Type 2 Diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects your body’s ability to metabolize sugar (specifically glucose), your body’s main source of fuel. It has also gone by the name adult-onset diabetes. That description is becoming increasingly inappropriate as the “new epidemic” of children developing type 2 diabetes has brought the disease to an entirely new population. An enormous number of people in the US have diabetes – 26 million, or nearly one in every ten Americans. The disease is still primarily one of adults and the elderly: 11 percent of Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes and an astonishing 27 percent of seniors.
The cause of Type 2 diabetes is not completely understood, but its mechanism is. Glucose is created when the food you eat is digested, and it provides the energy the body needs. While some glucose comes from simple sugars, the main source of glucose is the digestion of complex carbohydrates. Foods high in carbohydrates include fruits, sweets, soft drinks, bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, bran, rice, and cereals. Normally, glucose leaves the digestive tract and enters the bloodstream. As it circulates, insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, allows the glucose to leave the bloodstream and be absorbed into your body’s cells, where it can be used as energy. In type 2 diabetes either there’s not enough insulin being produced or the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. In either case, the body is no longer able to keep the proper amount of glucose in the blood or in the cells.
Serious complications from high blood sugar can develop over time, including increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, eye problems, nerve damage, skin and gum infections, and kidney disease. In extreme cases, decreased circulation in the limbs can cause serious problems, sometimes even requiring amputation. Loss of hearing, eyesight, and cognitive ability have also been linked to type 2 diabetes.
While the causes of Type 2 diabetes are not well understood, there are definite relationships between certain lifestyle choices and the onset of this disease. Most important among these are a low level of physical activity and obesity. One study found that people of normal weight who had a high level of activity, a healthy diet, did not smoke and drank alcohol only in moderation were 90% less likely to develop diabetes. In this study, a healthy diet was defined as one high in fiber, with a high polyunsaturated to saturated fat ratio, and food choices with a lower glycemic index. (The glycemic index measures on a scale of 100 to 0 and show how quickly foods turn to sugar in the body and this affects blood glucose levels).
The primary adjustment diabetics need to make in their diet is to significantly reduce their consumption of sugar. That being said, diabetics benefit from a diet that is low-carbohydrate, low-sodium and low-fat as well as low-sugar. A low sodium diet is particularly important for diabetics who also have chronic kidney disease.
One of the most important goals in the dietary management of type 2 diabetes is to smooth out dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels, avoiding both sudden highs and sudden lows.
With so many people relying on salt and sugar to add flavor to food, it is smart to discover replacements. Many choose natural salt substitutes like fresh lemon juice or vinegar. They may find a specific herb or spice like black pepper, as a flavor they like and use it to add flavor instead of salt. There are a number of sugar-free and salt-free seasonings available that will safely create more flavorful low sodium meals while following a healthy diet to help manage and possibly prevent Type 2 diabetes.