Worsening Diabetes in the UK and the World

by on June 10, 2015

Worsening Diabetes in the UK and World

There are over 3 million diabetics in the UK, including 1 in 6 of all hospital patients. Of the 3 million, an estimated 600,000 do not know they are diabetic – they are undiagnosed.

Worldwide, there are about 400 million diabetics and this is expected to rise 50% to nearly 600 million by 2035.

What is diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes, diabetes type I and diabetes type II. Diabetes type I is due to a genetic abnormality and normally shows between the ages of ten and fourteen. The only option for treatment is to take insulin daily.

Diabetes type II used to be called “maturity onset diabetes”, because it would almost invariably happen at, or beyond, middle age. However, with the worsening incidence of type II diabetes people are developing it younger and younger. Even some children now have type II diabetes.

In its early or mild forms, this type of diabetes can be controlled by diet. As it is much more likely to happen if you are obese it is also greatly helped – or even eliminated – by losing weight, especially if dietary changes are made as well.

If a person won’t follow this treatment plan then they will certainly need to resort to medication.

Two stages of diabetes Type II

There are two distinct stages of type II diabetes.

Stage 1

In the first stage, the insulin receptors on the muscle cells become less sensitive to insulin. As the insulin “unlocks” the insulin receptor to allow sugar into the cell for energy, the loss of sensitivity means it is harder for the sugar to get into the cells.

This reduction in sensitivity is called “insulin resistance”.

The body’s first reaction is to this difficulty is to produce more insulin to “unlock” the receptor.

This works for a while – and gets more sugar into the muscle cells. It gives a breathing space.

If, at this time, the person takes measures to head off the diabetes – reducing sugar intake, improving the diet in other ways, losing weight – the diabetes can be reversed at this point. The person can then live a normal life, avoiding the health problems and inconveniences diabetes inevitably causes.

However, if the person is unaware of the impending diabetes, or if they fail to take remedial action, they get to the second stage of diabetes type II.

Stage 2

This is where the pancreas – which produces your insulin – gets exhausted from producing all that extra insulin and just can’t do it any longer. This results in sugar accumulating in the blood – leading to a diabetes diagnosis.

Even at this stage, self-treatment is still usually very effective if undertaken immediately. In other words:

  • Changing the diet away from sugary and high carbohydrate foods
  • Eliminating junk and manufactured foods
  • Increasing vegetables and salad
  • Losing weight (effective ways to lose weight are considered in the article How to Lose Weight)
  • Getting regular exercise (also covered in the same article)

The health problems of diabetics

For many people, by the time type II diabetes is diagnosed, health complications are already present. For this reason, it really pays to be checked for diabetes if you have any concerns at all and also to treat it with lifestyle changes as soon as you are aware of it.

The health problems which can result from diabetes are too depressing to look at in detail. A brief mention of the most common ailments afflicting diabetics will be enough. They include:

  • Heart and artery disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye disease
  • Amputation of limbs
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual problems – especially poor erection in men
  • A raised likelihood of dementia
  • Early death – life expectancy for someone with type II diabetes is reduced by approximately 6 years.

Glycation

sugar-250wx173hMuch of the damage to organs caused by diabetes – the heart, kidneys, eyes, brain – is caused by a process called “glycation“.

Glycation is caused directly by excessive sugar in the blood and body fluids. This causes certain proteins in the cells to glycate – resulting in a tangled mess of non-functional tissue. This causes a hardening of the organ in question.

Where flexibility of an organ or tissue is important, its hardening because of glycation reduces functionality considerably. The glycation – or “hardening” – of the heart, kidneys, eyes and brain can cause tremendous damage.

How to avoid diabetes

The two major ways for most people to avoid type II diabetes, or to treat it if in its early stages, are to improve the diet, and lose weight.

Improving the diet includes cutting down dramatically on sugar and carbohydrates, and greatly increasing the proportion of fresh vegetables in the diet.

The main carbohydrates in our diet are bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice. All these foods are over 90% sugar once broken down in the body. Fruit juices are also very high in sugar – as high as soda such as Coca-Cola – and so should be avoided.

This goes very much against the grain for many people – as fresh fruit juice has been touted as being full of health, whereas it is not, it is full of sugar!

If you are going to eat fruit, eat it in moderate amounts (because of the high sugar content) and eat the whole fruit – not as juice or, just as bad, cooked. You need the fibre in the fruit to slow down the absorption of the sugar in the gut.

Improve the diet

So, to summarise, a guide for a good diet for someone with early diabetes would be:

  • Low carbohydrate (all sugar, fruit juice, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, other grains)
  • High vegetables, especially raw (low in sugar, high in fibre. Go easy on peas, sweetcorn and root vegetables, especially if cooked)
  • High salads (including raw vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc – grated finely these are really tasty)
  • High protein – quality fish, meat, tofu in moderation, free range eggs, organic milk in moderation
  • Moderate to high fat – fat does not “make you fat” (see the article How to lose weight). However, avoid junk food and minimise any type of fried food. Fat in food slows the digestive process which also slows the absorption of any sugar in that food. This is good.
  • Occasional fruit. Eat it whole and raw. Try and eat it with fatty or protein food to slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream. For example: an apple with peanut butter, or blueberries with seeds soaked in plant milk, such as oat milk – a nice breakfast.

Lose weight

A large proportion of obese people are diabetic. In fact, Diabetes UK tells us that obesity accounts for 80% or more of the overall risk of developing Type II diabetes.

So, if you are overweight or obese, it will help reduce your diabetes risk greatly to lose weight. For what really works for weight loss, see our article: How to Lose Weight.

The Life Extension Foundation article on diabetes is very comprehensive, explaining the different types, how diabetes affects us, the conventional approach to diabetes and alternative nutritional methods which can also help.

Avoiding, or coping with, diabetes

diabetes-arms-250wx155hIf you are overweight or obese, you are much more likely to develop illnesses, including diabetes. (See our article: The Health Dangers of Obesity.)

Similarly, if your diet does not closely match the recommendations above, in the section “Improve the diet”, then you could change your diet to keep yourself more healthy.

Finally, a good exercise regime will greatly help your overall health as well as helping you cope with the risk of developing diabetes. If you want to lose weight, then you should especially incorporate weight-bearing exercise and HIIT, or high intensity interval training, which have been demonstrated to be the only forms of exercise which actually burn fat.

This is because they not only raise your metabolic rate when you are doing them, but it stays raised for up to 48 hours after you finish the exercise.

General exercise – for example, sport, raises your metabolic rate while you are doing it but then this quickly drops to normal when you stop. Aerobic exercise – for example running, jogging, using a treadmill or cross trainer, are similar in this respect: but concerns have been raised that this type of exercise – which would never be done in nature – is actually bad for your heart and lungs. I agree with this view and recommend avoiding aerobic exercise.

So, the ball is in your court. Diet, exercise, and losing weight are the three main ways to avoid developing diabetes – and they are completely in your control.

If you have a recent diabetes diagnosis – these are still the three main methods you should consider – but, of course, in consultation with your doctor.

If you have a long-standing diagnosis of diabetes – then the ball is still in your court, but you should be much more cautious in your approach to applying these methods, and involve your medical advisers much more closely. Approach these methods slowly but surely.

The “diabetes epidemic” which is in progress shows no sign of abating and will affect many more people with each passing decade. This will not only cause great distress and discomfort for millions but will cause massive demands on health services everywhere.

As individuals, all we can do is try to make sure we do not develop diabetes ourselves by taking the actions outlined in this article.

The actions to take are pretty straightforward – if you have the commitment and the will power. I don’t underestimate the challenge – I know that this last part can often be tricky.

 

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