Ask Dr. Salerno Health

The Diabetes Epidemic

Diabetes Epidemic

A looming public health threat has been the surge of diagnoses of type 2 diabetes or insulin resistant diabetes. Being number 7 on the list of leading causes of death from the CDC for 2014, and number 6 on the list of causes of death worldwide from the WHO for 2015 makes it a specific target for the health system. And the prevalence of diabetes is likely to increase, as we saw from the WHO 2000 that diabetes does not even take the top ten leading causes of death worldwide to going to number 6 in around 15 years.

This statistical rise is troubling, but it is important to understand that there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often presents itself in childhood, as the pancreas does not produce enough insulin for the body. The immune system begins to attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. However, there is more information on type 2 diabetes than type 1. While type 2 diabetes was once referred to as adult-onset diabetes, more children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than ever before. Type 2 diabetes can occur later on in life and does not involve the immune system, rather, the body just stops producing as much insulin or becomes insulin resistant, requiring more to process glucose correctly.

Examining cultural and societal factors are important in determining how prevalent type 2 diabetes is, and its impact on our lives. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are impacted by any excess weight carried on the body and physical inactivity. Even sleep deprivation can play a part, since sleep deprivation can affect the body’s metabolism, and even causes the body to store more fat, leading to weight gain. Culture and society play a huge role in the growth of diabetes as a public health problem. Our readily available access to all sorts of food has been a benefit for us, but the quality of the food is the issue. Sugary and overly processed foods may have the calories that the body needs, but are low in the nutrients needed to support many metabolic functions. This leaves the body still feeling hungry and craving certain foods, leading to overeating and weight gain.

One cultural idea that is slowly changing is the idea that a low-fat diet is healthy and is a great way to lose weight. Often, heavily processed foods advertised as low-fat will have higher sodium, sugar, and starches to make it taste good, making the substitute ingredients have adverse effects such as inflammation and risk of diabetes. The cultural shift should be in favor of serving foods that are higher in healthy saturated fats. Instead of overloading the body with sugar, you are actively introducing a fuel for the body that is used differently and does not require as much insulin, fat. Another enormous impact is the lack of physical activity that occurs today. Men, women, and children should include some form of movement in their lives every day. Sedentary lifestyles include sitting for long periods of time without moving, things like watching TV or sitting in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day, can increase that time span and increase the risk of developing diabetes.

This is where your individual involvement and peer influence come in handy at a public health level. If you know you will be sedentary for a long time, consider building in “movement breaks” to keep your metabolism going. Schedule physical activities and connect with friends or family over exercise, rather than drinks or bad foods. Remember to include fats in your diet and supplement with necessary nutrients, when needed. Understand that your risk of developing diabetes is connected with poor diet and physical inactivity. The Salerno Center can help you avoid these risks and help you feel and look better through a tailored diet and lifestyle.