Preventing type 2 diabetes through healthy living
More than one in three adults in England are on the verge of developing diabetes1, yet our most recent ShARP panel report revealed worrying statistics surrounding the health and the attitudes towards diabetes in UK adults. Despite the danger of developing diabetes, two in three of those surveyed claimed to not be worried about developing issues surrounding their blood sugar2.
While type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood and rarely appears in those over the age of 40, type 2 diabetes can develop at any stage in life and, with increasing rates of obesity, it is not just limited to grown adults, but is becoming more and more common in children, teens, and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is the result of the pancreas no longer being able to produce insulin, whereas those with type 2 diabetes are still able to create insulin, but not enough. Once thought to be irreversible, type 2 diabetes can be prevented, managed, and even cured through diet and exercise.
How can you reduce your risk?
One of the risk factors of type 2 diabetes is the size of one¿s waist. Women with a waist larger than 31.5 inches (80.5) cm are at risk, and men with a waist measurement above 37 inches (94cm) are also at risk. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health resolved that each kg lost annually over the span of 10 years contributed to a 33% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the following 10 years3. However, if your waist line is within guidelines you could still be at risk, as you don¿t just have to be overweight to develop diabetes. Just having a close relative with diabetes increases your risk by 26%. Age and ethnicity can also impact your risk.
40% of those surveyed by ShARP thought they were in the clear of developing type 2 diabetes simply because they avoid sugar, but sugar consumption alone does not cause diabetes. It¿s the overall intake of calories that must be considered. While reducing the level of sugar you consume is advisable, it should be done in line with developing a healthier, lower calorie diet.
Studies have shown that diets high in fibre are linked to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes4. There are two types of fibre ¿ soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, which can be dissolved in water, is the fibre you should look for. In dissolving, it creates a gel and slows down the digestive process. This means sugar is absorbed much slower, which helps control blood sugar levels5. You can find soluble fibre in foods such as oats, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables6.
Research has also shown that those who undertake a Mediterranean diet can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by 83%7. The Mediterranean diet includes high intakes of fruit and vegetables, replaces animal fats with monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, reduces red meat consumption in favour of fish and poultry, and suggests limiting dairy product consumption.
The ShARP survey found that one in five adults rarely or never work up a sweat. This is worrying as the World Health Organisation attributes 27% of diabetes to physical inactivity8. To prevent diabetes and a number of other diseases, the WHO recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise in a week8. However, aerobic exercise may not be the only answer to preventing diabetes. A recent study showed that women who undertook muscle strengthening and conditioning activities were provided further protection from developing diabetes. Women who completed 150 minutes per week of these exercises were 40% less likely to develop diabetes than those who did not. Furthermore, women who completed 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and 60 minutes of muscle strengthening and conditioning were a third as likely to develop diabetes over women who were inactive10.
Originally published 14 November 2014