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Type-2 Diabetes - Alarming trend and Our Power to Defeat It

Nowadays we see a rapid rise of chronic, long-term diseases that have taken over the charts and now are the leading causes of death, among them are cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. This is a very alarming global trend, but what is driving it?



Alarming trend


Before the 21st century, the leading cause of illness and death were infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and gastrointestinal infections. Thanks to medical advancements and inventions like antibiotics and sanitation, nowadays we can successfully treat these conditions. Sadly however, we see a rapid rise of chronic, long-term diseases that have taken over the charts and now are the leading causes of death, among them are cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.* This is a very alarming global trend, but what is driving it? Genetics can surely be responsible for susceptibility, however, it’s only a small part of the story. Now we understand that the real causes lie in poor diet, environmental and lifestyle factors (lack of exercise and stress management). This is especially notable in the case of type-2 diabetes.

 

Risk factors


A diet high in fat, refined carbs, ultaprocessed foods and fructose (e.g. table sugar, fruit juices, corn syrup, soft drinks) can easily lead to insulin resistance, a metabolic disorder that is the precursor of diabetes and a whole bunch of other chronic conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, cardiovascular diseases). Apart from the poor diet, other risk factors include being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity (exercise), having high blood pressure or cholesterol, smoking, lack of stress management, having a close family member with type 2 diabetes.

 

Symptoms


Symptoms of type-2 diabetes include frequent urination, extreme tiredness, excessive thirst and hunger, vision problems, frequent infections, unintentional weight loss. If left untreated, type-2 diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye disease and nerve damage.

 

The role of insulin


Our body needs insulin – after we eat, insulin gets secreted from the pancreas, directing glucose into the cells’ storage and thereby controlling what the body does with the energy we consume with food. When we keep eating a refined carb-heavy diet mentioned above, our body needs to deal with continuous blood sugar surges, forcing the pancreas to constantly release large amounts of insulin. Eventually, the insulin receptors become less and less responsive to allow glucose into the cells, leading to even more insulin secretion as the pancreas is trying to control the increased blood sugar levels – this is known as hyperinsulinemia. Insulin resistance can develop over years and can remain undiagnosed for a long time. As a result, people with type-2 diabetes are unable to metabolize sugar (not responding to insulin) which causes the blood sugar to remain high at all times, damaging various organs.

 

Living with type-2 diabetes


The good news is, with certain dietary and lifestyle changes, type-2 diabetes can be managed and people can stay well despite the condition. Introducing regular, appropriate exercise is very important, and when it comes to the diet, a low fat, complex carb focused and wholesome diet can not only help but in some cases, reverse diabetes. Cells are able to regain their insulin sensitivity, therefore, reducing the fat and refined carbs intake not only helps in maintaining (or losing) weight, but it’s reducing the amount of insulin the body needs and therefore lowers the blood glucose levels.


Foods to eat

  • fruits (apples, oranges, berries, melons, pears, peaches)

  • vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini)

  • whole grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice, farro)

  • legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)

  • nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, cashews)

  • seeds (chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds)

  • protein-rich foods (skinless poultry, seafood, lean cuts of red meat, tofu, tempeh)

  • heart-healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, canola oil, sesame oil)

  • beverages (water, black coffee, unsweetened tea, vegetable juice)


Foods to avoid

  • high fat meat (fatty cuts of pork, beef, and lamb, poultry skin, dark meat chicken)

  • full-fat dairy (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream)

  • refined carbs (crackers, biscuits, foods made with white flour including all white breads, pasta, pizza, breakfast cereals)

  • sweets (candy, cookies, baked goods, ice cream, desserts)

  • sugar-sweetened beverages (juice, soda, sweet tea, sports drinks)

  • sweeteners (table sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses)

  • processed foods (chips, microwave popcorn, processed meat, convenience meals)

  • trans fats (vegetable shortening, fried foods, dairy-free coffee creamers, partially hydrogenated oil)


A helpful resource to support the dietary plan is the Glycaemic Index database, which can help identify how different foods impact blood sugar. Foods with lower GI are preferable. For maximum result, combining low carb with low GI can be highly efficient!




 

*Source: The top 10 causes of death, WHO, Dec 19, 2020


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