What Risk Factors Cause Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus type II or adult-onset diabetes is an acquired chronic condition marked by high blood sugar levels. In this disease the body is not able to utilize sugar from the diet for energy; instead, the sugar (glucose) accumulates in the blood and causes complications like heart disease, kidney disease, chronic infections and blindness.
Type 2 diabetes may be brought about by these risk factors:
- Age – usually greater than 40
- Family history of diabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Polycystic ovarian disease
- Other conditions and diseases like infections, pregnancy, stress, chemical, drugs, etc
Among these risk factors, obesity is one which can be modified, as are high blood pressure and lack of exercise.
Foods to Decrease Risks for Diabetes
In general, foods that are low in caloric content with reduced sugar and fat are recommended to prevent obesity and its complications such as diabetes.
A low calorie, low glycemic index diet, for example, is one in which calorie content may be half the usual amount in one’s diet; foods include only those with a low glycemic or sugar count, based on a list of carbohydrate-containing foods. This type of diet has been found effective for weight loss and decreasing the risk for diabetes. Examples of these foods are:
- Whole grain cereals, pasta and breads
- Fruits like grapes, apples, oranges
- Vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, lettuce, onions, cabbage, and peas
- Nuts like walnuts, cashew, peanuts, almonds and pecans (must be eaten sparingly)
Simple sugars like those found in table sugar, soda and ice cream are easily absorbed and increase blood sugar levels fast. It is therefore better to eat complex carbohydrates which take time to break down and generally contain less sugar like those found in vegetables and fruits.
Other foods recommended by the American Diabetes Association are starchy vegetables like black beans, corn or garbanzo beans. Legumes like cooked kidney beans and vegetables like carrots have a high soluble fiber content which help reduce blood glucose levels. Insoluble fibers like bran and whole grains help in elimination to decrease cholesterol absorption.
Eating small portions of lean meats, poultry and fish, and low or non-fat dairy products is also beneficial in reducing weight and decreasing the risk for obesity. Fish that are rich in omega-3 oils help prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease; examples of these are salmon, mackerel and herring. Processed meats, fatty foods and junk foods rich in trans-fat must be avoided.
Consideration must be taken in planning a diet to reduce weight and prevent diabetes. Medical consultation and obtaining help from a dietitian are ideal in undertaking low calorie diets in particular, because this can involve some risks including symptoms of headache, weakness and hypoglycemia.
Although not all people who are at risk for diabetes are overweight or obese, following a diet which contains moderate amounts of calories, sugar and fat coupled with regular exercise can reduce their risk for acquiring the disease.
Mayo Clinic, “Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan" accessed 2/21/11
Life Clinic, “Glucose Control – Diabetic Diet" accessed 2/21/11