By Amanda Whitford
Type two diabetes is often referred to as a lifestyle disease because in many cases it is preventable with modification of lifestyle factors. Unfortunately, once the disease has developed there is no cure, so prevention is the area that needs the most attention because the incidence is on the rise.
This is not a condition that just suddenly happens. Insulin resistance usually develops over a number of years, eventually getting to the point where full blown diabetes occurs.
In normal functioning conditions, insulin is released by the pancreas after a meal in response to rise in blood glucose from consumption of carbohydrate (and protein to a lesser extent). Insulin’s main role is to promote the uptake of glucose from the blood to return plasma levels back into the normal range. Liver and muscle cells take up glucose to be stored as glycogen, and remaining glucose is then converted to fat and stored in adipose tissue. Normal blood glucose levels signal the pancreas to cease insulin secretion.
When insulin resistance occurs, the cells, such as liver and muscle, don’t respond to insulin as well as they used to, so they are slower at removing it from the blood. Blood glucose levels don’t drop as fast as they should so the pancreas releases more insulin to try and counteract the problem. In the short term this can be an effective solution. The problem is as insulin resistance increases, plasma glucose remains higher and higher and the pancreas is forced to produce more and more insulin and may eventually burn out, resulting in problems with insulin production. Diabetes refers to a condition where there is a high level of glucose in the blood.
So how does this affect you? Diabetes is becoming an increasingly common condition and is infiltrating younger and younger age groups which is clearly a great cause for alarm. It is associated with higher incidence of several cancers, can cause direct damage to blood vessels throughout the body, and can severely impact on quality of life. There are multiple lifestyle factors that contribute to this condition so read on to find out if you could be putting yourself at heightened risk of developing this disease:
Well this one’s a no brainer. Any dietary components that cause a large rise in insulin can contribute to insulin resistance. The biggest culprits are simple, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, white rice, high sugar foods- particularly processed foods like lollies. These foods release their glucose content rapidly so blood sugar spikes and the pancreas needs to release large surges of insulin. To limit this, obtain your daily carbohydrates primarily from non-starchy vegetables, and when eating grains and cereals choose wholegrain varieties with as little processing as possible. Wholegrain varieties of bread, pasta and rice have a lower glycaemic index (mostly due to the presence of fibre) meaning the glucose is released at a slower, more controlled rate, so there is no huge spike in either blood glucose or insulin.
Now for the fruit debate.- A question that often comes up is whether it’s still okay to eat fruit because fruit contains sugar that is quickly released. What sets fruit apart from the simple sugars mentioned above is the huge range of beneficial nutrients and other compounds that come with it. If you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance or diabetes then follow the advice your nutritionist/dietitian has given you (and yes you should be seeing one!), but for the rest of us, fruit is a valuable addition to the diet. I suggest keeping fruit consumption to 2-3 pieces per day, and even better, enjoy it with some raw nuts, as the fat content will delay the sugar release.
Sedentary lifestyle is correlated with insulin resistance, and increasing exercise is an effective method of treatment. Exercise has an effect on glucose uptake similar to, but independent of insulin. This means that if your cells are having trouble responding to insulin then exercise can help them to remove glucose from the blood instead (to an extent). The key here though is regular exercise and a 30 minute daily walk is all it takes.
We all know that cigarettes are bad for us. They cause cancer, high blood pressure, and they also contribute to the development of insulin resistance. There is no need for me to comment on the other deleterious effects of smoking.
Small amounts of alcohol may actually improve insulin resistance, however in excess (which tends to be the way it is consumed around Christmas/New Year) it has the opposite effect, having a detrimental effect on glucose metabolism.
End of year is generally a time of excessive eating, increased drinking, and probably a lapse in exercise habits. Don’t let it be a time to fall off the health wagon completely- it’s all about moderation.
If you need advice around your diet and nutrition, give Lynda a call, she would love to help.