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Diabetes is a growing problem that can't be ignored. Currently, 1 in 10 Americans have type 2 diabetes. However, if new cases develop as projected, its prevalence could double or even triple over the next 40 years, according to Ann Albright, director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the CDC. The rates are predicted to skyrocket by the year 2050. By that time, 1 in every 3 Americans will be diabetic unless we make drastic cultural changes.
Diabetes affects approximately 29.1 million people of all ages in America, or about 9.3 percent of the population. Add to that about 86 million people in the United States with pre-diabetes, which is a stage of insulin resistance that develops before full-blown diabetes. If there’s no intervention, those with pre-diabetes will have diabetes in three to six years.
What is Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system, for unknown reasons, destroys the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. When the body can't produce insulin, this is type 1 diabetes. Some new evidence from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and the DIABIMMUNE Study Group suggests that type 1 diabetes may be related to changes in the body’s microbiome, which is the collection of bacteria and other microbes that live in and on the body, especially in the digestive tract. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by poor diet or lifestyle factors.
Type 2 diabetes is primarily caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise, which lead to insulin resistance, the cells’ inability to recognize the availability of insulin that they can use for energy. An unhealthy lifestyle may also create an environment in which the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin. Many type 2 diabetics have both insulin resistance and poor insulin production.
There are different types of diabetes. The three metabolic and genetic types are, type I, type II and gestational diabetes. Diabetes can also be caused by medical complications or pharmacological interactions. Steroid drugs, such as prednisone, raise blood sugars levels greatly.
Pre-diabetes is defined as elevated blood glucose levels, however, they’re not at levels high enough to be classified as diabetes. A normal fasting blood glucose reading is below 100 mg/dl. A person with pre-diabetes has a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl. If the blood glucose level rises to 126 mg/dl or above, a person is classified as diabetic.
Pre-diabetes can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50 percent. If you are overweight, your risk of developing diabetes or metabolic syndrome is increased greatly. Excess weight is a contributing factor because the extra abdominal fat increases insulin resistance. If you don’t get some of the excess weight off, it’s just a matter of time before you develop diabetes and, potentially, metabolic syndrome.
Carbohydrates and Diabetes
Let me make this statement: not all carbohydrates are bad. In fact, carbohydrates are necessary for life and can help manage healthy blood sugar levels. It's the type of carbohydrate that makes them good or bad. Carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, peas and lentils are exceptionally healthy for us. The more plant-based foods you eat, the better you can manage your diabetes and, in some cases, even reverse it.
Most people don’t realize this, but flour – even whole grain flour – has a similar effect on the body as refined sugar. In fact, white flour will raise your blood sugar levels faster than refined table sugar. The only flours that won’t raise blood sugar quickly are flours made from sprouted grains, nuts and seeds, such as almond flour and coconut flour, and flour from legumes, such as chickpea flour.
How to Manage Diabetes
If there’s one disease or health condition where diet and lifestyle changes can be effective at reducing the risk or even reversing its symptoms, it is diabetes – type 1 excluded. However, eating with a purpose and making smart choices can help reduce the number of units of insulin needed by type 1 diabetics. Diet and healthy lifestyle changes can certainly help reduce the medication needed to control it.
To summarize; get rid of high-glycemic and chemical-rich foods and eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet. Every day, drink a smoothie that’s filled with fiber and antioxidant-rich foods and work toward exercising for at least an hour a day. By incorporating these healthy habits into your lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of diabetes and help put an end to this epidemic.
Wally Bishop, C.N.C. has been in the nutrition health field for several years and is a Certified Nutritional Consultant. He is a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine and American Fitness Professionals and Associates. He holds certifications as a Nutritional and Wellness Consultant and is the President and CEO of WebND LLC, and Renewal and Wellness, both nutrition and health-focused companies.
Wally is actively involved in local and national health promotion efforts. He is on the Health and Wellness committee for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Atlantic Division and the Healthy Living Advisory Committee for A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering in Greenville, South Carolina. Wally works with community organizations as a speaker and educator to teach parents how to transition to a healthy lifestyle.
As a nutritionist, Wally focuses on client-based nutritional education and intervention. His primary focus is to empower his clients through nutritional and healthy lifestyle education. His specialty is weight management and weight-related health issues and as his first client, managed to lose in excess of 210 pounds, eliminating his high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and sleep apnea.