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Are you pre-diabetic? How can you tell?

Important Points:

  • Prediabetes
  • Fasting sugars
  • Chronic diseases
  • Early signs
  • Exercise

Are you pre-diabetic?
How can you tell?

Of all the chronic diseases currently known to mankind, diabetes is the most common with well over 88% of patients being prediabetic without knowing it. The onset of diabetes starts years before it becomes full blown and starts affecting one’s health. How can you know if you are on the path to being a full-blown diabetic? What can you do to arrest and reverse this process?

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a “pre-diagnosis” of diabetes—a warning sign of sorts. It happens when your blood glucose level (blood sugar level) is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic.

Prediabetes is an indication that you  could develop type 2 diabetes (T2D) if you don’t make some immediate and lasting lifestyle changes.

During the prediabetes phase, your pancreas still produces enough insulin in response to ingested carbohydrates. The insulin is less effective at removing the sugar from the bloodstream, though, so your blood sugar remains high. This condition is called insulin resistance, and during this stage, you are accumulating microvascular damage.

What are the indications that you might have it?

Diabetes develops very gradually; it could take up to several years. It follows that when you’re in the prediabetes stage, you may not have any symptoms at all. You may, however, notice that:

  • you’re hungrier than normal
  • you’re losing weight, despite eating more
  • you’re thirstier than normal
  • you have to go to the bathroom more frequently
  • you’re more tired than usual

All of these symptoms are typically associated with diabetes, so if you’re in the early stages of diabetes, you may notice them.

What are the risk factors lead to prediabetes?

It is not very clear what exactly causes the insulin process to go askew in some people. There are several risk factors, though, that make it more likely that you’ll develop pre-diabetes. These are the same risk factors related to the development of type 2 diabetes:

  • Weight: Being overweight (have a body mass index—a BMI—of higher than 25) increases your risk for developing prediabetes. This is especially true if you carry a lot of extra weight in your abdomen. The extra fat cells can cause your body to become more insulin resistant.
  • Being inactive: This often goes hand-in-hand with being overweight. If you aren’t physically active, you’re more likely to develop prediabetes.
  • Having a close family member with type 2 diabetes: Prediabetes has a hereditary factor, so if someone in your close family has (or had) it, you are more likely to develop it.
  • Race/ethnicity: Certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop prediabetes, including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
  • Age: The older you are, the more at risk you are for developing prediabetes. At age 45, your risk starts to rise, and after age 65, your risk increases exponentially.
  • Gestational diabetes: If you developed diabetes while you were pregnant, that increases your risk for developing prediabetes later on.
  • Other health problems: High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (the “bad” LDL cholesterol) increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): It is quite likely that if you have PCOS, you have insulin resistance and are prediabetic.
  • Hypothyroidism low thyroid function (not enough circulating thyroid hormone) and prediabetes together more than doubles your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in comparison to individuals with normal thyroid function.

How can you know for sure?

You should visit your doctor who may want to test your blood glucose levels if you’re overweight (have a body mass index—BMI—of over 25) and if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above.

If your fasting blood test indicates that you have prediabetes, your doctor may want to do an A1C blood test. On the other hand, your doctor may skip the fasting blood sugar test and go straight to the A1C blood test, which provides information about your average blood sugar levels over a 3 month period. These results are stated as a percentage:

  • Normal = below 5.7%
  • Prediabetes = between 5.7% and 6.4%
  • Diabetes = 6.5% or higher.

 It is advisable to start testing your blood glucose levels every three years beginning when you’re 45, even if you are not overweight and do not have any of the risk factors. That will ensure you catch any anomaly at an early stage as the risk of developing prediabetes (and therefore type 2 diabetes) increases with age. 

What to do if you are prediabetic?

Serious lifestyle changes are effective in preventing type 2 diabetes, after you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Your doctor will give you advice on what you need to do, but here are some additional things you can do on your own:

  • Assess Your Food Choices:  Get a healthy food plan is to assure that you are controlling your blood glucose level by keeping it in a healthy, normal range. Your meal plan should be adjusted to be comfortable and satisfying to you taking into account your overall health, physical activity, and what you like to eat.
  • Exercise regularly:  During exercise, your body burns up more glucose, thus lowering your blood glucose level. Also when you exercise, your body doesn’t need as much insulin to transport the glucose; your body becomes less insulin resistant. Since your body isn’t using insulin well when you have prediabetes, lowering insulin resistance is a very good thing.
    It is recommended that you do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week—that’s 30 minutes five days a week. You can get that through activities such as walking, bike riding, or swimming.
  • Lose weight. If you are overweight, losing just 7 percent of your starting weight can help delay or prevent diabetes. That means if you weigh 200 pounds, losing 14 pounds can make a difference. Weight loss also helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Metformin: Medication might be recommended for people who are at very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes after being diagnosed with prediabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, Metformin should be the only medication used to prevent Type 2 diabetes. It works by keeping the liver from making more glucose when you don’t need it allowing your blood glucose level to stay in a better range.
  • Some good news

If you have prediabetes, you should know you are definitely not alone. In 2015, it was estimated that 84.1 million Americans age 18 and older suffered from this condition. That is a whopping 1 in 3 Americans!

Being prediabetic doesn’t mean you will certainly develop diabetes, but it is however a warning of what could lie ahead. People with prediabetes have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes as opposed to someone with normal blood sugar levels. Those chances increase if you don’t make any healthy changes to your diet or activity habits.

It is not all bleak though…. It can be reversed and you can stop the progression to diabetes. You can take control of your health by making the right choices and actively monitoring your blood sugar to ensure you do not slip into a prediabetic state or develop into a full diabetic.

References:

  1. Healthline (2018): Understanding Borderline Diabetes: Signs, Symptoms, and More. Retrieved from

https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/borderline-diabetes-know-the-signs

https://familydoctor.org/condition/prediabetes/
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Does sugar consumption cause obesity?

Important Points:

  • Obesity
  • Added sugars
  • Empty calories
  • Chronic disease

Does sugar consumption cause obesity?

Sugar has been vilified over the years with claims of its disastrous effects on our health. Are these claims true? Does drinking a soda a day guarantee one ill health? What of the effects of excess sugar on obesity? Let’s explore these claims and determine whether excessive sugar intake does indeed lead to obesity.

  1. What is obesity?

Obesity rates have skyrocketed over the past century. In 1962, 46 percent of adults in the U.S. were considered overweight or obese. By 2010, that figure had jumped to 75 percent.

So, what exactly is obesity……

Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It is a medical problem that increases your risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

  Weight (Pounds) x 703       OR         Weight (Kilograms) 

 
Height (Inches) x Height (Inches)      Height (Meters) x Height (Meters)  

Obesity is diagnosed when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. To determine your body mass index, use one of these formulas:

BMI =  

BMI Weight status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25.0-29.9 Overweight
30.0 and higher Obesity

For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. Because BMI doesn’t directly measure body fat, some people such as muscular athletes may have a BMI in the obesity category even though they don’t have excess body fat.

Sugar and obesity

Obesity is a complex problem with multiple causes. But among the likely suspects, sugar is a top favorite. As sugar consumption has increased, so too has the size of our waistlines.

Added sugars is a controversial and hotly debated topic. Consumption of added sugars has been implicated in increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as cognitive decline and even some cancers, but support for these putative associations has been challenged on a variety of fronts.

The sugars in your diet can be either naturally occurring or additives. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing or added at the table.

Numerous dietary and lifestyle habits can lead to weight gain and cause you to put on excess body fat. Consuming a diet high in added sugars, such as those found in sweetened beverages, candy, baked goods, and sugary cereals, is a contributing factor in weight gain and chronic health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Many people consume more sugar than they realize. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume because our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories which can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby impacting our health.

The ways in which added sugar intake leads to weight gain and increased body fat are complex and involve many factors.

Factors explaining why added sugar is fattening….

Added sugars are sweeteners added to foods and beverages to improve taste. Common types of added sugar include fructose, corn syrup, cane sugar, and agave. Excess sugar may cause you to pack on weight because it’s high in calories while offering few other nutrients.

Though using small amounts of added sugar is unlikely to cause weight gain, regularly indulging in foods high in added sugars may cause you to gain excess body fat quicker and more drastically.

2. Impacts blood sugar and hormone levels

It’s well known that eating sugary foods significantly raises your blood sugar levels. Though enjoying a sweet food infrequently isn’t likely to harm health, daily consumption of large amounts of added sugar can lead to chronically elevated blood sugar levels. Prolonged elevated blood sugar — known as hyperglycemia — can cause serious harm to your body by causing insulin resistance and resulting weight gain.

3. May lead to overeating

Foods high in added sugars tend to be less filling. Eating foods rich in carbs — particularly refined carbs high in added sugars — yet low in protein can negatively impact fullness and may lead to weight gain by causing you to eat more at subsequent meals throughout the day or overeat at any one particular seating.

Animal studies indicate that fructose impacts signaling systems in your hypothalamus increasing levels of hunger-stimulating neuropeptides — molecules that communicate with one another to influence brain activity — while decreasing fullness signals. Additionally, your body is predisposed to crave sweetness. In fact, research shows that sugar consumption is driven by the pleasure derived from the sweet taste of sugary drinks and foods.

4. Linked to obesity and chronic disease

Numerous studies have linked high intake of added sugars to weight gain and chronic conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. This effect has been observed both in adults and in children. Recently, a review of 30 studies in more than 242,000 adults and children found a significant link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.

  • Health problems associated with obesity

People with obesity are more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:

  • Heart disease and strokes. Obesity makes you more likely to have high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels which are risk factors for heart disease and strokes.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Obesity can affect the way your body uses insulin to control blood sugar levels raising your risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • Certain cancers. Obesity may increase your risk of cancer of the uterus, cervix, endometrium, ovary, breast, colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney and prostate.
  • Digestive problems. Obesity increases the likelihood that you’ll develop heartburn, gallbladder disease, and liver problems.
  • Gynecological and sexual problems. Obesity may cause infertility and irregular periods in women. Obesity also can cause erectile dysfunction in men.
  • Sleep apnea. People with obesity are more likely to have sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
  • Osteoarthritis. Obesity increases the stress placed on weight-bearing joints and promotes inflammation within the body. These factors may lead to complications such as osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity’s affect on quality of life

People who are obese often find themselves struggling with some issues that might diminish their overall quality of life. Some of these issues might include:

  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Sexual problems
  • Shame and guilt
  • Social isolation
  • Lower work achievement
  • How to avoid obesity

Whether you’re at risk of obesity, currently overweight, or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain and related health problems.

  • Exercise regularly. You need to get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, such as swimming or fast walking, to prevent weight gain.
  • Follow a healthy-eating plan. Focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense unprocessed real foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and some grains. Avoid industrial seed oils (vegetable oil) and refined sugars, and limit alcohol. Eat two to three regular meals a day with no snacking in between.
  • Know and avoid the food traps that cause you to eat. Identify situations that trigger out-of-control eating. Try keeping a journal and write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling, and how hungry you are; awareness helps you stay in control of your eating behaviors.
  • Monitor your weight regularly. People who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off excess pounds.
  • Be consistent. Stick to your healthy weight plan all the time.
  • So, is sugar friend or foe?

The above information shows us how added sugars interferes with your hormones, increases hunger, and displaces healthy foods leading to weight gain. Excess body fat significantly increases your risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, it is wise to consume added sugars with caution as being proactive is better than reacting.

References

  1. Endocrineweb (2018): Insulin Resistance Causes and Symptoms, Retrieved from

https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-2-diabetes/insulin-resistance-causes-symptoms

  • Healthline (2019):6 Ways Added Sugar Is Fattening. Retrieved from

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-sugar-make-you-fat#section1

  • American Heart Association (2018): Added Sugars. Retrieved from

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars

  • NCBI (2016): Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133084/

  • John Hopkins Medicine (2019): Obesity, Sugar and Heart Health. Retrieved from

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/obesity-sugar-and-heart-health

  • Mayo Clinic: Obesity. Retrieved from

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20375742