With a little work, there’s hope for preventing diabetes
LIZ KOCH – Special to the Sentinel
Original Article Launched: 09/26/2005 3:00:00 AM PDT Santa Cruz Sentinel, reprinted with permission
For many of us, diabetes can be crossed off our list of possible diseases if only we are willing to take action. Prevention is the key. Easier said than done, prevention includes personal lifestyle changes and even more difficult cultural and social changes. But that’s what prevention is all about. Pre- comes from the root before. By taking proactive steps before symptoms arise we can eliminate unnecessary struggles.
According to the American diabetes Association, more than 14 million Americans are estimated to have diabetes and one-third of these cases are believed to be undiagnosed. Children are a growing statistic with adolescent diabetes on the rise. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body loses its sensitivity to insulin, the blood sugar-regulating hormone. When this occurs, blood sugar, or glucose, rises to levels that can, over time increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness.
A healthy diet and exercise are the two most important steps you can take to prevent type 2 diabetes. Eat nutritionally dense foods and eliminate those substances known to exhaust the pancreas. In the early 1900s, the average American ate 30 pounds of sugar a year. The average American now eats more than 300 pounds of sugar a year.
Why so much sugar? Modern industrialization of food made sugar the substance of choice for flavoring and preserving packaged food. The shelf life of a product depends upon eliminating or reducing live active substances that mold and go rancid in a box sitting on a shelf for months or years. Sugar and sugar substitutes also help flavor nutritionally stripped carbohydrates.
In The New England Journal of Medicine, investigators found that diet and exercise counseling resulted in a 58 percent reduction in diabetes risk among people who are prime candidates for developing the condition, which is associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Although even modest weight loss conferred a much lower risk of diabetes, those who participated in four hours of exercise per week — even if they did not achieve their weight-loss goal — had a reduction in diabetes risk. Moving increases digestion, metabolism and elimination — all essential for good health. Changing eating habits and increasing exercise may be daunting, states Dr. Mercola on his highly read health educational Web site, www.mercola.com, but the studies show that even modest alterations in lifestyle have clear benefits.
So where to begin? Eat foods that are whole, fresh and in season. Shop outside of food stores where fresh and refrigerated foods can be found alive and well. Get moving by supporting our local farmers markets, taking daily walks, going dancing, or planting and caring for a garden.
Local acupuncturist Lynne Carly knows how amazing making changes can be. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 1, she has made it a career to professionally study the disease from both western medical and eastern oriental perspectives. Having lectured at the Joslin Center of Diabetes in Boston, she understands just how powerful prevention is for managing, reversing and potentially healing diabetes. “Eat for your own benefit” she advises. This means not eating foods that make your body work hard with no reward. She recommends going online and becoming familiar with The Glycemic Index. This list of foods teaches about quantity and quality.
The social and cultural key to prevention may involve redefining our expressions of love. Preventing our children from struggling with diabetes demands that sugar, sugar substitutes and chemical additives such as asptertame are eliminated from school and church gatherings. The O’Mama Report looks at how Farm-to-School programs are part of this growing concern. From salad-bar ingredients in Santa Monica, to schools to the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch program in Madison, Wisc,, farm-to-school programs are gaining credibility and earning well-deserved attention. The report states that there are congressmembers in both the House of Representatives and Senate who are sponsoring bills to provide one-time grant funds of up to $100,000 per school district to create farm-to-school programs.
Ready-made packaged food, once toted as an inexpensive way to feed the many, may in fact be a high price to pay. Prevention when delayed becomes the disease of today.
Liz Koch is the Way of Life health educator.