November 14th is World Diabetes Day. Diabetes is a common health condition and one which is on the rise in Ireland (particularly Type 2 diabetes). It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to control the amount of sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Diabetes adversely affects health in a number of ways and may lead to (amongst others) a higher risk of developing infections, cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.
Abnormal blood sugar levels, pre-diabetes and diabetes are more common in men than women with men 2-3 times more likely to have abnormal blood sugar levels and undiagnosed diabetes.
The number of diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes rose by 236% between 1998 and 2015. It is estimated that 225,840 people are currently living with diabetes in Ireland and this is expected to rise to 278,850 by 2030.
The good news is that modifiable factors in our diet and lifestyle may help manage or even reverse type 2 diabetes:
- Manage your weight – the risk of having undiagnosed diabetes increases by up to 89% for every 5 KG/m2 increase in BMI.
- Limit dietary sugars – read food labels to discover the amount of sugar you regularly consume. Many processed foods contain high levels of hidden sugars. Consume more low-sugar foods(5g or less per 100g) and fewer high-sugar foods(15g or more per 100g). The WHO recommend that no more than 10% of an adult’s calorie intake should come from free-sugars, with added health benefits if this is reduced to 5%. This equates to 5-7tsp(or 20-28g) sugar per day, assuming a calorie intake of 1,500-2,000 – the average chocolate bar contains 31g sugar.
- Include protein as part of every meal/snack – protein helps release energy more slowly and maintain an even blood sugar level throughout the day.
- Stimulants (e.g. tea / coffee, alcohol, smoking), a sedentary lifestyle and a diet low in fibre and high in processed food may contribute to the development of blood sugar imbalances, pre-diabetes and diabetes so should be reduced or avoided where possible.
- Regular exercise can have a significant blood-sugar balancing effect.
- Identify areas of stress and allow time in your busy schedule for relaxation as chronic stress may increase your risk of developing blood-sugar imbalances.
- Do not skip meals (particularly breakfast) and aim to have regular mealtimes.
- Aim to include 3 portions of oily fish per week as Omega 3 fat has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing poorly controlled blood-sugar levels.
Anna Ryan, Dip. NT, DC, mNTOI, BAI, BA