NOVEMBER is world diabetes awareness month and diabetes is now one of the most prevalent chronic medical conditions globally, is lifestyle and poor dietary choices to blame or are there other factors at play?
South Africa and many other ‘3rd World’ African countries, have a substantially high level of diabetic people, especially amongst those who are unaware of the impact of a sedentary lifestyle and a poisonous western diet filled with sugars, salt, flavourants, colourants, heavy metals and a multitude of other chemicals. The introduction of the ‘aspirational’ western lifestyle of self-service and secularity is creating havoc.
To understand any disease, it is important to understand its origin. Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus or DM for short, is defined as a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time. The symptoms to such would be high blood sugar levels, frequent urination as well as increased thirst and uncontrollable hunger.
On November 14 1921 Dr. Frederick Banting, together with other researchers, discovered insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. It also helps keep your blood sugar levels from getting too high or extremely low.
In South Africa, and elsewhere in the world, modern life and changing lifestyles has been cited by experts as problems that lead to diabetes. Former athlete Manie Pretorius is an example of how your lifestyle habits can lead to your health deteriorating. In an interview with the SABC, Pretorious, a former army man, told of how he had to do a gastric bypass adjust his diet and begin a disciplined exercise regime, just to take control of his health. “There’s no magic or miracle around it, it’s a matter of a lifestyle change. I had to do gastric bypass and fortunately it was a success, others aren’t as fortunate,” said Pretorius.
Pretorius’ doctor, Grahame N. Stapleton agreed with his former patient saying that a healthy lifestyle, diet and regular exercise were key in dealing with diabetes. Stapleton said that in the past people did not grow up with the luxury of unhealthy foods as parents made sure that their children ate healthy and didn’t regularly drink fizzy drinks. He said, “In the past our parents bought us sodas in small quantities and we didn’t drink them regularly but once a week. Today everybody has at least two litres of sodas in their fridge and can drink anytime.”
Stapleton, like Pretorius, also emphasised on the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.
With so much conflicting and contradictory information avaialable, what does eating a balanced diet mean?
According to doctor Phathutshedzo Makungo, a nutritional practitioner based in Midrand, you will never go wrong with eating fruits and vegetables with a bit of meat every once in a while.
She said, “We are approaching what I call the crazy and very potentially unhealthy season – the festive season. Here people eat whatever they like at whatever time they want and that’s dangerous because there’s also an element of lazing around doing nothing.”
“You will never go wrong with vegetables, fruits and lots of water,” said the mother of two who says she runs daily after work to “save my life”.
Experts advise that you can drink beer or wine moderately,
Good sleep patterns are vital – sleep deprivation has a negative effect on your body in a multitude of ways including: hormonal imbalances, glucose regulation and causing insulin producing cells to stop functioning properly.
Regular exercise is very important,
Eat real food instead of processed foods. Fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, seeds and nuts are very important to steer clear of diabetes because of their richness.
According to Dr. Makungo, many South Africans need to exercise more as the national department of health has advised.
The fact is, if a person combines a balanced diet with regular exercise, the chance of them contracting Type 2 Diabetes is extraordinarily slim – that means that blaming surroundings and circumstance for your chronic condition, is often an excuse to allow a person to continue their sedentary lifestyle.