Recent figures released by Diabetes Australia suggest that diabetes is the fastest growing health epidemic facing Australians. The problem is so extensive, that it's believed that one Australian develops diabetes every 5 minutes... that equals one person by the time you've finished scrolling through this article.
Diabetes is a condition characterised by irregularly high levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose breakdown relies on a hormone called insulin, however diabetes either decreases the body’s ability to produce insulin or ability to use it properly.
There are 2 main types of diabetes. Type 1 is thought to be hereditary (although the exact cause is not known) and usually manifests during childhood, and while Type 2 is also linked to genetics, it can laregely be prevented through diet and exercise, and is the most common form found in Australia.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2015 that close to 1.2 million Aussies had diabetes, however that figure is most likely severely inflated in 2018, with undocumented cases estimated to be around the 500,000 mark. Further reports suggest that in the last 20 years, the incidence of diabetes has more than tripled, developing into a major health risk for all Australians and the cause of over 16000 deaths every year.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t know they are in a pre-diabetic state as there are no associated signs and symptoms,” says Swisse Science Expert, Kristina Gorgievska. “If your doctor is concerned that you are at risk of developing diabetes, they will assess your risk based on factors such as your family history and lifestyle and determine if you need blood tests to measure your blood sugar levels. These tests will help them to know if you have pre-diabetes or if you fit the criteria for a diabetes diagnosis.”
So what can be done to reduce the risk of developing diabetes? Doctors, scientist and experts all agree that 2 lifestyle factors, fitness and nutrition, can have a direct influence on diabetes prevention, and assist management in those with diabetes, despite a predisposed genetic likelihood of development.
“Be aware of your risk factors and family history,” advises Gorgievska. “Unfortunately, diabetes does have a genetic component and having a family member with diabetes increases your risk. You can’t change your family history, but you can be aware of lifestyle modifications you can use to minimise your risk of developing diabetes.”
Don't stress, you don't have to take up a professional athletic program to avoid the risk of developing diabetes. Take a breather during your next workout: walking might protect against diabetes more than running does, research from Duke University suggests.
In the study, researchers had people with prediabetes - a common condition where your blood sugar is elevated, but not quite at the level to count as diabetes - walk briskly or jog 22 kilometres a week for 6 months. The researchers found that when you perform moderate exercise - like walking six kilometres - your body taps into its stores of fatty acids to fuel it more than it does when you exercise vigorously, like if you jogged the same distance, he says.
That’s good news for your diabetes risk, as too much fatty acids can make it harder for your body to process the hormone insulin.
If you want to slash your diabetes risk, you may want to start replacing some of your tried-and-true meal choices with legumes—especially lentils, according to a new study published in Clinical Nutrition.
After analyzing the food consumption of 3,349 people at high risk of heart disease but without type 2 diabetes, they discovered that those who ate about 3 servings a week of lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas were 35 percent less likely to develop diabetes over a four-year follow up than those those who consumed less legumes.
Gorgievska also suggests following some simple substitutions:
- Choosing complex carbohydrates (brown bread/rice/pasta, oats, quinoa, wholegrains) over white, processed carbohydrates and eating an even distribution throughout the day
- Opting for fruit in its natural form rather than fruit juice or high-sugar treats
- Including a variety of vegetables in meals and snacks, aiming for six serves of vegetables a day!
- Choosing a moderate amount of healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy over high processed meals, fried foods and full fat dairy for heart health
- Choosing lean protein/including more vegetable sources of protein over fatty cuts of meat and full fat dairy for heart health.