Diabetes: Why your waistline measurement is important

Excess body weight is the strongest risk factor for Type-II diabetes, so two issues play into optimizing your weight: Spend more time “on your feet instead of your seat,” and select the most favorable foods to reduce your body weight and increase your health.

More than 80 percent of people with diabetes are overweight or obese. Deposits of local fat especially those around the waistline can cause insulin resistance at distant sites like the liver, muscle, and elsewhere in the body. The leading hypothesis is that fat cells produce hormones and other chemical messengers called adipokines. Some of these chemical messengers produce a state of inflammation that interferes with the insulin receptors on cells. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and this very low level of long term inflammation throughout the body with no visible signs of redness, swelling, or pain may raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.

So to combat diabetes and other diseases caused by inflammatory responses, we need to increase our activity level and decrease our calorie consumption, especially the unhealthy calories. Research has shown that just boosting exercise by two and a half hours per week by incorporating brisk walking, aerobics, swimming or working with a fitness trainer, and adopting a healthy lower-fat diet; subjects in studies showed the risk of diabetes in even high-risk individuals was cut in half.

Weight loss was the driving force behind the benefit. Exercise of course is a healthy pursuit on its own but when combined with healthy eating, the risk of diabetes dramatically decreased. In the U.S. nurses’ health study which tracked 84,000 women for 14 years, the risk for diabetes was 30 percent higher in those who reported eating the most trans fats. Trans fats are the solid manufactured fats found on commercial baked goods, junk foods and fast foods. The study also found a 25 percent lower risk for diabetes in those who reported eating the most polyunsaturated fats such as found in foods like fish, nuts, olive oils and seeds. These fats are important because polyunsaturated fats likely make membranes more fluid and that reduces insulin resistance for those tissues. Moreover, polyunsaturates reduce inflammation while trans fats increase inflammation. Here’s an easy and inexpensive fix; women who reported eating nuts or peanut butter at least five times a week had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of diabetes; just make sure your peanut butter is a quality product, and not full of sugar like some popular brands are.

The evidence is strong that a diet of refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, and refined grains increase the risk of diabetes while a diet high in low glycemic index load is associated with a much lower risk. Always go for the whole grains and the veggies, and leave the sweet sticky stuff alone. It is not just the fiber part of the carbs that is important, but also the nutrients such as magnesium and chromium, which help regulate blood sugar. Of course, anyone who is serious about avoiding this dreaded disease needs to avoid soft drinks like the plague. Even fruit juice does not have enough fiber in it to be the best choice — better to stick to the unprocessed whole fruit.

Diabetes strikes every part of the body. It is the leading cause of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74. Diabetes is the leading cause of end stage kidney disease. Sixty percent of people with diabetes have nerve damage, which leads to numbness of the feet, or pain in the hand and delayed digestion of food. People with diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, because diabetes causes mini strokes that gradually impair mental function over time. The risk of heart attack or stroke is 2 to 4 times higher in people with diabetes. Finally, diabetes causes more than 60 percent of foot and leg amputations.

The sad part is that Type-II diabetes, the type that is associated with being overweight, is preventable. It is simply a matter of making correct lifestyle choices. You can call me to discuss your options.

• Jane Riley, B.A.,C.P.T., C.N.A., can be reached at janeriley_cpt@yahoo.ca, 808-212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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