Fighting the type 2 diabetes pandemic


Rice eaters can include wheat, maize, high-protein grains, and vegetables in their daily diet

Rice eaters can include wheat, maize, high-protein grains, and vegetables in their daily diet

The International Diabetes Foundation estimates that 537 million people across the world are afflicted with diabetes. The site in the United States points out that over 37 million people (about 10%) in the United States are diabetic. There are two types of diabetes — Type 1 and Type 2.

Types of diabetes

Type 1 is generally genetic in origin, and is easier handled by taking the molecule insulin. Injection of insulin helps your body use the sugar in your blood for the energy it needs, and then store the rest in the liver and other organs for future use. Type 2 diabetes, which does not need insulin injection, is largely lifestyle-based, and is seen more among people in the urban areas than in rural populations.

Type 2 diabetes is age-related; it often develops at the age of 45 and beyond. Type 1 diabetes is largely genetic in nature, while Type 2 depends on the lifestyle of the individual.

Pioneering research work from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) has shown that Type 2 diabetes, which does not always need external insulin, is largely lifestyle-based, and is higher in prevalence (11.6%) among the urban populations than (2.4%) in the rural areas ( Journal of Indian Medical Association, 2002).   

Huge disease burden

While this study from the MDRF is largely based in South India, a paper by Sadikot and coworkers in  Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice has studied 18,000 people across 77 centres across India. They estimate 4.3% of the total Indian population to suffer from diabetes, 5.9 % of the urban population and 2.7% of the rural population.

An ICMR-funded study has estimated that there are about 77 million diabetic patients across India today.

There are some ways to fight against, or delay diabetes. As staple food, it is best to consume a high-fibre diet, with low carbohydrate intake. MDRF offers one such high-fibre rice. While rice is the staple food in most parts of South India, people in the North are wheat eaters. 

Wheat has higher fibre content, more proteins, calcium and minerals. And the rice we use is ‘white’ or polished with no husk and bran. (On an aside, recall how Mahatma Gandhi advised us not to use polished rice).

It would thus be healthier for rice eaters to include wheat in their food, plus high-protein grains, maize, carrots, cabbage, pulses and vegetables in their daily diets. For non-vegetarians, eggs, fish and mutton offer high fibre and proteins. 

Preventable

Is Type 2 Diabetes preventable? The study from Harvard University says yes.

The individual needs to lose small amount of weight, eat a healthy diet, reduce total carbon intake in the food, and do physical exercise regularly. Exercise smarter, not longer. Consider high intensity exercise such as power walking for 10 minutes regularly, and also do breathing exercises, as in meditation.

Indeed, our physiotherapists and Ayurvedic practitioners too, advise deep breathing and regular exercises.

The site heathline.com lists as many as 10 different exercises that will be useful for people who are pre-diabetic, or prone to Type 2 diabetes, or getting to be senior citizens.

Of the 10, some are easily done without any need to go to a gymnasium. The first exercise is to walk: go for a brisk 30-minute-walk five times a week, or even more often. Several diabetologists suggest that such brisk walking can be done even at home daily.

The second is cycling. This can be done in a nearby school campus, or the city park. Cycling for 10 minutes a day is very beneficial. Indeed, cycling can be done even at home by putting the cycle on stand, and cycling for ten minutes at home.

The third is weight-lifting. Here again, your own home can be a gym. Lift heavy objects (5 kg or even 8-10 kg, but do check with your doctor) such as filled water buckets, other household stuff. Doing this daily or on alternate days will be helpful.

The above site lists several other exercises such as swimming, calisthenics and so on, but we have listed only those which can be easily done by families at home or nearby.

Benefits of yoga

But one that is mentioned among the 10 exercises is yoga, which is of particular interest to Indians.

A systematic review of controlled trials ( Journal of Diabetes Research) says that yoga may lower oxidative stress, and improve mood, sleep and quality of life. It also reduces medication use in adults with Type 2. 

dbala@lvpei.org



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