, the report demonstrates that if one-fifth of the 30 million Type 2 sufferers in the U.S. used dietary changes to reduce HbA1c levels by 1 percent, they would not only reverse the course of their diabetes, but the healthcare system would also save at least $10 billion annually and outcomes would improve measurably.

If the 84 million prediabetic Americans followed a similar regimen, the savings would increase even further.


Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 30 million people have diabetes and 90 percent of those people are living with Type 2 diabetes. Last year, Type 2 diabetes and related illnesses cost the U.S. more than $350 billion to treat, and that number is expected to reach more than $600 billion in the next five years.

Author Paul Keckley said the rising costs of diabetes could be reversed if policymakers and public health experts clear up the confusion about the role that nutrition therapy can play in preventing and mitigating the effects of Type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition, or the lack of it, can have a big impact on important hospital metrics and the bottom line. Research published last year showed more than $4.8 million in cost savings resulting from shorter hospital stays and lower readmission rates.


Despite the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, treatments exist that can dramatically improve health outcomes and significantly lower costs. Evidence shows that proper nutrition therapy and exercise can be effective in causing its remission. A 1 percent decrease in HbA1c, an indicator of Type 2 diabetes, can be achieved through proper dieting alone.


According to the report, there are five major factors that policymakers and healthcare experts have identified as responsible for the increased prevalence and skyrocketing costs associated with Type 2 diabetes.

They include workplace settings in which employees spend eight to 12 hours at a desk; a system-wide bias toward prescribing medication; confusion about what constitutes healthy food choices; low prioritization among lawmakers; and demographic challenges.

Immediate steps include nutrition recommendations from U.S. Dietary Guidelines; a public education campaign centered around nutrition therapies; updating diagnostic screening measures; and inclusion of nutrition therapy outcomes in alternative payment programs, including the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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