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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eating More: The Why of the Diabetes Epidemic, Part 6

There is more food available now with the mechanization and all. Fish and vegetables are more plentiful. This is very good indeed but the trouble is this leads to overeating. The intake of saturated fat is highest in Europe and North America and where does this lead us? Yes, heart disease.

All these calories we are taking in should be spent to balance everything out, but no. Unlike our farmer ancestors who spent the calories they ate by working hard growing food, sometimes we do not even have to cook in order to eat. Why, we do not even have to wash the dishes; heaven forbid, we have dishwashing machines for that.

Just consider this: our ancestors had to wake up at dawn to farm in order to grow the food to eat. They had to tend to the animals in order to have the protein and milk. They even had to churn the milk to get cheese. They had to do back-breaking work to harvest the food they needed.

Back at home, they needed to pump water to wash the food. They had to cut wood to fuel the fire they needed to maintain to cook their food and heat their homes. Sometimes they had to hunt to supplement their food. And they had to work hard to store that food.

How about us? How do we obtain our food? Well, you know the routine. We jump into the car and drive to the grocery stores. There things are laid out for us to make everything as convenient as possible. Then our bags are put in a conveyor belt to take to our car.

Now with the advance in technology, we do not even have to go to the grocery stores. We just make a list in the computer and send it to the grocery store where they put the supplies we need together and put them in a delivery truck to send to our homes.

We have large freezers at home too so our poor fingers will not get tired making those lists as often. Then for every meal, we take out boxes of frozen foods from the freezers, popped them into the microwave oven and voila, we have food on the table. Then so that we don't get too tired, we eat out!

Eating out? Don't remind me. Think of the evolution of the hamburger. It started with one patty, then two patties, then a cheese on top, then a bacon on top. What will they think of next? A fried egg on top? Don't laugh because I think it's already here. I don't know where but I would like to have one, just a taste I swear, okay? Is it any wonder then that there is such thing as an epidemic?

Then as we eat more, our stomachs expand and get larger. The better it is to make room for more food. Right? Wrong, no not wrong on the stomach expansion but wrong in making more room for more food. Why? Because that would lead us to nutrition disaster. And now they want the schools to do something about the link between nutrition and diabetes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Metabolic Syndrome: The Why of the Diabetes Epidemic, Part 5

Metabolic syndrome, what is it? Well, it is a group of problems or conditions that could lead to prediabetes and diabetes. How does one know if he has this condition? It is easy to recognize this but here are the signs that two or more of the following will indicate a positive answer: (not in a good way)

. High blood pressure greater than 130/85 mmHg

. A big waist of forty inches or greater for men and thirty-four or greater for women

. Low HDL or good cholesterol of lower than 40 mg/dL for men or below 50 mg/dL for women

. High level triglycerides of more than or the same as 150 mg /dL

It is a big mistake to ignore the presence of the above or the metabolic syndrome as this could have a great impact on one's health. It could certainly lead to diabetes and this is one thing I am very passionate about to prevent.

And diabetes could lead to cardiovascular problems, two to five times more than those without this condition. It is also the chief cause of kidney failure, blindness, limb amputation, and neurological complications. Life span is also lowered by seven to twelve years. Now you know why I am so passionate about preventing diabetes complications.

Now type 2 diabetes is on the rise. Our industrialized lifestyle certainly contributed to this. We are eating more (and the wrong food at that) and moving less with all those energy-saving machines we have at our disposal. We are living the dream life of a coach potato. Give me that remote, I need to lie down.

Yeah, right! Just look at how our forefathers lived their life. Some were farmers who got up at dawn to tend to their animals and growing their own food. Now this automated the production of food and the hard-working slim farmer is replaced by an overweight one driving an air-conditioned tractor, planting and harvesting all by himself.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not against labor-saving devices; they’re great to have and should free us to pursue other leisure time activities like playing balls and such. But no, we were reduced to becoming sports spectators instead of going out there and playing the game ourselves. Is it any wonder metabolic syndrome is here to stay?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Why of the Diabetes Epidemic, Part 4

Now we come to the 20th and 21st century epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Before, this was called adult-onset diabetes because it used to appear in grown-ups. Lately though, teenagers and children have been afflicted by this condition and this is greatly due to lifestyle.

One cause of this is insulin resistance which makes the body tissues less sensitive to insulin. This lets the sugar circulating in the blood stay there instead of entering the body cells. This requires more insulin in order to lower the blood sugar.

The other cause of type 2 diabetes is the incapacity to produce more insulin to meet the demand. The reasons for this are growing old, overweight, inherited tendency, lack of physical activity and some other hormonal condition.

As to why insulin resistance develops is not clearly understood but researches have suggested that fat cells make chemicals that result in the tissues becoming resistant to insulin. The more fat cells one has, the more chemicals are produced. This makes the sugar unable to enter the body cells where they are sorely needed.

The beta cells in the pancreas cannot meet the demand no matter how hard they work and as years pass, they slowly lose their capacity to make insulin. They can still make some but not adequate enough to keep the blood glucose levels within normal target.

The rise of the blood glucose levels sometimes results in the symptoms like increased hunger and thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss and fatigue but sometimes there are no symptoms at all and this is what is dangerous. The condition may not be diagnosed until some complications have already occurred.

That is why about 33% of people who have this condition do not know they have it so please if you are at risk, get yourself tested so that strategies can be in place to fight this. Sometimes it takes twelve years before the symptoms appear.

It is good to know if you have this condition before it has the time to wreck havoc in your life. Once you know you have it, you can start taking care of it. Controlling the blood glucose level is a must to prevent the diabetes complications from setting in.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why of the Diabetes Epidemic, Part 3

We said before that carbohydrates and fats are the main providers of energy to keep it working. The carbohydrates are broken down into smaller sugars in the intestine. These smaller sugars can now be absorbed into the circulation. This is then moved from the blood into the cell.

It is during this transport that it gets to meet Mr. Insulin. There it is broken further making it a main source of energy. The extra sugar or glucose is then stored in the liver or as glycogen in the muscle. This can also be stored in the muscles where they stay until they are needed.

How about the fats? The other main source of energy is dietary fat which produces a breakdown product called fatty acids. The same thing happens to it just like the glucose. They are either used immediately for energy or stored to use later.

Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas. It is a protein that is circulated in the blood stream and while it does, it affects the functioning of the other organs. The pancreas also produces chemicals that help break down the food so that that the intestine can absorb this.

There are also bunches of cells in the pancreas called islets that contain different specialized cells. Phew! Thank goodness for the forefathers who did studies on this and now they're even using it as a new diabetes cure or we would not even know these cells exist. Anyway, one of the cells in the islets are the beta cells that produce insulin.

The sugar level in the blood is sensed by these beta cells after a meal and as the level goes up, the beta cells make insulin that makes the transport of sugar into the cells faster, thus effectively stopping the blood sugar from going up too high.

When the sugar level falls, what do you think happens? The opposite happens. The insulin production stops and opens up the stored sugar in the cells. Think of the insulin as a traffic policemen who directs the nutrients to the storage when the sugar level is up and then directs them to come out of the storage when the sugar level is down.

Isn't that cool? This is what happens in a person without diabetes. This is a finely tuned machine but just like our cars, when something disturbs the engine, then there is trouble. I should not really call it trouble for it is just a challenge we have to meet head on.

My, my, this is getting too long. We have not halfway covered why diabetes is on the rise but we will. We will just persevere with our weekly sessions and learn as much as we can about this. What is ten minutes (it takes to read this) compared to a life-long knowledge on this which we can pass on to the next generation?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Why of the Diabetes Epidemic, Part 2

Last week, we had over 400 words and we barely covered our topic. My, this will take many parts, won't it? I don't mind because this is my passion but you probably will get tired of this. But you never know you might pick up something good for you or your loved one with diabetes. So, keep tuned in, will you? And please spread the word.

Reading this blog will benefit those with diabetes or prediabetes in these ways:

  • make the blood sugar level better

  • cut back on some of the medications

  • take control of the condition

Learning the why of the diabetes epidemic will lead to a program of living healthy. Don't worry, you will not have to make severe changes. Nor do you have to spend money to do this. There will be suggestions on diet and exercise but these will not be extreme. Whatever changes you make though, let your health care team know. You may have a condition that needs special care.

This discussion will help us understand better what diabetes is, how we ordinarily manage the food nutrients and how metabolism affects the overall health. This will answer the question why there is such an epidemic of diabetes, prediabetes and obesity.

Once we understand the above, we will have a better understanding of how important lifestyle is. Perhaps then we will be more motivated to change the lifestyle to turn the statistics around. This is really the basis for the change that those in the know are advocating.

Now I mentioned metabolism and I wonder if we really understand that. Why is this important? Learning what it is and what it does will give meaning to why many are afflicted by prediabetes. And when this is not addressed, it leads to diabetes.

We know that the body directs the energy into storage as in fat, or let the body use it for normal growth or to use it for any physical activity. All these are represented by metabolism. If we understand this as the normal metabolism, then we will have an idea when metabolism goes awry.

What is this energy that the body processes and directs to store, use for growth or fuel Physical Activity?
There are three of them: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates and fats are the principal providers of energy to keep the body working.

We will discuss how these three nutrients met Mr. Insulin. For now, it is enough that we know the three nutrients that metabolism represents when the body's processes direct them to different channels. We will see what happens to these three nutrients when that occurs.