What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes can result from severe insulin resistance (where muscles and the liver are not able to use insulin very well), or from limited insulin secretion (where the pancreas cannot make enough insulin), or a combination of both these. There is no single cause for Type 2 Diabetes, though genetics and environmental factors appear to be involved. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and released into the blood to maintain glucose homeostasis (the correct balance of glucose in the blood). Insulin enables the blood glucose to be taken up by body tissues and converted to the body’s energy. The usual range of glucose in the blood is between 3.5 – 6 mmol/L. When fasting glucose levels are between 6-7 mmol/L, this indicates impaired glucose tolerance. Diabetes is diagnosed when fasting blood glucose levels are higher than 7mmol/L.
How does Type 2 diabetes develop
There are environmental factors linked to Type 2 diabetes. These include low levels of physical activity, and an unbalanced diet, high-stress levels – simply put Lifestyle. Excess abdominal fat can also contribute to Type 2 diabetes. Approximately 75-80% of people with type 2 diabetes have central abdominal visceral (internal) fat, even though they may not appear to be overweight. Visceral fat is highly metabolically active and releases free fatty acids and inflammatory molecules. These fatty acids prevent insulin from working correctly (insulin resistance), which causes a rise in blood glucose levels. The beta cells (in the pancreas) respond to the rising glucose levels by producing more insulin to maintain glucose homeostasis; however, over time, these cells can become exhausted and die. When insulin production diminishes, plasma glucose concentrations cannot be kept in the normal range. As excess fatty acids also build up in the pancreas and liver, they cause a further decline in the beta cells’ ability to produce and release insulin.
Understanding food and diabetes
A balanced diet is vital for preventing and controlling Type 2 Diabetes. Eating foods that provide the right balance of macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins minerals, antioxidants, and fibres) without excess calories is the key to controlling blood sugar levels within the normal range.
Increasing your knowledge of where your energy (calories) is coming from will help you to make better choices about which foods to eat. It is essential to understand which nutrients are in which foods. Specifically, understanding and tracking carbohydrate foods are crucial, as they have the most significant effect on your blood glucose levels. Eating moderate amounts of carbohydrates that are high in nutrients, and with a low glycaemic index, will improve blood sugar control.
Physical activity and diabetes
Physical activity helps to control blood glucose levels in two ways. Firstly, active muscles reduce insulin resistance and allow the muscles to use glucose more efficiently. Secondly, active muscles take more glucose from the blood, thus reducing blood glucose levels. Lower blood glucose levels mean there is less glucose available to be turned into fat deposits.