Diabetes Mellitus is more commonly known as diabetes and is Greek and Latin for ‘sweet urine’. The condition was called this when physicians noticed that the urine of patients had a sweet taste. This interesting fact gives you a big clue about the disease, which is that the body has problems metabolising sugar.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that often begins at a young age and where the pancreas is not producing a hormone called insulin, which helps control blood glucose levels
- Type 2 is often called ‘lifestyle’ diabetes, and this is when the pancreas still produces insulin but the cells are not reacting to it anymore
The IDF Diabetes Atlas 8th Edition shows that an estimated 82 million adults aged 20-79 years were living with diabetes within the Southeast Asian region in 2017, representing a regional prevalence of 8.5% (IDF) and this number is estimated to rise more than 150% between 2000 and 2035. These statistics are made all the more worrying when you see that many of them are Type 2 diabetes and therefore preventable.
What is insulin exactly?
Imagine it being a key lock system—we consume sugar and it ends up in our bloodstream, the pancreas releases a lot of keys (insulin) that open the cells (locks) in our body to absorb the sugar. If the key doesn’t fit in the lock, we call it insulin resistance and the sugar remains in the blood. If there are simply not enough keys (insulin) released, sugar remains in the blood. And, this is what is meant by ‘sweet urine’.
So what can you do to prevent diabetes?
Muscle upAt university, one of my professors used to say that the best prevention for diabetes was muscle. These are usually so sugar hungry that they keep blood sugar levels balanced, and helps make cells more sensitive to the ‘keys’ (insulin). So, build up muscle mass.
Know your sugarsMaintaining a healthy well-balanced diet full of micronutrients is very important. The more sugar you consume, the more strain your body will undergo over time. Be aware of hidden sugars—always read food labels and look out for sugar under its many names (there are over 60 including maltodextrin, corn syrup, dextrose and sucrose). By applying these two tips, it will be easier to control your weight. The more fat cells you have, the harder the pancreas has to work to release insulin.
Intermittent fastingStudies have shown that intermittent fasting has a positive effect on the prevention of diabetes. Research is ongoing, but it is interesting to see how recommendations are shifting. The usual advice was to have three meals and a snack, but the benefits of short fasting periods are being explored.
There is a connection between the gut microbiome (bacteria, fungi) and our health. Take care of your gut bacteria and your mental and physical health will improve. Links have been found between the state of the gut microbiome and being overweight, mental health and even diabetes. Improve gut health by consuming whole grains, prebiotics, fermented food and a more plant-based diet. Diabetes is preventable in many cases – all you have to do is eat well, cut down (out) sugar, exercise and encourage everyone you know to do the same!