Diabetes and Immunity: How Prioritizing Nutrition and Muscle Health Can Help

Diabetes and Immunity: How Prioritizing Nutrition and Muscle Health Can Help

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Good nutrition is an essential building block to help support muscle health and immunity for people with diabetes

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JAN. 17, 2022   3 MINUTE READ

As we navigate cold and flu season, it’s an important time to consider the best ways to support immune health. Immune system support is even more critical for people with diabetes as viral infections can increase inflammation and contribute to more severe complications.1 While many with diabetes already consider good nutrition a part of overall well-being and blood sugar control, some may be surprised about how their diet and muscle health can impact the immune system.

The Connection Between Muscles, the Immune System and Diabetes Management

Muscles are well-known for their role in movement, and muscle preservation is vital for maintaining strength and function as we age.2 There is evidence suggesting muscles play a role in immune function, as well. Muscles produce and release compounds which play an important role in the creation, activation, and distribution of some immune cells.3 Muscles are also key sources for amino acids used by the body during a trauma or infection.4

Low muscle mass and inadequate protein intake may weaken the body’s response to an injury or infection, and emerging research suggests loss of muscle mass is associated with compromised immunity and infections.5

While it’s important for everyone to prioritize their muscle health and prevent muscle loss as they age, those living with diabetes need to be even more vigilant: diabetes accelerates muscle loss, reduces muscle quality, and diminishes strength.6

Healthy muscles help maintain body weight and insulin sensitivity, which is vital for maintaining blood sugar levels and keeping diabetes under control. There are steps that people with diabetes can take to maintain muscle and immune health, including staying physically active and eating a balanced diet.

Supporting Muscle Health and Immunity through a Healthy Lifestyle

Exercising regularly – aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week – and eating a well-rounded diet are essential to staying healthy, supporting muscles, and helping those with diabetes manage their blood sugar. Important steps to support your muscle and immune health through nutrition include:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats.

  • Eating enough protein-rich foods like chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans or dairy. Adults should aim to eat about 25-30 grams of protein per meal. However, adults over the age of 65 may need more protein than younger adults – particularly those with a health setback.7

  • Prioritizing quality foods that contain nutrients to support a healthy immune system, such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin D.

It’s not always easy to get enough of all the nutrients needed to adequately support muscle and immune health, especially for people with diabetes who also need to stay on top of their medications and routines and feel they don’t have enough time to plan ahead when it comes to meals and snacks. Studies have shown that diabetes-specific nutritional supplements – as part of a healthy lifestyle program – can help close that gap and provide the proper nutrients, resulting in improved health outcomes in people with diabetes. These include better glycemic control, improved blood pressure, reduced or maintained body weight and, in critically ill patients with diabetes, lower mortality.8,9,10,11

1. American Diabetes Association. How COVID-19 Impacts People with Diabetes.
2. Wang DXM, et al. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle.2020;11:3-25.
3. Nelke C, et al. EBioMedicine. 2019;49:381-8.
4. Rooyackers OE and Nair KS. Annu Rev Nutr.1997;17:457-85.
5. Argiles JM, et al. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17:789-96.
6. Won Park S, et al. Diabetes Care 2007 Jun; 30(6): 1507-1512.
7. Kerksick CM, et al. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2017;14:33.
8. Devitt A., et al. Journal of Diabetes Research and Clinical Metabolism. 2012; 1(1):20.
9. Chee WSS, et al. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2017; 5(1):e000384.
10. Han Y-Y, et al. Clin Nutri. 2017; 36(6): 1567-1572.
11. Mustad VA, et al. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care.2020;8:e001258.

What Is the Glycemic Index? Understanding Low vs. High Glycemic Carbohydrates

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Understanding Low vs. High Glycemic Foods


If you have diabetes, you're probably well aware that some foods elevate blood sugar levels more than others after a meal. This is called postprandial glucose response (PPG response), and it's key to effective diabetes management. To understand how certain foods affect your blood sugar, it can be helpful to know where they land on the glycemic index scale. But what is the glycemic index, exactly, and how does it affect PPG response?

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Tips for Reducing Prediabetes Risk in Teens | Abbott Nutrition

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Prediabetes is increasingly affecting children and young adults in the United States. A new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that around one in five adolescents (ages 12–18) and one in four young adults (ages 19–34) in the U.S. are now living with prediabetes.

People diagnosed with this condition have an excess of sugar in their blood, but not high enough to be called diabetes, which can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time. They're also at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the complications associated with diabetes. However, by incorporating good eating and exercise habits, this diagnosis can oftentimes be reversed. 

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