The numbers are eye-popping: around 430 million people worldwide have diabetes, and even more remain undiagnosed. Most (95%) suffer from type 2 diabetes, making it one of the most widespread diseases globally. And it’s getting worse. With our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, type 2 diabetes is on the rise. Too many people underestimate the egregious effect that diabetes can have on overall health, unaware that it can lead to blindness, heart attacks, kidney failure, nerve damage, depression, leg amputations and more.
With November 14th being World Diabetes Day, our health and nutrition specialists, Kathi and Felix, are on hand to clue you in about one of the most common health conditions worldwide.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin any more. Insulin is used by the body to encourage the cells to absorb glucose from digestible carbohydrates into the bloodstream, but in type 2 diabetes, there is more glucose floating around than the body’s insulin can handle. Whereas Type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable autoimmune disease that sufferers tend to have for their entire lives, Type 2 diabetes can often be avoided as it is the result of excess body weight, poor diet and physical inactivity.
How can it be prevented?
Whilst genetic factors can affect the likelihood of a person developing diabetes, most sufferers develop it as a result of their lifestyle choices. Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by amending these lifestyle patterns. The most effective of these is adopting a healthy, balanced diet including plenty of veggies, fruits, slow-digesting carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. This, accompanied by an increase in physical activity, can significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Felix explains, clean eating is undoubtedly the most effective route to take in avoiding type 2 diabetes. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that diabetes is relatively rare in east Asian countries where diets are based around vegetables, fish and grains, all sources of nutrients and healthy fats. We could all follow their example; avoiding processed grains and sugars and artificial ingredients reduces glucose levels to a level the body’s insulin production can handle, significantly reducing the risk of diabetes. Consuming unprocessed foods keeps your blood sugar levels steady; processed foods can cause spikes in glucose which can, over time, have devastating effects. Avoiding the saturated fats in chocolate, cake and processed foods in favour of the healthier, unsaturated fats in fish, nuts and healthy oils is a simple but effective step to take in altering your diet. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that in people following a healthy, plant-based diet, their chances of developing type 2 diabetes were reduced by 34%.
According to our Nutrition Specialist, Kathi, a clean eater looking to reduce the risk of diabetes should consume frequent, smaller meals throughout the day, preventing erratic blood glucose levels by providing a regular supply of energy. Combining a healthy balanced diet with regular exercise can make all the difference to your chances of developing diabetes. Indeed, studies have shown that exercising just once a week for 60 minutes can reduce the risk of diabetes by 40%.
The Freeletics Nutrition Coach can help you with this; the app focuses on clean eating and the eradication processed and refined foods from your diet. But the app is more than just a means of preventing diabetes, following a healthy, clean diet will improve your training performance, cognitive abilities and overall well-being, so what are you waiting for, download it today!