Previously at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI), we have shown that simply increasing access to better food improves health and wellbeing for adults with or at risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). We know that food choices are very important to reduce our personal risk of serious diseases including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. It is also much less expensive to treat T2D using food and physical activity. For example, it may reduce the need for expensive medicines.

Adding diabetes education to food access is even better

In our original study, we simply improved access to better food in the form of free fresh vegetables. Now, researchers have taken this a step further by adding in diabetes education. In this new study, 97 adults with T2D with an HbA1c above 7% and a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 kg/m2 received monthly diabetes education as a group. At the same time, they received prescriptions for fruit and vegetables in the form of vouchers ($28-$140/month depending on the number of people in the household). These vouchers could be used to buy fruits and vegetables at local markets. Over 7 months, there was a big improvement in HbA1c levels. In fact, HbA1c levels decreased by an average of 1.3%. This was associated with a small reduction in body mass index (BMI) as well. In this study, more than 80% of participants were Hispanic/Latino. It is also important to note that enrollment and persistence with diabetes education was higher than in a number of previous studies.

Food is medicine and much cheaper

The combination of tailored education and better access to real food has important health and economic benefits, particularly for underserved communities.


Photo by Mil Familias © 2020