Over 18 million people in the United States have diabetes. An estimated 13 million have been diagnosed while another 5 million are unaware that they have the disease. Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Tommy G. Thompson announced findings from the Diabetes Prevention Program’s clinical trial that show at least 10 million Americans at high risk for type II diabetes could significantly lower their risk through diet and exercise. In a separate study Dr. Mark Pereira at Harvard Medical School analyzed the eating habits of 2,831 participants and found “breakfast may play an important role in reducing the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Diabetes mellitus is the most common of any serious metabolic disease in humans, and perhaps more than any other disease, is closely associated with diet. Moreover, diabetic population is significantly higher where western lifestyle and diet habits dominate rather than those cultures consuming a more “primitive” diet. Four percent of America now suffers with diabetes; 90% of these are type II and the remaining 10% are type I. The prevalence of diabetes is rising. It’s now the 6th major cause of death in the U.S. and it’s thought that this will double every 10-15 years, with an estimated 6-10% increase per year.
“In view of the rapidly rising rates of obesity and diabetes in America, this good news couldn’t come at a better time. So many of our health problems can be avoided through diet, exercise and making sure we take care of ourselves. By promoting healthy lifestyle, we can improve the quality of life for all Americans, and reduce health care costs dramatically,” states Thompson.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or when cells stop responding to the insulin produced by the body. Without insulin glucose cannot be absorbed into our cells.
Type I diabetes can occur at any age, but usually develops in children and young adults under the age of 30. Treatment for this type of diabetes includes insulin shots or using insulin pumps choosing the proper foods, exercising regularly in addition to controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
In type II diabetes is when the body produces plenty of insulin but the cells become insensitive to it. The insulin resistance is a condition in which fat, muscle and liver cells do not use insulin properly. Initially the pancreas continues to release insulin as demanded. In time the pancreas is less responsive to the insulin demands and begins to secrete less. Risk factors such as obesity and inactivity increase chances of developing type II diabetes.Additional risk factors include:
- High cholesterol
- Family history
- Ethnic background
- High blood Pressure
- Poor diet
Diabetes can be associated with a number of serious complications and premature death if proper steps to control it are not taken. If the blood glucose level stays too high, it can lead to heart, kidney, eye, foot and other problems. Complications may also occur when the blood glucose levels get too low.
Controlling your blood glucose level through diet, exercise and medication can help treat diabetes. The best way to control glucose levels is by reducing the amount of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates while increasing complex carbohydrates and fiber. Complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains are broken down slowly resulting in slower release of glucose into the blood stream. Simple sugars are broken down rapidly and drastically increase the blood sugar level. Carbohydrates should make up 55% to 60% of total daily calories. 10% to 20% of daily calories should come from protein and only 30% of total daily calories should come from good fats. Daily intake of 20 to 35 grams of fiber is also recommended.
Exercise has an important function in the prevention of diabetes. It has long been known obese people are more likely to develop diabetes. A four-year long Kaopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study put 1038 people with impaired glucose tolerance on a moderate exercise program. At the end of the study, results showed a significant decrease in progression toward diabetes in those individuals.
In a study reported in Diabetes Care and later in Science News, a particular desert cactus the prickly pear was shown to lower blood glucose and insulin levels in diabetics, the authors believed that the prickly pear treatment may improve the ability of insulin to efficiently stimulate the movement of glucose from the blood and into body cells.