Around 3.6 million people in the UK are living with Type 2 diabetes. By making a few simple changes, like opting for a low carb diet, you can reduce your risk of developing it significantly.

Fuelling your body

Out of the 4 million people with diabetes in the UK, around 90% have Type 2 diabetes[1]. This type of diabetes is often attributed to genetics but diet and lifestyle also play a major part.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin – the hormone that’s produced in your pancreas after we eat – is not used effectively by the cells in your body. Insulin is needed for cells to take in glucose (sugar) from your blood and convert it into energy. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin. Your body begins to produce more and more of this hormone, and blood sugar levels rise.

 

Get off the sugar rollercoaster

Regularly eating foods that create a spike in insulin can contribute to the development of diabetes. Sugar-heavy foods in the form of fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and confectionary are obvious offenders. However, sugar is added to so many processed foods now, from sauces to condiments to bread, that you might not even realise you’re consuming it.

Even refined carbs, such as those found in rice and pasta, cause this rapid insulin spike. Constantly fuelling the body with high carb, high sugar foods can cause the insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

 

5 tips for taking control

So how can you make lifestyle changes to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes? Here are five ways you can help reduce your chances:

 

1.      Keep a healthy weight

Being overweight can increase your chance of developing this disease. It puts added pressure on your body's ability to use insulin to control blood sugar levels effectively. By reducing the amount of refined and sugary carbs and adopting a low carb lifestyle, you can stabilise blood sugar levels and your body will be less likely to store the excess as body fat.

 

2.      Lower your intake of ‘bad’ carbs

Cutting down on sugary and starchy carbs will cause two things to happen – you will be more likely to burn fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates. Once your metabolism changes to a fat burning state your body will be less likely to store excess body fat.

White bread, rice, potatoes, doughnuts and sugary breakfast cereals have a high glycaemic index and can lead to an increased risk of diabetes.

 

3.      Cut out sugary drinks

Sugary, fizzy drinks have no nutritional value, even some fruit juices have had the fibre taken out and sugar added in. Drinking just one sugary sweetened drink a day may increase the risk of developing diabetes by 83%[2].

Not only can fizzy drinks lead to weight gain but there’s mounting evidence that they contribute to inflammation, high triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood), decreased “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and increased insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for diabetes.

 

4.      Eat more fibre & ‘good ‘carbs

While we advocate a low carb diet, it’s important that you don’t cut carbs altogether – just change the type of carbs you eat. Go for complex carbs in the form of fibrous vegetables such as broccoli, green beans or sprouts.

Eating more fibre aids digestion, keeps you feeling fuller for longer and provides plenty of nutrients which don’t cause big spikes in blood sugar.

 

5.      Move more

Aim to exercise daily wherever possible. Working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells. Studies suggest that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30%[3].

 

 

[1] Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Epidemiologic evidence. US National Library of Medicine.

[1] Harvard Nurses' Health Study, Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes

[1] Diabetes.org
[2] Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Epidemiologic evidence. US National Library of Medicine.

[3] Harvard Nurses' Health Study, Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes

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Posted by Linda O'Byrne
Atkins Nutritionist