Diabetes is a complicated disease. While there are many types of diabetes, type 2 is gaining the most momentum and poses a threat to public health. This disease gradually damages health and organs. In addition, if left untreated it can even lead to blindness.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the prevalence of diabetes was 30.3 million cases as of 2015, making it the 7th leading cause of death that year (1). Something needs to change in the typical American diet and lifestyle. These two factors have a major influence on diabetes.
What is it?
Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset or insulin-resistant diabetes, is characterized by abnormally high blood glucose (sugar) levels. Cells become resistant to the hormone insulin, which usually helps absorb glucose into cells where it can be used or stored. The disruption in glucose metabolism leads to a build-up of sugar in the blood. This slowly damages blood vessels, nerves, and various organs.
Normal Glucose Metabolism
Normally we eat food and it contains a certain amount of carbohydrate. These carbohydrates are broken down into simpler sugars that can be absorbed into blood and cells.
When blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood to promote its absorption. Cells of the liver, muscle, and other tissue respond to insulin by opening up channels for glucose to enter the cells and be used or stored. This helps bring blood sugar levels back to normal.
The liver plays a key role in the regulation of blood sugar. Here, glucose can be stored as glycogen when in response to insulin and released back into the blood when levels are low. Abnormal liver function disrupts blood sugar regulation.
The Connection with Obesity
Nowadays, obesity and type 2 diabetes tend to go hand-in-hand. Sedentary lifestyles and poor diets pave the way for both of these conditions. Furthermore, obesity can predispose an individual to diabetes by affecting the liver.
High-fat levels in the blood and in the visceral tissue favor fatty acid deposition in the liver disrupt its function. The liver becomes less responsive to insulin and blood sugar levels rise.
Treating Type 2 Diabetes
There is no better treatment for type 2 diabetes than a healthy diet and exercise. It is important for individuals with diabetes to consult a doctor or dietitian. It is important to know what to eat since they have a higher chance of comorbidities. Also, medication is available and can be prescribed by a licensed physician.
Exercise helps use much of the excess sugar in the blood. Skeletal muscle uses it to fuel contractions. An increase in insulin sensitivity can also be observed as a result of exercise- this means more sugar is being absorbed.
Can it be Reversed?
Type 2 diabetes can be reversed but it’s better to prevent it. Remember that high blood sugar is causing continuous damage throughout the body. Preventing diabetes also involves a healthy diet and exercise- so start now.
Success in reversing diabetes also relies heavily on the stage of the disease- it is more treatable early on. If one let’s diabetes get out of control for too long, reversing it might not be possible.
- “Statistics About Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/.