Type 2 diabetes has become a world-wide issue, as overconsumption of fast foods and lack of exercise put populations at risk. Here’s how to keep diabetes at bay.
Type 2 diabetes is a largely preventable disease caused primarily by poor diet and lifestyle. It can be seen as the mirror that reflects a modern world of excess and inappropriate choices.
In contrast, type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition, thought to be caused by genetics and exposure to certain viruses among other factors. Type 1 diabetes has no cure but can be managed.
In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. The far more common type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.
People with diabetes experience a high level of blood sugar over a prolonged period. Symptoms associated with high blood sugar levels include excess thirst, excess urination and increased hunger.
Increasing thirst and urination is the body’s way of removing sugar from the bloodstream since the primary mechanism of doing this, through insulin, is no longer effective.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to food consumption. Its role is to take the final end product from digested food, a simple sugar called glucose, out of the blood and into cells.
Movement of glucose from the bloodstream utilises insulin receptors that sit on the outside of cells. Insulin receptors act like a lock and insulin is the key that opens the door to allow the glucose in.
When large amounts or a constant supply of glucose is in the bloodstream, the pancreas works hard to produce adequate insulin to transport the glucose out of the blood. However, with continual high demand for insulin, the pancreas becomes weak and insulin production declines.
Alternatively, insulin receptors become desensitised to a constant supply of insulin. The receptors become resistant to the role of insulin, leading to a pre-diabetic state of insulin resistance.
The best way to avoid diabetes is to ensure the insulin receptors remain sensitive to insulin. Maintaining insulin sensitivity requires controlled secretion of insulin managed through diet.
Consuming a diet that is low in carbohydrates, contains adequate protein and high levels of good fats will ensure proper secretion of insulin and therefore optimum blood sugar levels. Foods high in carbohydrates and sugars cause a spike in the release of insulin, which when repeated over days, weeks and years causes the receptors to become resistant. Consuming protein, good fats and fibre with all meals will slow the breakdown of the glucose and encourage a steady release of insulin.
Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to the prevention of diabetes as the risk of diabetes is increased with excess body fat. Visceral fat, which sits around the organs, acts as an organ itself, secreting hormones that contribute to metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Doing adequate daily exercise will limit this risk, as well as associated cardiovascular risks.
Certain nutrients are key to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Magnesium deficiency in cells has been associated with increased insulin resistance, therefore increasing the risk of diabetes. This vital mineral is an important blood sugar regulator that is decreased in times of stress and during exercise so regular intake is essential.
Another mineral important in maintaining healthy blood sugar metabolism is zinc, found in high amounts in the cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin and used in the production of insulin. Keeping zinc levels high is important in reducing the risk of diabetes. Zinc is also depleted with high sugar intake, as many zinc molecules are required to break down one sugar molecule.
Alpha lipoic acid is one of the most valuable antioxidants and, importantly, it has a great impact on the pancreas and insulin sensitivity.
While not readily available in food sources, small amounts are found in grass-fed meats. However supplementation is recommended to ensure you get the adequate dosing required to improve insulin sensitivity.
People with diabetes have been found to have low levels of vitamin D. For this reason, vitamin D is suggested as an important nutrient in reducing the risk of diabetes. While sensible exposure to sunlight is a great source of this vitamin, small amounts can be found in egg yolks.
Chromium is a mineral long-regarded as a blood sugar regulator. It is lost through urine excretion when blood sugar levels are too high.
It is important to consult your health practitioner to ensure the balance of minerals is correct before supplementing your diet.
Foods to help prevent diabetes
Green Tea The polysaccharides in green tea may possess the same ability to regulate blood sugar as insulin, making it a powerful tool in managing your blood sugar levels.
Pepitas These green seeds are high in zinc, a mineral that is necessary for the production of insulin. Zinc also increases the insulin receptors’ sensitivity to insulin, reducing the risk of diabetes
Leafy Greens Dark leafy greens such as kale are high in magnesium, which may help correct insulin sensitivity. Magnesium deficiency has been linked with diabetes, so be sure to include greens in your diet. Protein Eating lean protein at every meal means increases satiety, reducing the likelihood of overeating and therefore maintaining a healthy weight. Include protein such as fish in your diet
Cinnamon This common household spice is effective at helping to reduce the risk of diabetes through regulating blood sugar levels. Try cinnamon sprinkled over whole baked fruit.
Broccoli This vegetable is a rich source of chromium, a mineral lauded for its role in regulating blood sugar levels. By adding broccoli to your dinner plate you may greatly reduce the risk of diabetes.
Smart Tip + Be sure to include a cup of green tea with your meals, particularly if they’re high in sugar or carbohydrates.