What is Diabetes?
Part 2: What is diabetes?
Every cell in the human body needs energy in order to function. One of the body's primary energy sources is glucose. Glucose from the digested food circulates in the blood as a ready energy source for all cells that need it. But too much glucose in the blood is harmful; it must be strictly controlled. Insulin, a hormone produced by the beta-cells of the pancreas, is the control hormone: insulin helps to regulate blood sugar levels by taking any excess glucose out of the bloodstream and putting it into body cells, either to be used as fuel or to be stored as glycogen and fat. Insulin does this by bonding to a receptor site on the outside of body cells and acting like a key to open a doorway into the cells through which glucose can enter.
When there is not enough insulin produced or when the doorway no longer recognizes the insulin key, glucose stays in the blood rather than entering the cells. This causes blood glucose to rise to abnormally high levels, a condition called hyperglycemia. (Chronic hyperglycemia is the way that diabetes is diagnosed.)
The body will attempt to combat this high level of glucose in the blood by drawing water out of the cells and into the bloodstream in an effort to dilute the sugar and excrete it in the urine. It is not unusual for people with undiagnosed diabetes to be constantly thirsty, to drink large quantities of water, and to urinate frequently as their bodies try to get rid of the extra glucose. At the same time, because glucose does not enter the cells that need it, the cells send hunger signals to the body which results in their owners eating more food.
This essentially is the condition called 'diabetes'.
The scale of the diabetes problem
The Global Burden of Disease Project estimates that in Established Market Economies such as the UK, 3% of years of life lost in disability are due to diabetes. This is only slightly less than the years of life lost in disability due to cancer at 4%. What is more, diabetes is becoming epidemic in the UK, with the number of diabetics set to double in a decade.
Diabetes is a major health concern in the UK, and its prevalence is increasing. Diabetes affects all sectors of the community, and can significantly affect the individual and his or her family. Diabetes has the potential to cause the NHS serious capacity problems if not tackled effectively, and mismanagement will lead to a drain on NHS resources.
To address this, the Government published the National Service Framework for Diabetes: Delivery Strategy in January 2003, outlining clinical targets for reducing the impact of diabetes:
- Improving blood glucose control as hyperglycaemia is the major contributor to diabetic complications.
- Reducing cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.
- And, as most type-2 diabetics are overweight, a reduction in weight.
To cure diabetes, therefore, all that is needed is a diabetes diet that keeps blood glucose and insulin under control.
As we will see later, the same diabetes diet, which is recommended on this website will also prevent type-2 diabetes from occurring in the first place. It will also benefit the overweight and obese as well as normalize cholesterol levels.
1. Murray CJL, Lopez AD. The Global Burden of Disease. WHO: Geneva, 1996. See also Table 2.2. Rayner M, Petersen S. European cardiovascular disease statistics. British Heart Foundation: London, 2000.
2. Diabetes Control and Complications Trial Research Group. The Effect of Intensive Treatment of Diabetes on the Development and Progression of Long-Term Complications in Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. New Engl J Med 1993; 329: 977 -986.