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An Impending Epidemic
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Diabetes is approaching epidemic proportions. At present, 21 million Americans, or seven percent of the population, have diabetes. And nearly one-third of these people are unaware they have the disease. The rapid increase in diabetes is related to the steep rise in obesity in young adults, children, and adolescents. Today, as many as two-thirds of Americans are overweight.

Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among women and the sixth leading cause among men. Persons with poorly controlled diabetes are at an increased risk of serious health complications and hospitalization. Complications associated with diabetes may result in blindness, end-stage renal disease, and lower extremity amputations.

Diabetes is characterized by high levels of blood glucose which results when the body does not produce or properly utilize insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually strikes children and young adults and accounts for five to ten percent of all diagnosed cases. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of cases. While it is more common among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, all Americans are at significant risk. Furthermore, type 2 diabetes has now become a serious childhood problem.

Both a family history of diabetes and environmental factors play important roles in the development of diabetes. Eating a healthy diet, regularly exercising, and proper weight management are paramount to diabetes management and reducing the risk of diabetes. Weight management is very important, since overweight persons readily become insulin resistance.

Goal of Diabetics

The goal for people with diabetes is to make lifestyle changes that lead to improved metabolic control. A high-fiber diet—rich in vegetables, dry beans, lentils, and whole grains—helps facilitate the management of diabetes by improving glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Those with elevated cholesterol levels should reduce their saturated and trans fat intake, while those with elevated triglycerides are advised to replace some of their carbohydrates with mono fats as found in olives, avocados, and nuts.

In the Adventist Health Study, the risk of diabetes was one and a half to two times greater in non-vegetarians compared to vegetarians. The regular use of nuts and whole grain breads and cereals has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of diabetes by 20 to 30 percent. Oatmeal and barley can reduce blood lipids, as well as attenuating blood glucose and insulin responses.

The American diet tends to be low in chromium, an important mineral for insulin function. Whole grains and brewer’s yeast are excellent sources of chromium. Herbs such as fenugreek, bitter melon, and prickly pear have all shown usefulness as therapeutic adjuncts in the management of diabetes. The use of sugar substitutes such as sucralose and sorbitol are safe for persons with diabetes and provide a useful way to control calorie intake.

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By Winston J. Craig. Reprinted with permission from the Lake Union Herald, December 2007. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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