November is Diabetes Awareness month and although most people are aware of it, many see it as quite an abstract issue. Diabetes is often falsely linked to genetics, age, and obesity. Researchers revealed to several news sources that developing the disease may really depend on what a person is currently choosing to eat. The most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and 2.
In a nutshell, Type 1 is an autoimmune condition, while Type 2 is a lifestyle disease,” says Francesca Orlando-Baldwin, NTP, CGP. “Type 1 Diabetes typically affects young people and only represents about 5 to 10% of the population.”
When people eat an abundance of foods that contain refined carbohydrates (bagels, chip, chocolate bars, etc.), that food is immediately broken down into sugar in their bodies. The body tries to get this sugar out of the blood by producing insulin. When people feed their bodies sugary foods every day and in large quantities, their cells become insulin-resistant over time and their blood sugar remains high as a result. In response, their bodies pump even more insulin which results in a vicious cycle. Eventually, blood sugar remains permanently high when the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin.
But what is so bad about high blood sugar? According to Busch and Orlando-Baldwin, high blood sugar can have a very negative impact on kidneys, heart, eyes and nerves. Rosedale also blames blood sugar for illnesses related to aging and even cancer. According to the three experts questioned, this could happen to anyone consuming a diet high in refined carbs and sugar.
Of course, genetics (especially those of first-degree family members) play a big role in the likelihood of developing the disease too. However, Orlando-Baldwin, Bush, and Rosedale all agree that being predisposed does not mean that you are doomed.
We now know that we have the power to turn on and off genes,” says Rosedale. Although there are several genes that are linked to a higher diabetes risk, “None of these genes cause Type 2 diabetes on their own,” says Busch. “This is one area where the patient can have tremendous influence on the course and progression of the disease and their general health.”
Common signs of Type 2 diabetes are weight gain, increased hunger and thirst, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, frequent urination, fatigue, changes in vision, and others. The researchers state that some people with pre-diabetes may not show any symptoms at all, which makes prevention much more difficult. The CDC states that over 37 percent of Americans over 20 years old have pre-diabetes (when blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be considered diabetic). Bush advises regular doctor visits for check-ups and asking for both a blood sugar test, as well as an examination of fasting insulin levels (which should ideally be under 7).
The researchers state that prevention is key: by eating a real food diet, it is difficult to overdo the sugar intake. Fruit contains natural sugar but it is much healthier, because it lacks refined carbohydrates. However, eating too much of a good thing can be harmful, since natural sugar is still sugar. The good news is that this potentially deadly disease is not irreversible, but instead, quite the opposite. Prevention is key.
Read more here – “Sugar & Diabetes: What Even Young, Fit People Need To Know,” (Grace McCalmon, Refinery29).
Anna is a current student at The George Washington University in Washington, DC with a concentration in Marketing and Communication. She specializes in social media outreach and has experience working in government contracting.