Hardly a day goes by without some new warning about the surging numbers of people with diabetes and the effect this will have on the health budget. Predictions of over 2 million Australians by 2020 and 44 million Americans by 2034 have been made. The Journal of Diabetes Care predicted annual costs in the USA to rise from $113 billion today to $336 billion in 2034. Much of the cost to the health system comes form complications of diabetes and kidney disease in particular.
These predictions and warnings are usually accompanied by calls for greater funding for research or more dollars to be pumped into treatment programs or for more spending on pharmaceuticals. There is an air of inevitability about this inexorable increase in diabetics.
Let us step back one minute and ask the questions that never get raised.
Why is there an increase in diabetes? Why has this condition become so prevalent over the last decade or so? Firstly lets separate the two forms of diabetes. Type 1 (sometimes called insulin dependent) starts early in life and comes about from the pancreas not producing enough insulin. This is the hormone that the body releases after meals to get glucose (sugar) out of the bloodstream and onto the cells of the body. Glucose is the bodies’ energy source. Our cells burn glucose like a car burns petrol (gasoline). Type 1 Diabetes appears to be a genetic condition and is far less common than Type 2.
The increase in numbers is almost entirely due to type 2 Diabetes. This comes about from the bodies cells becoming “resistant” to the effects of insulin due to what can best be described as over exposure. Every time we eat and food gets absorbed, as described above, insulin is released to lower the glucose level in the blood stream and get glucose into the cells.
Our bodies have over thousands of years adapted to foods being absorbed at a slow rate. Foods like vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts need to be broken down and the sugars are liberated at a slow rate that the body can handle. In contrast to this processed foods with refined carbohydrates release sugars easily and more quickly. This “floods” the blood stream with sugar. Sugary drinks are the worst for this. The body then pumps out insulin to lower the sugar levels. When this pattern is repeated over and over again, the cells become resistant to insulin, which is the first step to type 2 Diabetes. This does not happen after a day or a week but after many years.
It was estimated by The University of California that consumption of sugar sweetened beverages between 1990 and 2000 contributed to 130,000 new cases of Diabetes. This is a staggering figure. Even if they are out by 50,000 it is still staggering.
So the obvious question becomes, can diabetes be avoided? The answer is a resounding yes. Here are four simple ways to avoid getting type 2 Diabetes.
- Eat mainly whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and berries. Minimize processed and packaged foods. Some animal protein is fine.
- Drink water and not sodas or even fruit juices. It is better to eat an apple and have a glass of water that to drink a glass of apple juice
- Do regular exercise. Can be as simple as a regular walk.
- Have a body weight, which is appropriate for your height. Ideally a BMI between 20 and the mid to upper 20’s
None of this is difficult or beyond the reach of anyone. It is cheaper and easier than taking drugs, has no side effects and has other health spin offs too.
My suggestion is to start making changes today.