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Opinions of Sunday, 15 November 2015

Columnist: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri

Eating away diabetes

The consumption of food is one of the important activities individuals undertake daily for the body’s growth and development.

Healthy eating therefore is a requirement for a healthy body and mind. Nonetheless, not all people are able to make healthy choices when choosing what to eat.

The change in the social lifestyles of many Ghanaians has influenced their choice of food, which is mostly not healthy.

Foods high in unrefined fats and sugar have gradually eaten into what is called the ideal meal for the average Ghanaian.

These, often coupled with little or no exercise, have their ripple effects, obesity and diseases like diabetes being the commonest.

However, the food choices we make can also be of great benefit to our body and mind if the right decisions are made when selecting what to eat for the day. Such healthy food choices even help us to manage health conditions like diabetes to avoid complications.

Also, eating healthy can prevent the onset of type-two diabetes which accounts for 90 per cent of all diabetes cases.

Dr Kaku Kyiamah, an Industrialist, believes in the use of food and change in lifestyle to manage diabetes.

According to him, the body is capable of repairing itself using fatty acids as a major component of the diet.

Explaining this idea further, he said the body will help repair damaged mitochondrial matrices if only foods containing fatty acids are consumed. He mentioned cider vinegar, fermented food items, organic butter, tropical saturated fats, animal fat, olive oil as well as virgin coconut oil as some of the foods found to be effective in managing diabetes.

Dr Kyiamah said diet plays an important role in the onset of diabetes. Therefore, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, maintaining healthy weight, high fibre diet, low fat intake and reduction in carbohydrates should be observed.

“Various supplements, mainly antioxidants, are recommended. The role of antioxidants is to prevent the oxidation of poly unsaturated fatty acids and alcohol. Antioxidants would not be necessary if the body’s preferred fatty acids are used,” he added.

Dr Kyiamah’s view falls in line with the theme of World Diabetes Day which is being celebrated the world over today.

“Healthy Living and Diabetes” has been chosen as the focus for the celebration, with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) emphasising on healthy eating habits as a key factor in the fight against diabetes and a cornerstone of global health and sustainable development.

There are about four million diabetics in Ghana whilst records of the health statistics unit of the Ghana Health Service indicate that from 2005 to 2009, the annual cases of diabetes increased from about 40,000 to about 104,000.

This figure shows the alarming rate at which the disease which can be prevented by healthy eating and testing of blood sugar level is spreading.

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day, celebrated on 14th November every year, has grown from humble beginnings to become a globally-celebrated event to increase awareness on diabetes.

Comprising hundreds of campaigns, activities, screenings, lectures, meetings and more, World Diabetes Day is proving internationally effective in spreading the message about diabetes.

In Ghana the day will be celebrated with a national activity on the theme, ‘Healthy Living with Diabetes’, to raise awareness on the condition.

A Metabolism Disorder

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is classified as a metabolism disorder, which refers to the way the body uses digested food for energy and growth.

Most of what we eat is broken down into glucose- a form of sugar in the blood that is the principal source of fuel for our bodies.

When food is digested, the glucose makes its way into the bloodstream. Our cells use the glucose for energy and growth. However, glucose cannot enter our cells without insulin being present because insulin makes it possible for the cells to take in the glucose.

However a person with diabetes has a condition in which the quantity of glucose in the blood is too elevated (hyperglycemia) either because the body does not produce enough insulin, produces no insulin, or has cells that do not respond properly to the insulin the pancreas produces.

This results in too much glucose building up in the blood. This excess blood glucose eventually passes out of the body in urine. Consequently, even though the blood has plenty of glucose, the cells will not get it for their essential energy and growth requirements.

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes. First is the type-one where the body does not produce insulin.

Some people may refer to this type as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, or early-onset diabetes. People usually develop type-one diabetes before age 40—often in early adulthood or teenage years. Approximately, 10% of all diabetes cases are type-one.

Patients with type-one diabetes will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Another type of diabetes is the type-two where the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, or the cells in the body do not react to insulin. This type of diabetes accounts for 90 per cent of all cases of diabetes worldwide.

Some people may be able to control their type-two diabetes symptoms by losing weight, following a healthy diet, doing a lot of exercise, and monitoring their blood glucose levels.

However, type-two diabetes is typically a progressive disease – it gradually gets worse – and the patient will probably end up have to take insulin, usually in tablet form.

Risk Factors

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), overweight and obese people have a higher risk of developing type-two diabetes compared to those with a healthy body weight.

People with a lot of visceral fat, also known as central obesity, belly fat, or abdominal obesity, are especially at risk.

Being overweight or obese causes the body to release chemicals that can destabilise the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems.

Being overweight, physically inactive and eating the wrong foods all contribute to our risk of developing type-two diabetes.

The risk of developing type-two diabetes is also greater as individuals get older. Experts are not completely sure why, but say that as people put on weight and become less physically active, the risk increases.

Those with a close relative who has type-two diabetes as well as people of Middle Eastern, African, or South Asian descent also have a higher risk of developing the disease.

Preventing Diabetes

A healthy lifestyle could prevent up to 70% of type-two diabetes, while healthy eating could help reduce the risk of developing type-one diabetes.

A healthy diet containing leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, lean meat, unsweetened yogurt and nuts can help reduce a person’s risk of getting type-two diabetes and reduce complications in people with diabetes.

Making decisions like choosing water, unsweetened coffee or tea instead of fruit juice, soda and other sugar sweetened beverages, eating at least three servings of vegetables every day, including green leafy vegetables such as spinach or lettuce, can equally help manage diabetes.

Also, eating up to three servings of fresh fruit every day, choosing nuts, a piece of fresh fruit or unsweetened yogurt for a snack, limiting alcohol intake to a maximum of two standard drinks per day and choosing lean cuts of white meat, poultry or seafood instead of processed meat or red meat can also help.

Choosing peanut butter instead of chocolate spread or jam, choosing whole-grain bread instead of white bread, brown rice instead of white rice, whole grain pasta instead of refined pasta, choosing unsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, or sunflower oil) instead of saturated fats (butter, ghee, animal fat, coconut oil or palm oil) may also help people with diabetes to achieve optimal control.

It is also important to note that encouraging healthy eating habits in young children is key to halting the rise of the diabetes epidemic because by ensuring the health of future generations, we take a step towards ensuring sustainable development.