Type II diabetes mellitus is a severe endocrine disorder that affects a significant part of the U.S. population. This disorder is closely tied to one’s nutrition; a poor diet contributes to its development, and an individual diagnosed with type II diabetes can manage the disease by carefully monitoring his or her nutritional intake. This topic is of significant personal interest to me as I have a family history of type II diabetes, which makes me predisposed to it. Therefore, I want to learn how to reduce my risk of developing it, as well as gain a better understanding of how to help my family members who might be at risk or already diagnosed.
Type II diabetes is sometimes called an epidemic due to its high prevalence in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019a), over 34 million people in the country have this disorder, with an additional 88 million diagnosed with prediabetes. These numbers account for both type II and type I diabetes, with the former accounting for over 90% of the total cases. Furthermore, “in the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled” (CDC, 2019a). It is ranked as the 7th leading cause of death, responsible for 83,564, or 3% of all deaths in the U.S. in 2017 (Kochanek, et al., 2019a). Increases in sedentary lifestyles, obesity, and unhealthy diets have been identified as causes of type II diabetes, explaining its prevalence in the U.S. (CDC, 2019a; Imamura, et al., 2015; Patterson, et al., 2018). This prevalence, along with its general preventability, makes type II diabetes an important subject to study.
Type II diabetes cannot be cured by conventional medicine; however, it can be managed to alleviate its symptoms. As the disease interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize sugar, standard interventions focus on reducing one’s blood sugar levels (American Diabetes Association [ADA], n. d.). Specific interventions most commonly include insulin injections or oral medications such as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors or DPP-4 inhibitors (ADA, n. d.; CDC, 2019b). However, while these interventions are aimed at reducing one’s blood sugar level, adjustments to one’s diet and increased physical activity are also crucial parts of any treatment plan. These lifestyle changes are also the primary means of diabetes prevention.
Choosing a healthy diet can be an effective means of preventing and managing type II diabetes. Of these, plant-based diets show significant potential, as they can prevent the development of diabetes risk factors. Although these diets are rich in carbohydrates, which are generally avoided in diabetes management, the source of these carbohydrates is important for their effect on the risks of diabetes. Studies demonstrate that diets that are based on minimally-processed vegetable sources had a significantly better effect on these risks than diets with similar carbohydrate contents, but based on animal sources (McMacken & Shah, 2017). Furthermore, a significant source of the excess sugars that lead to or exacerbate existing type II diabetes is processed grains and sweeteners, which are absent in diets based on whole, unprocessed plant-based foods. Such whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diets have been shown to significantly contribute to diabetes management and reductions in related risk factors (Wright, et al., 2017). Therefore, diets based on vegetable sources, choosing a WFPB diet can help someone who is at risk of developing type II diabetes prevent the disease, or manage it if it develops.
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Imamura, F., O’Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. BMJ, h3576. Web.
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McMacken, M., & Shah, S. (2017). A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, 14(5), 342-354. Web.
Patterson, R., McNamara, E., Tainio, M., de Sá, T. H., Smith, A. D., Sharp, S. J., Edwards, P., Woodcock, J., Brage, S., & Wijndaele, K. (2018). Sedentary behaviour and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and incident type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose response meta-analysis. European Journal of Epidemiology, 33(9), 811-829. Web.
Wright, N., Wilson, L., Smith, M., Duncan, B., & McHugh, P. (2017). The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(3), e256-e256. Web.