Diabetes is a chronic condition whereby the level of sugar, or glucose, in your bloodstream is significantly high. In the United Kingdom there are currently just over 3.8 million people with diabetes and 90% of those cases with Type 2 diabetes.1,2
It is thought that 1 million people may also have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes and by 2030 the total number of people living with the condition will reach 5.5 million.1 That’s pretty scary right? The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is totally preventable and can be put into remission. Read on further to find out how.
What is Diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Both conditions differ in terms of their causes and how they are managed.3,4 This article will focus mainly on Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your body doesn’t make enough insulin or when the insulin produced doesn’t work properly.4 Insulin helps your body get energy from the food you eat, by allowing glucose to pass from your blood to the cells where it’s needed. This is also called insulin resistance.
It is diagnosed when you have two readings in a row of a HbA1c level above 48 mmol/mol or 6.5% and a fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test above 7 mmol/L.5
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
For Type 2 diabetes, there are certain factors that put you more at risk of developing the condition including:
1. Having a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes (6)
2. Being from a South Asian, African-Caribbean or Black African descent (7)
3. Being over 40 if you’re White or over 25 if your Black African/African Caribbean or South Asian (7)
4. If you’re overweight or obese, especially if you carry most of your weight around your abdominal area (8)
Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Roughly around 60% of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes usually have no symptoms to begin with. A few symptoms people may experience initially include: increased urination, unintentional weight-loss, increased tiredness and blurred vision.
Complications of Type-2 Diabetes
Having consistent high blood sugar levels overtime can cause serious damage to your blood vessels and nerves. This can result in chronic complications including problems with your eyes, foot, heart, kidneys, nerve damage, gum disease and related conditions like cancer.9
How to Prevent Diabetes
It is estimated that approximately 12.3 million people living in the UK are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.10 For every five cases it is thought that three could have been either prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and being active.
According to Diabetes Prevention guidelines if you’re overweight or obese, losing at least 5-10% of your initial weight and aiming for 150 minutes per week of activity a week over at least three days a week will help you to reduce blood sugar levels.11
Reach out to a Registered Dietitian or attend a Type 2 diabetes prevention programme in the NHS to help support you in making lifestyle and dietary changes.
Managing Type 2 Diabetes
When you’re first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you may be put on oral diabetic medications including Metformin and Sulfonylureas. If it is thought that your pancreas is not producing enough insulin, you may also be placed on insulin.
Not everyone is put on medications straight away, you may be encouraged to try to control your blood sugar levels by making dietary and lifestyle changes.11
It is not possible to ‘cure’ your diabetes but you can put it into remission. This means that your blood sugar levels go back to normal without needing diabetes medications. It is encouraged for you to focus on adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, cut back on carbohydrate portions, include more starchy carbohydrates and increase total fibre intake.11
If you’re overweight or obese, prioritising a weight-loss of at least 5% of your initial body weight as per Diabetes prevention guidelines.11 Also, aiming for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity across three days as above for Diabetes prevention.11
How can a low calorie diet help you?
There is plenty of research to show that a low-calorie diet can be beneficial in helping to promote weight-loss.12 This involves replacing one or more meals during the day with a meal replacement like a shake, bar or soup to help promote a calorie diet. This diet is usually followed for 12 weeks with the aim of reintroducing healthy foods after.