Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are are not properly regulated by the body.
This is usually characterized by hyperglycemia -high blood sugar level, and this can have a harmful effect upon many aspects of an individual's health.
It is mostly caused by either a lack of insulin in the blood, or insulin resistance within the cells of the body and organs.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is released into the bloodstream when sugar levels become elevated. It has the effect of lowering blood sugar levels by instructing cells to absorb and store glucose.
Type One Diabetes.
In type one diabetes the pancreas produces either too little insulin or none at all. There are many causes, but is is generally accepted that diet is not one of them, though it must be modified in response. It usually occurs early in life and requires treatment in the form of insulin injections. It is a chronic disease and there is no known cure at this time.
Type Two Diabetes.
This often occurs later in life - it develops over time. It is usually caused by insulin resistance, not a lack of insulin. The cells do not react to the insulin and do not absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Although not totally conclusive, indications are that poor diet is a major contributor to this disease.
It tends to be more common in people who are overweight, and who consume large quantities of refined foods. In addition type two diabetes is becoming more common in younger people, even in their teens, and this is usually associated with obesity.
Diabetes is more common in countries with a western diet, and rates are increasing. Nearly 8% of Americans suffer from diabetes and of these most (90%) suffer from type two.
Symptoms for diabetes are the same as for high blood sugar:
2. Frequent urination.
3. Excessive hunger.
4. Dry mouth.
6. Blurred vision.
Lifestyle is an important issue in the prevention of the onset of type two diabetes. The important factors include:
1. Management of weight - keeping within guideline BMI indices.
2. Regular exercise.
3. Reduction in consumption of refined carbohydrates including sugar.
4. Inclusion of fibre and prebiotics in the diet.
5. Consumption of more frequent, but smaller meals.
The rise in diabetes has closely followed the rise in sugar consumption in the western world. In recent years new information has become available regarding the glycemic index and glycemic load of food.
Many sweeteners are now available that have a low glycemic index, and it is possible to enjoy them without risking the onset of metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.
A list showing the glycemic index of sweeteners is available here.
Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) as advocated by the American Diabetes Association consists of lifestyle intervention including education, exercise, calorie restriction, weight management and diet.