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How Does Unhealthy Eating Cause Diabetes?

written by: AngelicaMD • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/10/2011

Millions of people are suffering from adult-onset diabetes mellitus, a disease which can be acquired from unhealthy lifestyles. Can an unhealthy diet cause diabetes? Find out what foods increase one’s risk for acquiring the disease and those that increase blood sugar levels.

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    Adult-Onset Diabetes Mellitus

    Diabetes mellitus type II or adult-onset diabetes mellitus (DM) is a common chronic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. Compared to DM type I, which is a congenital condition, type II diabetes is acquired around the age of 45, although much younger patients have been diagnosed with the disease.

    The hormone insulin, which is responsible for allowing absorption of sugar or glucose into the cells, is produced by the pancreas. In diabetics, there may be inadequate secretion of insulin and/or there exists a resistance of the cells to the effects of insulin. The result is that sugar from the diet is not absorbed and utilized by the cells; instead it remains in high concentrations in the blood and causes symptoms, also leading to complications.

    Risk factors that can lead to diabetes are age, family history of diabetes and obesity, obesity, hypertension, racial factors, pregnancy (gestational diabetes) and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Some of these risk factors are related to unhealthy diet, namely obesity and hypertension. How can an unhealthy diet cause diabetes?

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    Diet and Diabetes

    A diet which is high in calorie, fat and sugar content when taken chronically can lead to obesity and its complications, namely, atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. These conditions predispose an individual to insulin resistance, where the fat, muscle and other cells cannot absorb and utilize glucose from the blood for energy.

    In a study involving more than 47,000 women participants aged 45 years and above without any diseases, it was found that after several years, a diet rich in fatty foods like bacon and processed meats was associated with development of DM type 2 in many.

    Other foods that are also associated with acquiring and aggravating high blood sugar levels are:

    • Soda and artificially sweetened drinks
    • Milk, cheese and butter
    • Oily foods
    • Alcoholic beverages including wine
    • Honey
    • Desserts with high sugar content
    • Fruits and juices with high sugar content

    Obesity is defined as a chronic condition where the body mass index is more than 25, which indicates that a person’s weight is not proportionate to his height. It is brought about by consuming a diet that is high in calorie and by other factors like lack of exercise, reduced metabolism and stress. To counter unhealthy eating habits leading to obesity and its complications, one must:

    • Consume a low calorie, low fat and low sugar diet.
    • Eat more whole grain foods, and fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber and antioxidants
    • Avoid processed foods, meat and dairy products; instead, one must consume more fish, nuts and plant-based sources of protein.
    • Exercise regularly and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
    • Eat often but consuming small portions.

    Avoiding an unhealthy diet can help prevent adult onset diabetes. While there are unavoidable factors that cannot be modified such as age and genetics in developing diabetes type II, one can certainly reduce risks by leading a healthy lifestyle.

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    References

    DiabetesMellitusCare, “Foods That Cause Diabetes”, http://diabetesmellituscare.com/foods-that-cause-diabetes.php

    MedicineNet, “Insulin Resistance”, http://www.medicinenet.com/insulin_resistance/article.htm