By RD Maxwell Bisala Konlan (MPH, LD)
Diet plays a very vital role in the prevention of diabetes. Research shows unhealthy eating pattern can increase a person’s risk of diabetes. Let’s discuss some dietary tips for the prevention of diabetes.
Dietary prevention strategy 1
Aim to have a normal BMI or weight. Excess weight gain is directly proportional to the risk of diabetes. It is for this reason, diabetes is common among obese people. Losing 10% of your weight within a period of six months can help reduce your risk of diabetes. The adipose tissue of fat people produces a hormone called resistin which is responsible for the increased risk of diabetes among fat people.
The foundation of weight loss is reducing your food intake and increasing your physical activity. Some supplements may also aid in weight loss but it advisable to try losing weight the natural way and when you are unsuccessful a supplement may be needed. Do not take supplements from any untrained health professional.
Dietary prevention strategy 2
Reduce your carbohydrate portion sizes. Excess carbohydrate intake can result in weight gain. The body converts excess carbohydrates into fat for storage. This excess fat in the body can therefore induce insulin resistance leading to diabetes. Throughout practice I realized most people with family history of diabetes are mostly sensitive and can easily get diabetes compared to other individuals. It is therefore advisable to adopt a lifestyle if you have family history of diabetes to save yourself from diabetes. All forms of carbohydrates such as pasta, banku, fufu, rice. T.Z, Akpele, yam, plantain etc. eaten in large portions can increase your risk of diabetes. Diabetes is not just an issue of only sugar or sugary foods but carbohydrate intake in general. Therefore if you do not take sugar or sugary food and eat a lot of carbohydrates, you can still be at risk of developing diabetes.
Dietary prevention strategy 3
Avoid irregular meal timing and meal skipping. Skipping meals especially breakfast, and late night eating can increase your risk of diabetes. Late night eating is always a problem and has been strongly associated with unhealthy weight gain, pot belly and diabetes. Aim to eat between (7-8:30am) for breakfast, lunch (1-2pm) and supper between (5:30-6:00pm). Due to work and busy schedules, however, most people are unable to meet these time targets. If you work from home and get home late after 7pm it is advisable to go for a lighter meal such as fruits and vegetables, soups and fish or chicken without carbohydrates or reduce the heavy meal you normally consume by half. If you habitually eat late in the night it can increase your risk of weight gain and prone you to diabetes.
Diabetes prevention strategy 4
Reduce your intake of fatty foods. Excess intake of fats from cooking oils, fried foods, pastries, processed foods, fatty foods among others can increase your risk of weight gain. Weight gain or obesity can then increase your risk of diabetes. To reduce your fat intake, it is advisable to reduce the frequency of frying. Use different cooking methods such as steaming, grilling and baking. Use little oil in cooking, remove all visible fats from meats. Focus on healthy polyunsaturated fats or medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, soyabean oil, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, sesame seeds oil and oily fishes such as salmon, tuna, herrings and mackerel. Irrespective of the type of oil it should still be consumed in little amounts.
Dietary prevention strategy 5
Avoid or limit intake of alcohol. Excessive intake of alcohol can increase your risk of diabetes. Alcohol can result in insulin insensitivity. It is advisable to avoid alcohol if you can however, if you are unable to avoid it you can limit alcohol intake to a bottle per week, 1 tot per week and 2 glasses of wine per week. Ensure you do not binge drink.
Non-dietary prevention strategy 6
There is enough evidence showing that, increase physical activity of at least 30 minutes 4-5x can reduce your risk of diabetes. Exercise is a non-negotiable activity to improve health. You can aim to exercise in the evening if you cannot exercise in the morning.
Non-dietary strategy 7
Screen yourself for diabetes by doing a diabetes test once every year. Those with family history will need to do the test twice a year. The good news is that, diabetes, when detected early can be treated with diet and exercise. I have several clients who have had their pre-diabetes reversed on diet and exercise. However, full blown of diabetes cannot be treated and you will have to be on diet and medications.
In conclusion, diabetes is a highly preventable condition despite significant family history of diabetes. The cost of prevention is much lesser compared to the cost of treatment. You only live once protect yourself, diabetes kills!!!.
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World Health Organization. (2011). Use of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) in diagnosis of diabetes mellitus: abbreviated report of a WHO consultation (No. WHO/NMH/CHP/CPM/11.1). Geneva: World Health Organization.
Lorenzo, C., Williams, K., Hunt, K. J., & Haffner, S. M. (2007). The National Cholesterol Education Program–Adult Treatment Panel III, International Diabetes Federation, and World Health Organization definitions of the metabolic syndrome as predictors of incident cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Diabetes care, 30(1), 8-13.
MAXWELL BISALA KONLAN RD, LD, MPH.
SENIOR DIETITIAN, UNIVERSITY OF GHANA, HOSPITAL.