Diabetes is a dangerous disease that has reached epidemic levels in the UAE. Although epidemiological studies on the prevalence of Diabetes in the UAE and other Arab countries is lacking, 2 unpublished studies have shown that the prevalence of Diabetes in the UAE is the 2nd highest in the world! It has been estimated that 19.6% of people living in Dubai (UAE nationals and expats) are living with Diabetes. Diabetes is a hereditary condition BUT factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and poor dietary intake have caused people to acquire the disease without having a family history of illness. People have lost control of their weight, the ingredients of the foods we eat as well as of our general health and these are the factors causing these alarming statistics.
Diabetes in a nut shell Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body either making too little insulin or not utilizing the insulin that is being made, effectively. Being overweight worsens the body’s response to insulin. As insulin is the transporter of sugar (energy) into all the cells of the body, a lack thereof causes symptoms of diabetes. That being high blood sugar levels, constant hunger, fatigue, frequent urination and continual thirst. Frequent high levels of sugar in our blood, causes long term damage to the body. Maintaining CONTROL of ones blood sugar is what is critical in the management of Diabetes - control is what will reduce the risk of long term Diabetic complications like blindness, kidney failure and amputations.
How do we take control? People suffering from Diabetes who take control of their blood sugar levels, even if only for the first ten years after they are diagnosed, have reduced risks of heart attack, death and other complications ten or more years later. This has been labeled the “Legacy effect” and could hopefully be the research needed to place emphasis on the importance on the treatment of ones Diabetes from the time of diagnosis. Special emphasis needs to placed on controlling blood sugar, weight and dietary intake. For people suffering from Diabetes, a normal day should entail 3 daily practices. The first being taking your medication, the second eating the correct, slow releasing foods and the third being monitoring your blood sugars to ensure you are maintaining control.
Many new drugs flood the markets yearly claiming to help with blood sugar control and promote weight loss etc. 2 of the newest drugs on the market, one called Byette (Exenatide ) and the other Symlin (Pramlintide acetate) have both shown both positive and negative effects. People taking Diabetes medication be it, oral medication or injectable drugs, fail to realize what an important role their diets play in maintaining control of their blood sugar levels. Eating correctly and monitoring your blood sugar will cause weight loss and an immediate improvement in your blood sugar control.
Controlling the affect of your food on your blood sugar When trying to control Diabetes, it is important to focus on your WHOLE diet, not just on ensuring you eat certain foods. Diabetics need to remember that every time you put something into your mouth, your blood sugar will be affected. Everything we eat has an effect on our blood sugar so, we need to ensure that the foods that we are eating have the smallest possible effect- this will help in maintaining good blood sugar control. Our blood sugar level predicts our eating patterns - if your blood sugar is low, you feel hungry. If you eat a meal high in refined carbohydrates and fat like a cheese burger, your blood sugar will shoot up but come crashing down 45minutes later and you will soon start to feel hungry again. These spikes and troughs in our blood sugar, cause people to gain weight because you feel hungry, more often and hence eat more.To prevent blood sugar spikes and troughs whether you are Diabetic or not, there are 2 imperative rules to follow:
1. Eating food with a high Glycemic load (GL) will ensure our blood sugar stays balanced in the normal range for a longer period of time and prevent you from gaining weight or help you lose unwanted weight.
2. Ensure that you spread your intake out over the whole day - generally by eating 3 small meals and 3 small snacks. This will balance your blood sugar during the day, keep you satisfied for longer and prevent blood sugar spikes and troughs.
The glycemic index The Glycemic index (GI) of a food indicates the type/quality of carbohydrate it contains - high glycemic index foods contain carbohydrates that are released quickly into the blood, they shoot our blood sugars up like sugar and sweets. Food with a low glycemic index, contain carbohydrate that releases more slowly, balancing our blood sugars, like whole grains and vegetables.