For Type One Diabetes, which affects about 5%-10% of people with diabetes, there is no prevention at this time. Because it is usually diagnosed early in life, it used to be called Juvenile Diabetes. With Type One Diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin to process glucose into energy. Treatment typically involves some type of insulin therapy and other treatments to replace the missing insulin and help convert glucose into energy.
Type Two Diabetes is most common, affecting more than 23.6 million Americans. Some estimate that 57million Americans have diabetes, many not yet knowing it. In Type Two Diabetes, the body may not produce enough insulin or it may ignore the insulin that's there-- the insulin doesn't do its job, so to speak. While in my youth I often heard this referred to as adult onset diabetes, I no longer hear that phrase. This is because Type Two Diabetes is affecting children and young adults in far greater numbers than ever before.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
The American Diabetes Foundation (ADA) states that both forms of diabetes have two factors:
- a genetic predisposition to diabetes; someone in your immediate or close family has/had diabetes;
- a triggering environmental incident or situation; lifestyle--food choices, activity/exercise level, what part of world you live in, etc.
Type Two Diabetes has the higher correlation to environmental factors and lifestyle. What the ADA finds interesting is that, while lifestyle--high fat, too little carbohydrate and fiber, and lack of exercise--are strong risk factors, these play out for those living a Western lifestyle (European and American). The same factors do not correlate to getting the disease for people living in other parts of the world.
Some racial and ethnic groups and the elderly have a higher incidence of Type Two Diabetes. If you are African-American, Latino/Latina, Native American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or you are elderly, your risk is higher.
The result of either type of diabetes is too much blood glucose in the body, which the body cannot process into energy. The cells are starving while their "food" is all around them.
A Simple Demonstration
Earlier this month, our Hunger Network had a brief presentation where the presenter pulled a clear, plastic canister out of a bag. In it were a group of white ping pong balls, representing cells in the body. They were partly surrounded by a red liquid representing blood in the body.
- Liquid in the first canister rolled smoothly around the balls when she rotated it; this represented a body with normal glucose levels; the "cells" had no difficulty moving.
- She pulled out a second canister; the liquid was a bit thicker and didn't roll quite as quickly around the cells. This represented an elevated blood glucose level. It was more difficult for the cells to move.
- She pulled out a third canister; the liquid was quite thick and the cells barely moved. This represented a high glucose level that could be found in someone with diabetes, even if undiagnosed!
- physical activity,
- more fiber,
- whole grains,
- losing weight, and
- making healthier food choices rather than going on fad diets.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) points to a study on diabetes prevention (see next paragraph) which demonstrated that "people can delay and possibly prevent the disease by losing a small amount of weight (5 to 7 percent of total body weight) through 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week and healthier eating."
For readers who want a more clinical resource, The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse has a Diabetes Prevention section you may want to read. Their study is mentioned in the previous paragraph.
The UC Berkeley (University of California at Berkeley) newsletter issue on diabetes prevention, Wellness Letter, has a good one-page summary that may prove helpful. You can subscribe to their newsletter which informs you on a variety of wellness topics.
On a personal note, my brother lived all over the world over 35+ years. He was often assigned to "lesser developed" nations. He would always drop weight after living for a time in one of these countries and he swears that it's because they don't over-process their grains and other foods. And when he'd return to the US for a time, the weight would come right back. I think he's onto something and I'm now buying items such as stone ground corn meal when I can find them.