November –  Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes has been labeled the global health epidemic of the 21st century. While type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented, the good news is that there are many ways you can take action and decrease your risks of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes  cannot be prevented and usually appears in childhood or adolescence. The pancreas is not producing insulin and people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin and check their blood glucose levels regularly throughout the day.

Type 2 diabetes can happen at any age and occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or doesn’t properly use the insulin it makes, causing glucose buildup in the bloodstream.

Prediabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal. Many people with prediabetes will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.

By following a healthy lifestyle, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is substantially reduced, but not entirely eliminated. Even people who maintain a healthy diet, exercise and are at a healthy weight can develop type 2 diabetes. Some risk factors out of our control include race (those of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent have a higher risk of developing diabetes); family history of diabetes; and being over 40.

Healthy eating and regular physical activity are very important in good management of diabetes. When diabetes is well controlled the onset of complications can be prevented or delayed. If not well managed, both types of diabetes can lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and amputations.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends a pattern of eating that should help Canadians meet their nutritional needs to delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. A portioned plate diagram provides an easy guide of what to eat in a single meal.

Visually a plate is split into quadrants. Half the plate is for fruit and vegetables; a quarter goes to grains; the final quarter to protein. Fill your plate with these rations and you will be well on your way toward a much healthier diet.

In the past, people with diabetes were told to avoid sugars and other carbohydrates. Current research shows that it is the amount of carbohydrate eaten and the rate of its digestion that are the most important factors in blood glucose control. Sugars can be included in a healthy diet as a part of a carefully planned meal plan. Carbohydrates, including sugars, should be spread evenly over the day, as part of slowly digested meals.

Cinnamon can increase glucose metabolism – the process that turns sugar to energy – by up to 20 times. It is also a powerful anti-oxidant.  One half teaspoon of cinnamon a day helps to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. It benefits people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.  In people who take Metformin, a widely prescribed type 2 diabetes drug, cinnamon does not have a marked effect.

Sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal or toast, dust apples, pears, strawberries and blueberries with it or stir into smoothies.

Soluble fibre in oat bran, legumes (dried beans of all kinds, peas and lentils), and pectin from fruit, (such as apples) and in root vegetables (such as carrots) is considered especially helpful for people with either form of diabetes. Soluble fibre may help control blood sugar by delaying stomach emptying, retarding the entry of glucose into the bloodstream and lessening the post-meal rise in blood sugar. It may lessen insulin requirements in those with type 1 diabetes. Because fibre slows the digestion of foods, it can help blunt the sudden spikes in blood glucose that may occur after a low-fibre meal. Such blood sugar peaks stimulate the pancreas to pump out more insulin. Some researchers believe that a lifetime of blood glucose spikes could contribute to type 2 diabetes, which typically strikes after the age of 40, and more than doubles the risk of stroke and heart disease. The cholesterol-lowering effect of soluble fibres may also help those with diabetes by reducing heart disease risks.

From: Reverse Diabetes Fall 2011
Alive November 2011 Issue No 349