Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Cases of type 2 diabetes have reached an alarming level, which prompted the Harvard School of Public Health to say that if it were an infectious diseases, public health officials would have declared an epidemic. This type of diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes and through the years it continues to strike an increasing number of adults. As the world’s population grows heavier and becomes more sedentary, what was once an adult disease is now showing up globally among teenagers and children as well

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

When food enters the body, it is broken down into a form of sugar known as glucose. Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream where the cells use it for growth and energy. But for glucose to reach the cells, a hormone produced by the pancreas called insulin is necessary. People with type 2 diabetes have a couple of problems: Insulin resistance, a condition in which the muscles, liver and fat cells are not able to use insulin properly; and reduced insulin production by the pancreas. As a result of these two conditions, glucose builds up in the blood, then overflows into the urine until it passes out of the body without fulfilling its important role as the body’s main source of fuel and energy.

Diabetes is currently the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness among adults. It also causes severe nerve damage and this, coupled with circulation problems related to diabetes, could lead to the loss of a leg or foot. The disease also increases the risk of heart disease.

How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

But there is good news: Type 2 diabetes is highly preventable. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) conducted a major multicenter clinical research study aimed at determining whether modest weight loss through dietary changes, increased physical activity, or treatment with the oral diabetes drug called metformin (Glucophage) would be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in study participants.

Known as the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), the study revealed that increased physical activity, which results in weight loss, also reduced the chances of developing diabetes. The study also showed that although taking metformin reduced the risk, its effects were less dramatic than those produced by increased physical activity.

The Role of Exercise and a Good Diet

Preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes requires making a few lifestyle changes. These changes can also prevent heart disease and some forms of cancers. Increasing physical activity makes the muscles work harder and improves their ability to use insulin. The body is also able to absorb glucose better, which in turn lessens the stress on the insulin-making cells.

A few dietary changes can also lessen the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Instead of eating highly processed carbohydrates, choose whole grains and whole grain products. Skip the sweetened drinks and opt for water or tea. Use polyunsaturated fats which are found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts and seeds instead of trans fats. Limit the intake of red meat and avoid processed meats. Feast on nuts and whole grains — you’ll be healthier and happier!

References:

Preventing Diabetes, Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/diabetes-prevention/

Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes, Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story/index.html

Diabetes Prevention Program, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services http://www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/preventionprogram/index.aspx