Understanding how to take care of your health becomes even more critical when you have type 2 diabetes mellitus, but a recently published national study in the U.S. found that most patients with the disorder were not adequately meeting nutritional recommendations.
The intent of the study was to find out what dietary factors were causing people with type 2 diabetes to become overweight. After surveying more than 2,500 people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that 93 percent ate too much, ate foods that were lacking in nutrition, and did not eat recommended amounts of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables.
The study was performed by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and published in the August issue of Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Diabetes Link to Weight
Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by elevated blood levels of sugar (glucose) and the body’s inability to metabolize it properly. To metabolize glucose, the body requires the hormone insulin secreted by the pancreas for uptake of glucose into muscle and adipose (fat) cells.
There are two different types of diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes, or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, is an autoimmune disease that is attributed to failure of the pancreas to secrete sufficient insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which affects 80-90% of those with diabetes, is hallmarked by insulin resistance that manifests into the disorder when the pancreas can longer produce enough insulin to compensate for elevated glucose levels in the blood stream.
More and more research is linking insulin resistance to excess body fat, especially the kind that’s on your belly. The excess fat in fat cells can affect genetic encoding that controls the uptake of insulin while also releasing chemicals that interfere with insulin signaling and cause inflammation. The American Diabetes Association suggests losing weight to help manage type 2 diabetes.
Diet and Nutrition
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which requires daily insulin injections for treatment, type 2 diabetes can respond to dietary changes. But given the study’s results, those with type 2 diabetes need more education about diet and exercise and how they can affect them ultimately.
Dietary recommendations should include meals that are nutrient dense, low in saturated fat, low in carbs, and high in fiber. A high-quality meal may include lean meats, fruits and vegetables, certain low-fat dairy products, whole-grains and quality meal-replacement shakes or nutritional foods.
Just recently, an Italian study found that a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean-style diet may be more effective than a low-fat diet for maintaining glycemic control. The results are thought to be related to amounts of monounsaturated fats such as from olive oil.
The most important factor for preventing complications is to keep blood sugars in check, according to the American Diabetes Association. Adhering to foods that are lower in glycemic index and glycemic load help to best maintain glycemic control. These measure how quickly a food raises glucose levels in the blood stream and how high those glucose levels rise.
The glycemic index measure can be influenced by the amount of fiber, fats and other nutrients in a meal. Processed foods or juices generally have a higher glycemic index than non-processed foods. For example, white rice, mashed potatoes and orange juice have higher glycemic indexes than brown rice, baked potatoes and whole oranges.
“Carb counting” is used to lower glycemic load. The more carbohydrates eaten during a meal, the greater the glycemic load and its affects on blood glucose. Diets lower in carbohydrates have been recently linked to better control of blood glucose levels, although it’s important to note that carbohydrates should not be cut out entirely. They are the main source of fuel to the body, especially the brain.
Physical activity recommendations should reflect the latest findings on what helps to control type 2 diabetes. The research is now showing that best results are attributed to regular strength training along with aerobic exercise (except when glucose levels are very high). Both types of exercise synergistically help the body to burn excess fat and improve insulin sensitivity.
According to the American Diabetes Association, exercise is all about being safe and overcoming one’s own exercise barriers. If you’ve haven’t hit the treadmill in a while, be sure to talk to a health-care professional on how to best start again. Then set goals and, most importantly, enjoy staying healthy!