Diabetic Diets

Diabetes is a complicated disease of energy metabolism. The diagnosis for diabetes is usually high blood sugar (blood glucose). Do not be fooled! There is no such thing as "borderline" diabetes or "a touch of sugar". These are antiquated phrases. You either have diabetes or you don't, and if you do, you must take action to control your blood sugar. 

If diabetes is uncontrolled, the results can be devastating. Diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease, and amputations of the legs due to poor circulation, and kidney failure. The quality of life for a person with uncontrolled diabetes is quite dismal, but luckily there is a great deal a person can do to prevent complications, and lead a normal, healthy life.

There are basically two types of diabetes: Type I and Type II, although there are some variations. Type I diabetes usually occurs in young people and is very quickly diagnosed because the body is unable to produce insulin, causing blood sugar to rise to disastrous levels. Type I diabetes can only be controlled with insulin from an outside source, and patients must take insulin to live. No one knows exactly what triggers Type I in a susceptible person. There is a genetic component, but it is not that strong (the risk of Type I diabetes in an identical twin is 35-50% not 100%). Type I diabetes usually (not always) occurs in youth or young adults. This type of diabetes is not associated with increased body fat, and only about 10% of diabetes is Type I.  

Diet plans for diabeticsAbout 90% of people who have diabetes have Type II diabetes. This usually occurs later in life (not always), and is strongly associated with obesity and a family history of diabetes. About 30% of people who have Type II diabetes eventually require insulin, but often it can be controlled through diet, exercise and medication. It is more prevalent in some ethnic groups: Blacks, Hispanics, and Native American Indians are especially prone to developing diabetes. It tends to have a more gradual onset; you can have diabetes for years and go untreated. This is why it is so important not to ignore "mildly elevated" blood sugar. Thirty percent of Type II diabetes requires insulin at some point. In the general population the risk for Type II is less than 6%. If it is in your family, Type II in one parent, risk is 4-7%, in both parents, it increases to 12%. If a brother or sister risk has diabetes, your risk is increased to 13%, and if Type II is present in an identical twin, your risk is 90%.

A Silent Disease

The diagnosis for diabetes depends upon the level of blood sugar or plasma glucose. Normal blood sugar is about 60-115 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) in the fasting state. It is normal to have some blood glucose in the blood, and abnormal to have too much or too little. The brain requires blood glucose for normal function. If blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia) the brain's function is impaired and coma can result. It is normal for blood sugar to rise after eating, but in diabetes, the blood sugar rises higher and stays high longer than in people without diabetes. New criteria for diagnosis is a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dl or more,. or a non fasting or "random" blood sugar over 200 with symptoms.

Diabetes and Obesity
Eighty percent of people who are obese have hyperinsulinemia which means that they have high levels of insulin in their blood. Their body's cells become insulin resistant, so the body must produce more insulin to keep blood sugar in a normal range. With extra body fat, the muscle cells are particularly insulin resistant, so blood sugar cannot be broken down as well compared to thin people. The pancreas (which produces insulin) must work harder in the body of a person who is obese to produce more insulin and to keep blood sugar in control. Losing weight improves the body's sensitivity to insulin, so that all aspects of glucose uptake are improved.

High blood sugar increases risk for atherosclerosis, and chances are if you have uncontrolled diabetes, your blood fats will be abnormal too, increasing the risk for heart disease.

Symptoms may be mild or nonexistent in some people, it can be a "silent" disease. In other cases, the symptoms are quite obvious: frequent urination, excessive thirst, weight loss without other explanation, general fatigue, and frequent vaginal infections in woman. The word "diabetes" comes from the Greek word for siphon - describing the symptoms of drinking water and then urinating constantly like a siphon, flowing water in and out.


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