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Protect yourself from diabetes

Published:Tuesday | February 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

'One of the great disservices we do to ourselves is to buy into the belief that we have an incurable problem. It is simply not true.'

Diabetes is probably the most expensive disease in the world. According to the National Diabetes Economic Barometer study, undiagnosed diabetes and diabetes itself cost the United States more than US$217 billion in medical costs and lost productivity in 2007.

If you add to that the incalculable price of the great human suffering and decreased quality of life, the global diabetes epidemic looms like an awful monster over us. Here in Jamaica, if current trends continue, over half of our people will be diabetic within a few decades. But you are not a helpless victim. You can protect yourself


Diabetes is a preventable lifestyle related disease. One hundred years ago, diabetes was rare, so it cannot be coming from our genes and from our parents as is popularly believed. You do not become diabetic the day our doctor tells you so. Some experts believe that the process can begin from early childhood or even before in your mothers womb. Also, on the way to diabetes you go through a stage that doctors call pre-diabetes


When your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for you to be labelled diabetic, you are called pre-diabetic. About one in four Americans over 20 years has pre-diabetes. The figures are probably the same in Jamaica.

Studies show that within 10 years most people with pre-diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes, unless they lose as little as five per cent of their body fat - only about 10 to 15 pounds for someone weighing 200 pounds. This can easily be done by simple changes in your diet and physical activity. Stopping diabetes at the per-diabetes stages is easiest. People with pre-diabetes also have a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke.


Even if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, the epidemic Type Two diabetes is reversible. You can go from being diabetic to being non-diabetic. This simply involves dealing with the cause of the problem, your unhealthy diet and lifestyle, rather than narrowly focusing on the symptoms by taking medication to control your blood sugar.

One of the great disservices we do to ourselves is to buy into the belief that we have an incurable problem. It is simply not true. Yes, you can. I personally know many people who have reversed their diabetes.


Although an elevation in glucose (blood sugar) is the most recognised sign of diabetes, the underlying problem is also related to another substance, the hormone insulin.

In 1922, for the first time doctors used insulin to save the life of a 14-year-old diabetic girl in Toronto. Insulin became a miracle drug. By 1950, however, doctors were now able to measure insulin levels in the blood and they soon realised that a new disease that wasn't classic diabetes had emerged. It was characterised by sufficient, often excessive, blood insulin levels but the insulin was ineffective; it did not reduce blood sugar. Unfortunately, they decided to call it Type 2 diabetes. Worse, many diabetics are using insulin to control their blood sugar even though their bodies are already producing too much of the hormone.


Ninety-eight per cent of modern day diabetics have this different disease. It is called insulin resistance or the Metabolic syndrome or Syndrome X. In this condition, elevated levels of the hormone insulin leads to not just blood sugar imbalance, but also excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, heart disease, high uric acid, hormonal imbalance, Polycystic Ovaries and extreme darkening of the skin (acanthosis nigricans), among other things.

Sadly, many people end up taking several different medications for these different conditions while little or no attention is given to the basic problem: poor nutrition and an unhealthy lifestyle.


Control what you eat and drink: This is most critical as diabetes is mainly a nutritional disorder. It is essential to drastically reduce your intake of all simple and all processed carbohydrates - all starches and sugars. Your plate should contain generous amounts of healthy protein, lots and lots of vegetables and little starch. This gives your body lots of nutrients and fewer calories. Avoid unhealthy fats while increasing your fibre and water consumption. I use a programme called cellular nutrition to provide plant-based protein meals and snacks. It makes this approach easy and effective.

Control your body fat: You must get rid of the excess fat around your waistline and the fat hidden in your belly. Again, the cellular nutrition approach makes that easy.

Take appropriate supplements: added fibre, the omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil, the minerals chromium and magnesium, the antioxidant vitamins and the B complex vitamins; the herbs cinnamon and gymenia have all been shown to assist in improving blood sugar control and the metabolism.

Exercise: Exercise helps to balance blood sugar in many ways. It helps to lower body fat, increase muscles mass, improve your metabolism and relieve stress. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week, has been shown to be beneficial. Resistance exercises confer even greater benefits. It is important to be consistent.

Think positively: Your own beliefs help to create what you experience. As Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can, that's true. And if you think you can't, that's also true"

Finally, it is important to have your blood sugar tested occasionally. If you are diabetic or at high risk of becoming diabetic, it is most important for you get your blood sugar tested and learn how to test your own blood sugar. It will greatly assist in your recovery from diabetes.

You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at vendryes@mac.com. Visit him at www.anounceofprevention.org or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m.