Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and insufficient insulin levels or function. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter cells and thereby be used as a source of energy. When this mechanism is disrupted, glucose builds up in the bloodstream.
About 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes, which typically occurs in childhood or adolescence. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin, so insulin injections must be used for life.
Although the cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, it is characteristic that antibodies directed against certain antigens found in insulin-producing cells are found in the blood. This immune system damage to insulin-producing cells is associated with diet, external factors including viruses and bacteria, and genetic factors.
The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, which accounts for about 90 percent of cases. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body’s cells cannot use it. The disease usually manifests after the age of 30 to 40 and has been considered to be associated with the occurrence of many risk factors. These include: diabetes in the family, lack of exercise, obesity and membership of certain ethnic groups.
About 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes have first-degree relatives (parents, siblings) affected by the same disease.
Type 2 diabetes often goes undetected for years because the hyperglycemia develops gradually and is not initially severe enough to cause the classic diabetes symptoms. The diagnosis is usually made incidentally or in connection with a medical condition, such as infection or surgery.
With age, the presence of obesity and a lack of exercise increase the risk of developing the disease.
Another form of diabetes is gestational diabetes. It is defined as any condition in which high circulating glucose is measured for the first time during pregnancy. This condition occurs in about 4% of pregnancies.
The first symptoms of the disease depend on the type of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, thirst, increased urination, fatigue, weight loss, dry skin and increased infections are observed.
In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms usually do not allow for a quick diagnosis. Blood sugar is high but there are no clinical signs of type 1 diabetes.
The criteria for diagnosing diabetes are:
– Diabetes symptoms associated with a random blood glucose reading, ie blood glucose above 200 mg/dL, regardless of the time of day.
– Fasting blood sugar higher than 126 mg/dl.
– Blood glucose higher than 200 mg/dL during the oGTT. The test is performed by administering 75 g of glucose.
10 misconceptions about diabetes
There is a lot of misinformation about diabetes and the diet that diabetics should follow, especially on the internet.
Here are some myths that need debunking.
Myth 1: The main cause of diabetes is excessive sugar consumption.
The causes of diabetes are still unclear. There is no evidence that simply excessive sugar consumption in itself can cause diabetes; This is a disease that occurs as a result of the body’s impaired ability to convert food into energy. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, helps the body’s cells use glucose for energy.
Myth 2: Diets for diabetics have many rules.
Diabetics sometimes have to plan their meals, but there aren’t really many rules. The main thing is to choose foods that are suitable for daily activities and drugs to keep blood sugar as close to the norm as possible. The differences from the normal diet may not be great. It is important to consult a specialist.
Myth 3: Carbohydrates should be completely eliminated from the diet.
Carbohydrates are not usually completely eliminated from the diet of diabetics. Their consumption is controlled according to the drugs used and the person’s personal situation. Carbohydrates are also useful foods in diabetes as they are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Myth #4: Protein is better than carbs.
Since carbs can quickly alter blood sugar levels depending on the glycemic index of the foods they come from, it might seem logical to eat less and eat protein instead of carbs. However, eating too many high-protein foods like meat can lead to excess saturated fat intake and increase your risk of heart disease. Protein in a diabetic’s diet should make up 15-20 percent of the total calories consumed each day.
Myth 5: Drugs can correct all nutritional deficiencies.
The amount of medication that must be taken to suppress any binge eating is never adjusted at will. When taking diabetes medication, it is necessary to follow your doctor’s instructions and follow dietary guidelines as much as possible.
Myth 6: Some foods should be avoided entirely.
Changing your diet because of diabetes does not necessarily mean cutting out certain foods. Changing the way a person cooks their favorite foods can help to adapt them to the new diet. Change the foods they are paired with, reduce portions, consume them from time to time as a reward for following your eating plan correctly. A nutritionist will tell you how and when to include the foods you want in your diet.
Myth 7: Artificial sweeteners are more dangerous than sugar.
Artificial sweeteners are sweeter and lower in calories than sugar. For this reason, they are usually consumed in smaller amounts. Some artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium) are allowed. Among them is aspartame, which is at the center of a real debate about its potential adverse health effects. More natural choices like stevia can be made for diabetics.
Myth 8: It is necessary to prepare special meals.
The meals appropriate for diabetics are often the same meals their family eats with little or no modification. It is important for diabetics to monitor their diet more closely, taking into account the types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins eaten.
Myth #9: Diet foods are the best choice for diabetics.
Just because a food is labeled a “diet” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for people with diabetes. While foods marketed with diet labels have the same properties as other foods, they can have adverse health effects due to the additives they contain.
Myth 10: Diabetics should avoid sweets altogether.
Diabetics do not necessarily have to do without sweets. There are options such as eating sweets in smaller portions or less frequently, or opting for desserts made with sweeteners that don’t alter blood sugar. For example, it is possible to reduce the amount of sugar in the preparation of desserts and enrich them with useful nutrients by increasing the percentage of fruit or replacing refined flour with wholemeal flour.