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Does Diabetes affect Nutrition, or does Nutrition affect Diabetes?

Testing the blood glucose level yourself
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According to the CDC, in 2003-2006, 25.9% of U.S. adults aged 20 years or older had IFG (impaired fasting glucose) (35.4% of adults aged 60 years or older). Applying this percentage to the entire U.S. population in 2007 yields an estimated 57 million American adults aged 20 years or older with IFG, suggesting that at least 57 million American adults had prediabetes in 2007. There wasn’t a current statistic available for 2010 but one could assume it hasn’t gone down.

Once diagnosed, diabetes is divided in two major categories, Type I and Type II. Type I or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus usually occurs in children and adolescents. Type II or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus usually begins after age 40. Type II diabetes is a disease over which we have a fair amount of control with diet alone. About 90% of diabetics are type II – insulin levels are typically elevated, suggesting a loss of insulin sensitivity. Obesity is a major contributing factor to loss of insulin sensitivity. Poor nutrition contributes to obesity, which contributes to diabetes.

Our mantra here at Natural Healthy Concepts is that proper nutrition is the number one key to disease prevention. A simple statement yet so grossly over looked. During American Diabetes Month, we are reminded how much nutrition affects our overall health.

Interestingly, when diagnosed with diabetes, the average person does alter their diet. Often they are instructed to consume sugar-free and fat-free foods. Unfortunately, for many individuals, sugar-free means using food items with aspartame or sucralose as the sweetener rather than just eliminating sugar-laden foods. Those processed foods that are fat-free typically have increased sodium or chemical sweeteners to “enhance” the flavor. So diabetes does affect our nutrition – often in a negative way.

Diabetes can lead to serious complications, such as blindness, kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, neuropathy and foot ulcers, but people with diabetes can lower the occurrence of these and other diabetes complications by controlling blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood lipids. It is well-known that diet affects blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. There it is – back to that idea of proper nutrition. Let your nutrition or diet affect your diabetes, or lack of it, instead of vice versa.

So what is proper nutrition?
These are some very basic guidelines which define good nutrition and when practiced as part of a pre diabetes diet, will help to prevent many disease states:

  • Eat real food. Eliminate boxed, bagged, canned food as much as possible. Real food is something you can grow, pick and eat. If it comes in a box, can or bag, it has been processed somehow.
  • Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits every day. Aim for a minimum of 4 servings of vegetables, 2 fruits with a goal of 8 or 9 servings combined. Eat as much color as you can (in your fruits & vegetables) – something green, yellow, orange, purple, red – everyday. Each color represents different phytonutrients.
  • Identify and address food sensitivities or allergies. Think you don’t have any? Try an elimination diet and you might be surprised.
  • Consume a healthy balance of protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. That’s right, we do need some fats for the body to function properly. They are called essential fatty acids for a reason.
  • Drink plenty of clean water – ideally at least 48 ounces daily.
  • Consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily (if you do number one and two, this will be easier).
  • Eliminate refined sugar and simple carbohydrate intake (if you do number one, this will be easy).
  • Eliminate the intake of food colorings, additives and preservatives (if you do number one, this will be easy).
  • Watch your salt intake (if you do number one, this will be easy).
  • Eliminate hydrogenated fats (if you do number one, this will be easy).
  • Strive for a caloric intake of about 2,200 calories per day if you are at your ideal weight. (If you do number 1 and 2, this will be easier.) If you are not at your ideal weight, limit your caloric intake and increase your physical activity.
  • Eat at regular intervals and a minimum of 3 meals per day. If you are hypoglycemic or on a diabetic diet, add a couple snacks per day (containing a protein, good fat and a complex carbohydrate).
  • Reduce exposure to pesticides and herbicides, eat organic as much as possible.

These basic tips may help with obesity as well as the prevention of diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program, a large prevention study of people at high risk for diabetes, showed that lifestyle intervention reduced developing diabetes by 58% during a 3-year period. The reduction was even greater, 71%, among adults aged 60 years or older.

There are a wide variety of nutrition supplements available that may also help with Nutrition for Diabetes Support.