Diabetes manifests itself when insulin produced in the body cannot adequately metabolize the sugar in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to spike. Insulin plays a blood sugar regulatory role. It prevents blood sugar levels from either rising too high.
The inability of available insulin to fully break available blood sugar into energy leads to a rise in blood sugar levels. Another reason is that the conversion process itself has become retarded. The cells of the body have become resistant to the available insulin. As a consequence, blood sugar levels rise. The medical name for such a condition is insulin resistance.
There are multiple causes of insulin resistance. Hepatitis C virus infection in the liver is one reported cause. (Petit et al., 2001) The pancreas themselves have become calcified and is unable to produce enough insulin is another reason. (Malka et al., 2000). There are other causes of insulin resistance. Gene dysfunction could also lead to the inability of the body to produce insulin or become insulin resistant.
Risk factors like overweight or obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, enhanced cholesterol levels, smoking, and gene dysfunction can cause diabetes.
There are three main types of diabetes.
Children are mainly affected by Type 1 diabetes. The ability of the body to produce insulin is impaired. It is due to damage or destruction of the insulin-producing organ pancreas. Such patients require insulin regularly to prevent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Type 1 diabetes is often inherited.
Then we have gestational diabetes, which is seen during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes affects the mother and the child.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is the third type and accounts for approximately 90 percent of all diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease. A healthy lifestyle, physical activity, and dietary goals that reduce calorie intake can help improve diabetes risk.
Some vital recommendations for older adults with diabetes are moderate leisure-time activity and walking, higher intake of dietary fiber, and consumption of low- a fat diet, especially trans fats, easily digestible carbohydrates, cutting down on smoking, and reducing central obesity. (Mozaffarian et al., 2009). Often with a few lifestyle changes, prediabetic condition progression to full-blown diabetes can be prevented.
According to the American Diabetes Association, nutrient-dense foods are the best for individuals who have diabetes. These foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals but low in added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats.
These nutrients are available in non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, and the like. These should be consumed as far as a possible whole and minimally processed.
Apple, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, and oatmeal are other food recommendations.
A diabetic diet can include starchy vegetables like corn, green peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, plantain, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and green lentils.
Avoid refined, highly processed carbohydrate foods, foods with added sugar, sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea or coffee, juice, white bread, white rice, sugary cereal, sweets, and snack foods like cake, cookies, candy, and chips. Nuts like peanuts, walnuts, and almonds have a lot of fiber and healthy fat. Keep the portion size small as these contain a lot of calories.
Similar recommendations are made by the Diabetes body in the UK too. While both these bodies do not prohibit the consumption of fish, meat, chicken, and dairy, they do not also expressly support their use.
Dr. Neal Barnard, associate professor of medicine at George Washington School of Medicine, recommends a vegan diet for people with diabetes. According to him, a vegan diet can even reverse diabetes. (Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, published his book in 2007)