Preventing diabetes

It’s the modern epidemic – an estimated 1.4 million Australians have Type 2 diabetes. What’s more – a further two million Australians are pre-diabetic and most don’t even know it.

Author of ‘Diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome’, Dr Nasseem Malouf joins TODAY to tell you how to avoid this disease.

Numerous studies that have proven that diabetes can be prevented by losing a little bit of weight, changing eating habits and moderate exercise.

What is diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes affects 10 to 15 percent of all cases. It is also known as Juvenile Onset Diabetes and Insulin Dependent Diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes affect 85 to 90 percent of cases... Unlike Type 1, Type 2 is a lifestyle disease. It occurs largely in adults with a family history. Type 2 is caused by a gradual reduction in the amount of insulin the pancreas produces in response to meals, and by insulin resistance that occurs when the normal amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas stops transferring sugars from the blood stream into muscle and fat cells - i.e. High blood sugars.

High blood sugars can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the eye, the kidneys and the nerves in the feet.

Insulin resistance is aggravated by lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.The association between Type 2 diabetes and obesity is so strong, they are often referred to as one disease "diabesity", the largest epidemic the world is facing in the 21st century.

There is a direct relationship between increased abdominal weight and insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular risk.

What is pre-diabetes?

Today there are two million Australians who are have pre-diabetes, and are therefore at a great risk of developing full-blown diabetes within the next 5 to 10 years.

Pre-diabetes is the presence of high blood sugars, but not high enough to be classified. There are no symptoms of pre-diabetes.

Studies have shown that men and women with pre-diabetes who successfully lost a modest amount of weight - 5 to10 percent of body weight - using a diet low in fat/high in fibre with regular activity (walking 4 to 5 times per week), managed to reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent. Dr Malouf suggests abiding by the following plate model.

The recommended plate model

Half vegetables; a quarter protein; a quarter complex carbohydrates.

Carbs and blood sugar –

Carbohydrates are an important energy source, but what has to be remembered is that all carbohydrates are absorbed and converted in the blood stream to a sugar called glucose. While glucose is a vital source of energy, excess glucose is ultimately converted to fat and stored away.

You can help to control your blood sugar by managing your carbohydrate intake through simple steps:

1. Limit your intake of carbohydrates
2. Space your carbohydrates evenly over the day
3. Choose low GI foods, and include one low-GI food with every meal

To eat healthy, and avoid the onset of Type 2 diabetes, remember that there are four groups of food from each colour of the traffic light pyramid:

Green – Leafy green veggies.

Yellow – Carbs

Red – Stop! Fats and sugars.

Dr Malouf insists that a diet centred on the foods we ate as a hunter and gatherers (fresh, unprocessed food, plus exercise) is the healthiest diet for humans.

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