In the past, doctors were largely diagnosing adults with type 2 diabetes, but these days, it is not uncommon for young children and teenagers to discover they have the condition.
“We are seeing children being diagnosed with type 2 whereas before children were largely diagnosed with type 1 diabetes”, Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market nutritionist, Adelle Rutch, tells MedAdvisor, on World Diabetes Day.
“Our sedentary lifestyles and processed foods are definitely playing a role. We have to teach our kids early about the right foods to eat and the importance of movement and exercise.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, and it is not preventable nor is it associated with weight, physical inactivity or diet. There is, however, a clear link between our lifestyle choices and type 2 diabetes.
“Genes do have a role to play with type 2, but, nevertheless what we eat and how much we move can help reduce our risk of developing type 2,” Adelle says.
According to Diabetes Australia, an estimated two million Australians are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There are also large numbers of people with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, which may be damaging their bodies.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year alone. And yet this fast-growing and chronic conditions can be prevented with lifestyle tweaks, with studies showing that diabetes prevention programs can help prevent type 2 diabetes in up to 58 per cent of cases.
So what simple things can you do to reduce your risk? To begin with, aim for low GI foods.
“Foods with a high GI, such as white bread, are broken down quickly during digestion and release glucose into the blood faster than low GI foods,” says Adelle.
“This may lead to the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of sugar crashes, appetite fluctuations and moodiness.
“Aiming for low GI foods means your body gets slow release energy that can help you stay full for longer with more stable blood glucose levels.”
Adelle is also a big fan of the Mediterranean diet, and by that she doesn’t mean regular intake of pizza and tiramisu. Instead she is referring to oily fish, nuts, legumes, wholegrains and seeds. While Adelle does not necessarily advocate for veganism or a vegetarian lifestyle, she believes it is important to limit our intake of red meat.
“As a general rule, Australians eat way too much red meat and while the ideal intake may vary from person to person, it always helps to take your cues from the Mediterranean diet that does not contain a lot of meat,” she says.
“Prevention is key. It’s much easier to take steps now to maintain a healthy lifestyle than to then try and manage the condition.”
And as Diabetes Australia notes, the condition is serious. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults and a leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis. It increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times, is a major cause of limb amputations, and affects mental as well as physical health.
“We have so many choices in terms of the food we can now eat, we are in a privileged position, and it’s time we took responsibility for our health and made the right choices for our wellbeing,” Adelle notes.
Diabetes Australia has developed a “risk calculator” based on the Australian type 2 diabetes risk test (AUSDRISK). It is a simple and easy way to assess your risk or developing type 2 diabetes, and you can take the test here: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator
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This story was written by Johanna Leggatt. Johanna is an Australian journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in both print and online. She has worked across a wide range of subject areas, including health, property, finance, interiors, and arts.