Type 2 diabetes was originally seen in individuals over the age of 45. However, it is now becoming very common for people much younger to be diagnosed. This is likely due to the changes in our lifestyle behaviours such as diet and sedentary behaviour.
The pancreas is located behind the stomach. It plays a vital role in regulating our blood sugar levels as it is responsible for the production of insulin. The cells that produce insulin are known as beta cells. Beta cells are located in the islets of langerhans – an area within the pancreas. Beta cells sense when blood glucose levels are rising and produce insulin to combat this and lower them back to a normal range.
Insulin is important as it allows for the transport of glucose from the blood in to cells, like muscle. Essentially, insulin is the key that is needed to unlock the doors to the cells. This then stabilises blood glucose levels.
Why does type 2 diabetes occur?
Type 2 diabetes results when the body becomes resistant to the insulin it produces (insulin becomes ineffective at lowering blood glucose levels) and/ or the pancreas loses the ability to produce an adequate amount of insulin. In the case of insulin resistance, the pancreas will produce greater amounts of insulin than normal in an attempt to lower BGLs – this eventually leads to the beta cells becoming worn out. Once someone is diagnosed with diabetes, they have already lost a significant amount of those insulin producing cells. Type 2 diabetes is therefore an issue with the insulin produced being ineffective and not enough insulin being produced due to loss in functionality of beta cells. The glucose within the blood then builds up as it cannot enter other cells and this causes hyperglycaemia.
Long term hyperglycaemia can lead to further complications and permanent damage to the eyes, nerves, heart and other organs if not managed properly. For this reason, lifestyle intervention is integral to sustaining a good quality of life.
What causes diabetes?
We don’t know exactly what causes Type 2 diabetes but we do know that it can be strongly influenced by lifestyle behaviours such as excess weight, smoking, sedentary behaviour and a high fat/ sugar diet. It is a progressive disease that develops over time. Some individuals who live a healthy lifestyle can still develop type 2 diabetes if they have a genetic link or are from a certain ethnic background.
As diabetes is a progressive disease, most individuals will eventually require oral medication and / or insulin to help manage their blood sugar levels. However, with proper management, the need for medication can be prolonged.
How to help prevent diabetes and live a healthy lifestyle
- Follow a diet that is balanced and uses minimal or no packaged products.
- Avoid added sugars, saturated/ trans fats and sodium.
- Stop eating when you feel satiated – not when you are full.
- Avoid skipping meals or going very long periods without eating.
- Cease smoking.
- Be active.
- Drink water as your main drink and avoid juices, soft drinks, cordials etc.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit alcohol.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about dietary management for Type 2 diabetes and healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!