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New Study: Food as Medicine Program Showed Patients Better Managing Diabetes, Eating Healthier

A study led by the Public Health Institute’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition showed that people with diabetes were able to lower A1C levels, better self-manage diabetes, and improve their overall diet and food security at 12 months. Healthy Food Rx, a program initiative led by Abbott and designed by PHI’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition, provides home-delivered healthy food boxes to help address diabetes.

  • San Francisco Chronicle
Live stream of cooking class during meal prep

“People with diabetes who received biweekly healthy meal kits for a year showed improvements in managing the disease — including a key measure of blood sugar levels — according to a study released Wednesday by the Oakland research and advocacy group Public Health Institute.

The study found that participants saw decreases in their A1C level, which measures average blood sugar levels, over a three-month period. Participants who started off with the highest A1C level, which indicates their diabetes is not well-controlled, saw the biggest improvements. They reported a drop in A1C from 9.73% to 8.93%, the study found.

A1C is used to diagnose diabetes. An A1C of 6.5% is considered the threshold for diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 5.7% to 6.4% is considered pre-diabetic.

Overall, all participants reported a less dramatic drop, from 8.35% to 8.0%.

Participants also reported improvements in self-managing their diabetes — doing more physical activity, checking blood sugar daily, following diabetes meal plans and going to diabetes education or nutrition classes.

“It helped me be aware of foods I wasn’t accustomed to eating,” said Shane Bailey, a 72-year-old Stockton resident who has had diabetes for about 10 years and participated in the study. “So I learned to eat kale, squash, quinoa … It was very helpful and educational.”

The findings are the latest in what’s called the “food as medicine” movement, the idea that nutrition plays a major role in people’s overall health. Many U.S. cities including San Francisco run programs that provide free or low-cost healthy food, or offer vouchers to buy produce, in efforts to help residents manage common chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

The study’s findings support policies to have health insurers cover “food as medicine” programs, said Maggie Wilkin, director of research and evaluation for the Public Health Institute’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition, who led the study. Such programs include “food prescriptions” and “medically tailored meals,” where people get healthy foods to help manage specific medical conditions.

The study included about 450 adults in Stockton who had been diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, mostly Type 2, who were patients at a community health clinic in Stockton. Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but it has become more common in children and teens. It’s linked to physical inactivity, obesity, diet and genes.

Researchers chose Stockton because it has one of the highest rates of diabetes and pre-diabetes in California, with a combined 60% of residents having one or the other. Participants got one free meal kit delivered to their home every other week, for one year. Each delivery contained ingredients to cook one meal valued at about $40, plus additional pantry items like beans, rice and nuts. The boxes came with recipes, and participants could join a Zoom cooking class to learn how to make each meal.

The meals were paid for by the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic foundation of the drug company Abbott, which sells glucose monitors, as part of a multi-year $15 million investment in health initiatives in Stockton that began in 2019. The meal kit delivery program, called Healthy Food Rx, began in 2021 as part of that broader initiative, which also includes providing transportation to residents to get to medical appointments.”

To read the full article, click on the link below.  Registration or subscription may be required to access this full story. This same story also printed in the Union Democrat.

Related articles

How a year of free meal kits helped these California residents manage their diabetes / San Francisco Chronicle

Fresh produce access boosts health outcomes among diabetes patients and those on Medicaid in recent studies / STAT News

Can prescriptions for produce-focused meal kits fight diabetes? / Civil Eats

Abbott’s food as medicine program reports clinical improvements in patients with diabetes /

Stockton’s ‘Food as Medicine’ program changing lives for people with diabetes, study shows / ABC 10

Stockton Food Bank working to feed families / ABC 10

Healthy Food Rx / CapRadio

Abbott announces 12-month outcomes of Healthy Food Rx program, which provides home-delivered healthy food boxes to PWDs / Close Concerns

How Retailers, Agencies In The U.S. Are Rallying Momentum For Produce-Based Prescriptions / Produce Business

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