Earlier this year, Diabetes UK published the report “Diabetes UK – State of the Nation 2016”, and the statistics it reveals are worrying:
- Five million people are currently at risk of developing diabetes (On top of that, 3.4 million are already diagnosed, a further 500,000 are thought to have it without realising.) The Diabetes UK Facts and Stats Report states that 700 new diagnoses are made every day, which translates to one every two minutes.
- If current trends persist, one in three people will be obese by 2034, and one in two will develop diabetes.
- It is currently estimated that the NHS spends £10 billion a year on the treatment of diabetes. This is 10% of the NHS budget.
- The total cost (direct care and indirect costs) associated with diabetes in the UK currently stands at £23.7 billion. This figure is predicted to rise to £39.8 billion by 2035/2036.
Of course, the UK is not alone in this. Diabetes is on the rise throughout the world: “The estimated diabetes prevalence for adults between the ages of 20 and 79 worldwide for 2014 was 387 million and it is expected to affect 592 million people by 2035. It is estimated that 179 million people have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.”
Approximately 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, which is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the cells on the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone required to control blood glucose levels. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas only produces very little or no insulin at all, and sufferers have to use insulin injections.
The vast majority of diabetes sufferers – 90% – have type 2 diabetes (T2D). Here, the pancreas does still produce insulin, at least to begin with, but the cells are deaf to its signal. They have become insulin resistant. In its early stages, insulin resistance means that the patient is prediabetic, but without intervention they are almost certainly heading for T2D. Body cells – not receiving the insulin signal – call for more insulin, so the pancreas produces more and more, until it finally wears out and becomes unable to keep insulin levels up. This is advanced type 2 diabetes and the patient is then required to inject insulin similar to someone suffering from type 1. Tragically, T2D is almost entirely preventable, but the good news is that it responds very well to diet and lifestyle changes.
People with a close relative suffering from T2D are two to six times more likely to develop diabetes than people in families with no diabetes. The risk is higher in African/Afro-Caribbean or South Asian families than it is among people of European descent. Genes clearly do play a role, but that role is not as big as that of the environment, so having a family of diabetes does not guarantee that you will get it as well. It is in your hands to reduce your risk by choosing a diet and lifestyle that allows you to control your blood sugar naturally.
The biggest risk factor by far is obesity: It accounts for 80 to 85% of T2D cases and is in fact behind the global diabetes epidemic. If you are obese (i. e. have a body mass index of over 30) you are at a 70 times higher risk of developing diabetes than someone with a BMI in the normal range (19 – 25). However, losing even a little weight considerably reduces your risk.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that many people live with for many years, but it must not be underestimated. If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you will receive prescription medication that you will be expected to take for the rest of your life. Having diabetes, even if it is managed through drugs, puts you at risk for a range of serious complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye damage, amputations (typically of feet or legs), sexual dysfunction, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
Regaining blood sugar control through diet and lifestyle changes does not mean a life of deprivation. Your healthy anti-diabetes diet is composed of a large variety of delicious foods, leaving you satisfied while losing weight and lowering your diabetes risk at the same time. Cravings are mainly driven by your body’s biochemistry – something that is extremely hard to fight. But you have the power to change your biochemistry, virtually eliminating cravings for the wrong foods. Whether you are still healthy, prediabetic or already diagnosed with T2D: You have nothing to lose but a lot to gain by learning how when and what you eat affects your blood glucose and insulin levels and what you can do to actively contribute to your own health care.
If you would like to learn more about how to lose weight, have more energy and improve blood sugar control – whether for yourself or a loved one you care for – why not come and join me at my talk on “Understanding Diabetes” at space282 in Leigh-on-Sea on Thursday, 13 October (8:15 – 9:45 pm)?
Tickets have already gone on sale and you can still take advantage of the early bird offer of £7.50. From 1 October 2016 onwards, tickets will cost £10.00. Either ticket is fully redeemable against any consultation with me (valid until 23 December 2016).