The VA Center for Innovation (VACI) is seeking ways to prevent the onset of diabetes, to reverse its progress, and to one day offer Veterans hope of eliminating the disease permanently.  Reducing the burden of obesity and diabetes will lead to significant reductions in healthcare costs and improved quality of life for Veterans.

Many changes at the VA in the past few years have focused on improving the quality of care for Veterans and better management of limited resources, such as money, facility space, and health care provider time. VACI is currently sponsoring the VA Nutritional Study Design (VANS-D) Project, an undertaking anticipated to serve both goals.

Overweight, obesity, and diabetes are among the most critical health issues confronting Veterans today. Nearly 75 percent of Veterans are overweight and close to 40 percent are obese; 20 percent of Veterans seen as patients in the VA Medical Centers have diabetes. It’s well known that interventions for treating obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors have many features in common with those used to prevent and treat diabetes.

Complications of diabetes can be devastating and expensive. Poorly-managed diabetes results in increased risk of heart attack and stroke and is the leading cause of blindness, end-stage renal disease, and amputations. Better blood sugar control through lifestyle modification translates into fewer medications, physician visits, and hospitalizations, all of which means increased healthcare savings.  More importantly, fewer complications mean an improved quality of life for Veterans with diabetes.

As the VANS-D Project team, we believe that nutritional intervention holds the promise of providing a simple, inexpensive, effective, and evidence-based approach that can not only save resources, but eyes, limbs, and lives.

A variety of dietary approaches have been shown to lead to better health, but reduced-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets seem to have unique features that are particularly beneficial to individuals affected by obesity or at risk for diabetes.

Over the past decade, clinical trials have demonstrated repeatedly that dietary modification to either a Mediterranean-type diet relatively rich in monounsaturated fats or a carbohydrate-restricted diet that also improves the quality of carbohydrates consumed are both promising approaches for addressing obesity as well as diabetes. Researchers and clinicians within the VA are already exploring the use of these diets to improve health outcomes and treatment options for Veterans. The VANS-D Project builds on the programs currently in place to include longer-term and larger-scale investigations.  Rigorously testing the long-term benefits of these dietary approaches will help to inform preventative medicine approaches within the VA for decades to come.

Gary Taubes, MS – VANS-D Co-Technical Director, “Author of Good Calories, Bad Calories”

Jeff S. Volek PhD, RD – VANS-D Co-Technical Director, Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut

Adele Hite, MPH, RD, MAT – Research Assistant, Principal Author, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Brittanie Volk, MA, RD – Research Assistant, University of Connecticut

Catherine Chenard, MS, RD, LD – Research Assistant, University of Iowa

Laura Kunces, MS, MS, RD – Research Assistant, University of Connecticut

Marin Thompson, MS – Research Assistant

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Published on May. 21, 2013

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  1. Roger C. Petersen June 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Want to tackle overweight, obesity and diabetes??
    Not only are veterans facing crititcal and expensive health care issues – those who work at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are facing the same issues and I would suggest the numbers posted in your message (75% over weight, 40% obese and 20% with diabetes) are very near to the truth for the employees as well.
    So let the VA set a good example with employees who care about reducing this problem and care about wellness for themselves.
    How?? So simple and cost effective.
    1. Set a good example by getting them to participate in wellness programs at the VAMCs.
    2. Establish, outfit and staff wellness centers at each VAMC and maybe even clinics. Life style modifications at the wellness centers include exercise, stress reduction and nutritional programs. Maybe include some Yoga or similar programs -why not?
    Set a good example and LEAD THE WAY VA.

  2. Joyce Branch-Williams May 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    My claim with the VA has been in deliberation for almost 8 years. I was employed for twelve years as a licensed Military Sexual Trauma Counselor. I also provided group and individual counseling for combat veterans. In addition to my duties as a trauma counselor, I assisted combat veterans and veterans who were sexually traumatized while on active duty, apply for and received their disability entitlement; of which I was very successful. I was successful in this endeavor because I walked their claims through the process until completion. However, I was told/ advised that that was not my job. I was unlawfully terminated on 30 Sept. 2005 under the pretext that my license was not sufficient. However, there were over fifty counselors in my Region alone, who possessed the same license. My claim is about fraud, perjury by Regional Managers, discrimination based on gender, race, and age and simply helping our nations veterans receive that which they were and are entitled to
    their disability. I soon discovered, through this unlawful termination, that I was too good at my job of helping Veterans. I was committed because I am/was the daughter of a WWII veteran and the sister of a two-tour Vietnam Combat Veteran. I also served on the Women’s Veterans Health Committee at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. Where is the justice? I was denied access to the ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION ACT process (ADR) which was instituted in 1996 under VA Directive 5978.

  3. John Christofferson May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I wish you would expand the study to include a totally plant-based, low fat diet. I have now been on following that path for over a year, and the positive effect on my overall health has been astounding. Specifically regarding diabetes, I have been able to reduce my insulin injections to a fraction of what I was taking. I have also reduced other medications and even reduced the frequency of my visits to the VA clinic, so the savings to the VA are already significant. More importantly, from my personal perspective, I feel a thousand times better. I feel younger.

    Now I know the average vet will think that giving up meat and dairy is a bridge too far. I would have said the same thing before I started this, but it has been remarkably easy to follow. I have absolutely no desire (or craving) to return to my old way of eating, because I never want to feel so poorly again.

    You would be doing a great service to the science of nutrition and the health of our nation if you included a plant-based diet in your research.

  4. Beth May 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

    The VA providers need to pay attention to the psyc medication they are giving out like candy, as a military wife of a combat wounded soldier, i know how the system is. Many of these medications have side effects that can lead the patient into diabeties…the VA system does not work well together…the right still doesnt know what the left is doing…VA Providers need to pay attention better

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