Currently, around 12% of the adult population in Malta suffers from diabetes, making it one of the most common chronic diseases on the island (Diabetesatlas.org, 2019).
What makes it so striking is that, despite the condition having a tendency to be passed down from generation to generation, there are things you can do to either prevent the development of diabetes or at least, control it.
Diet is one of the most important lifestyle changes both in diabetes, and in other chronic conditions. The key term here is energy density. Foods which are energy dense have a relatively high number of calories per gram than those which have a lower energy density, which are rich in fibre and water. An advantage of the lower energy dense foods is that they are often nutrient-dense. One study found that people on a low-fat/high-fibre diet had a lower risk of developing the condition, when compared to another group of people on a high-fat/low-fibre diet. The take-home message from this are to:
- reduce more refined grains or starchy foods such as white bread and potatoes
- include wholegrain foods like brown bread
- increase your intake of vegetables
Second on the list is exercise and activity. Not only does exercise help with controlling your blood sugar, but this also keeps your heart healthy, helps you maintain your weight as well as brightens up the mood. It is recommended by many medical guidelines, including the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines, that adults and children, regardless if they are diabetic or not, should engage in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for around 150 minutes per week (Lifestyle Management: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2019).
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is the sedentary lifestyle. This sort of lifestyle promotes obesity and increases the risk of developing diabetes. Recommendations from the ADA guidelines include notions such as breaking up extended periods of inactivity e.g. working on a computer, with short periods of light activity or exercise, such as walking around and stretching (Katzmarzyk P., Church T., Craig C., Bouchard C. – 2009).
The above leads me to weight loss. Studies have found that diabetics who lose weight either get a tighter grip on their blood sugar or even get the disease to remit. This weight loss is linked to the loss of fat, specifically in the abdominal region, where most of the body’s organs are. This sort of fat, referred to as visceral fat, contributes to the insulin resistance which leads to diabetes. By losing this fat, cells will become more sensitive to insulin and blood glucose can be controlled more effectively.
Disclaimer: Opinions and thoughts expressed within this article do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Malta. Opinions and facts expressed on these conditions should not be used to self-diagnose. If you are experiencing symptoms, please consult with your doctor.