Healing the World: Controlling the Prevalence of Diabetes through Improved Food Habits

Today, diabetes is a global epidemic that increasingly spreading throughout the world population at a quite a rapid pace. Statistically, in the clinical frame, from 1980 to 2014, the number of reported diabetes victims has gone up from 108 million to 422 million. Also, currently, it is considered as a leading cause for kidney failure, cardiovascular conditions, lower limb amputations, and stroke and also as the 8th primary cause of most deaths around the world. Here, it is important to identify what are the key modifiable contributing factors for this sudden deviation of human health towards this global crisis of sugar killing the world. Parallel to the increased level of physical inactivity, today’s poor dietary habits play a key role encouraging this epidemic. In fact, the global shift of pre-industrialization healthy forms of food system to modern processed and refined-grain-based food system has been identified as a key component of this unhealthy evolution. Today, the western-industrialized food system has pushed the global community from a healthy way of eating to a diet rich with mostly simple carbohydrates, and saturated and trans fats, where coupled with physical inactivity and other predisposing factors, can lead to diabetes.

In addition to increasing level of physical activity, importantly, minimizing processed foods, replacing simple carbohydrates-rich diet with complex carbohydrates and fibers would alleviate risk of developing diabetes. To begin, there are two types of diabetes, type1 and type 2, from which type 1 occurs due to an autoimmune response of the body where the beta cells in pancreas that produce insulin, which regulates blood glucose levels, are destroyed by own body and the type 2, which is the most common and focused herein, is due to either the decreased production of insulin or poor sensitivity of the cells’ insulin receptors that required to use insulin. Presently, the connection of poor dietary and lifestyle habits to the prevalence of diabetes is clearly identified by a clinical study conducted by focusing the Pima indigenous group of North America who possesses the highest recorded rate of type 2 diabetes prevalence within a single group. To start, colonialization destroyed and disrupted the healthy traditional food system of the Pima and Tohono O’odham Indians of southern Arizona by taking their lands and preventing access to resources as river/water necessary to continue their agriculture. Prior, they had built their diet around grown beans, cholla buds and wild meats. Then, they were enforced by their imposed poverty to start depending on refined flours and processed foods that the western colonizers provided them. Also, the community also moved from an physically active lifestyle to a sedentary one due to becoming workless without agriculture and traditional food gathering system. Consequently, this led the community to develop diabetes at a significantly a higher rate which continued throughout time. In a nutshell, simple carbohydrates as refined grains are rapidly broken down to simple sugars that create an instantaneous high concentration of blood glucose level which requires a quick and an increased release of regulatory hormones from the pancreas. Eventually, this prolonged over use of the pancreas can lead to inefficient production of insulin and other cellular-changes that wound lead to type 2 diabetes. Also, it has been found that unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats that found in processed foods also increase the risk of developing diabetes. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates as whole grain products which are also rich with dietary fibers act totally opposite. Complex carbohydrates plus the fibers in them cause gastric emptying relatives much slower and are broken down to simple sugars at a gentle pace that would not place a strain upon the pancreas. Also, it has been identified that, a diet that is high with complex carbohydrates will reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in both populations who are genetically prone and not to have diabetes. Furthermore, complex carbohydrates are also known to promote weight loss and control obesity which are also risk factors for diabetes. Back to the research, today, however, Pima population in Mexico has adapted a much healthier lifestyle and a food culture when compared to the Pima population in America who continues to live a much sedentary life and with poor food habits as mostly depending on processed foods. The Pima in Mexico grows and produces their own food and maintains an active lifestyle by engaging in more physical activities. Here, when compared these two groups who have almost identical genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, statistics reveals that there is a significant lowering of prevalence to diabetes in the Pima group from Mexico who relatively has a healthy eating and physical activity level which convinces that modifying diet and lifestyle is an effective solution to control this epidemic. Clearly, it is important to identify what are barriers and ways to break them to promote healthy eating habits in a global perspective.

Certainly, socioeconomic status is playing a significant role in determining ones’ food behavior. In fact, it plays different roles in multiple dimensions depending on specificity of each group or the community. For example, in most of the cases, communities with lower socioeconomic means they are either unable to afford quality foods or/and they do not have access to them, locally. But, in some financially deprived communities as in rural areas might have less prevalence to diabetes due to their increased physical activity level opposed to increased rates of diabetes in population with high income living in cities due to obesity related to urban sedentary lifestyle. Herein, the governments’ or the regulatory bodies’ should focus on identifying the groups in need and provide necessary financial and similar support to develop access to healthy foods to them. Then, lack of knowledge about nutritional facts related to prevention and control of diabetes is also another barrier. Therefore, it is important to deploy effective awareness campaigns on prevention of diabetes and developing effective health promotion through local health care professionals as dietitians and public health nurses. Also, people should be taught about advantageous of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load in determining which foods are suitable to lower the risk of developing diabetes. To explain, glycemic index is how fast is the respective food will elevate the blood sugar level. It is valued between 0 to 100 and food with low value means that it will lower the risk of developing diabetes. However, food choices should be made in related glycemic load which is calculated taking both quantity and GI to consideration. Here, glycemic load below 10 is considered a low and safe level and 20 or above is a high. In addition, mega companies who sell unhealthy food products have developed creative marketing strategies to target children in order to sell their products. For example, how Mc Donald use toys as gift to encourage children to direct parents to by Happy Meals. So, governments should take necessary measures to control how these companies conduct children-focused marketing as mentioned manner.

In conclusion, the global diabetes epidemic that is at acceleration can be slowed down or may be reversed if we as a global community can work towards in adapting healthy eating and active life style. In this process, governments can play a significant role in developing health and consumer regulations that favors the encouragement and enforcement of healthy food habits within their communities.

References

California News Reel. (2008). Unnatural Causes : Bad Sugar, Presented by the National Minority Consortia.

Calvert, S.L. (2008)., Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing. The Future of Children, 18, 205-234.

De Munter JS, Hu FB, Spiegelman D, Franz M, van Dam RM. Whole Grain, Bran,and germ Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: a Prospective Cohort Study and Systematic Review. PLoS Med. 2007; 4:e261.

Glycemic Index. Harvard T.H Chan: School of Public Health.http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and conditions/ glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_ for_100_foods

Mattei, J., Malik, V., Wedick, N. M., Hu, F. B., Spiegelman, D., Willett, W. C., & Campos, H. (2015). Reducing the global burden of type 2 diabetes by improving the quality of staple foods: The Global Nutrition and Epidemiologic Transition Initiative. Globalization & Health, 11(1), 1-20.d.Globalization & Health, 11(1), 1-20.

Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes. Harvard T.H Chan: School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story/#references

WHO, Global Report on Diabetes 2016. http://www.who.int/diabetes/global-report/en/

 

 

 

 

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