If you or a loved one is concerned about diabetes, did you know that diabetes is actually a group of metabolic diseases or disorders of carbohydrate metabolism?
These disorders impact the ability of the beta cells in the pancreas to make insulin, so sugar (blood glucose) builds up, leading to a whole host of problems in our body that can develop.
Insulin is needed to break down sugars that we eat in foods. It is important for normal glucose levels to stay that way, that is in a healthy range. Low glucose levels impact the ability to think and function normally. High blood sugar values for a period of time can cause damage or diabetic complications to the body.
And we know that over-consumption of starchy and sugary foods and beverages is a big lifestyle contributor to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Sugar, Insulin and Diabetes
One of the main ways that sugar overconsumption is a driver in all of those diseases is because too much sugar causes insulin resistance.
You see, insulin — a hormone produced in the pancreas in response to glucose — is a key that unlocks our cells in order to allow glucose in the bloodstream to enter, be used for energy, and power our metabolism.
Insulin resistance develops, over time, when our bodies get overwhelmed with too much sugar, causing our cells to go into defense mode and to ignore insulin’s unlock “requests,” which spikes our blood sugar levels and leads us down the road to chronic disease.
And insulin resistance can bring on metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, sometimes called Syndrome X, affects 47 million Americans and is marked by elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat and unhealthy levels of either LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or ”bad” cholesterol) or triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome boosts your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
If we don’t do anything to combat it, insulin resistance — along with its partners in crime, obesity, and physical inactivity — often leads to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Pre-diabetes, which affects 84 million Americans, is the stage right before diabetes, when blood sugar levels are almost, but not quite, high enough to “graduate” our insulin resistance to full-blown disease.
In type 2 diabetes — what used to be called adult-onset diabetes and which is also called diabetes mellitus —your cells become resistant to insulin and your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to overcome this resistance.
Instead of being able to go into your cells, where it's needed for energy, sugar builds up in the bloodstream.
If diet and physical activity changes aren’t made, type 2 diabetes can lead to such serious problems as heart and vascular disease; nerve damage (neuropathy); kidney damage; eye damage; slow-healing wounds that lead to amputation, hearing loss, skin infections, sleep apnea, and Alzheimer’s disease.
3 Super-Important Blood Tests
There are three diabetic blood tests you must know about right now.
Fasting blood glucose level, the oral two-hour glucose tolerance test and the HbA1C or A1C are the three key blood tests for determining blood glucose levels. What are they exactly, and how do they work?
1. Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) is a test that checks your fasting blood sugar levels. Fasting means that you have not had anything to eat or drink (except water) for a minimum of 8 hours before the test. The test is typically done the very first thing in the morning, before breakfast.
A normal FPG range is less than 100 md/dL. A pre-diabetic range is between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL. Diabetes is marked by a range of 126 mg/dL or higher.
2. The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (also called the OGTT) is a two-hour test that checks your blood sugar levels before and 2 hours after you drink a super-sweet drink. It indicates how your body processes sugar.
A normal OGTT range is less than 140 mg/dL. Prediabetes is indicated by a range of 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL. Diabetes is diagnosed with a 2-hour blood sugar of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL.
3. Glycated hemoglobin or HbA1c (also called A1c) is a test does not require fasting or drinking anything. It evaluates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The higher your blood sugar levels the more hemoglobin you will have with sugar attached.
A normal A1c range is less than 5.7%. A range of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates pre-diabetes. Diabetes is marked by a range of 6.5% and higher.
Most people who believe they are a candidate for diabetes will use the blood glucose monitor or A1C inexpensive test. Blood glucose monitors, are often needed for routine testing by folks with Type 2 diabetes
But diet is at the core of our metabolic health and diabetic-friendly game plan.
What is a diabetic-friendly diet?
A nutritious diabetic-friendly diet is rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. It is a balanced combination of healthy proteins, fat and carbohydrates with supporting vitamins and minerals.
Healthy diabetic diets recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggest that 15–20 percent of daily food intake should be from healthy, quality proteins, 15-20% should come from healthy fat and 45–60% from carbohydrates (and no added refined sugars). The primary goal of a nutritious diabetic diet is to improve glucose tolerance.
One big way we can get a handle on our glucose is to choose foods that are low in a ranking called the Glycemic Index (GI), a rating system for foods that lets us know how fast the body converts the carbs in a food into glucose.
The smaller the number, the slower the food is converted and the lower the effect on our blood sugar. A good rule of thumb when trying to figure out what foods to choose and what foods to generally lose is to look at their GI: 55 or less is low (great); 56–69 is medium (good); and 70 or higher is high (or bad). A list of low-glycemic foods can be found here.
The combination of using a low-glycemic high-protein diet with exercise allows other lifestyle improvements, a big example of which is weight loss!
If you ever feel overwhelmed by counting carbs or choosing low-glycemic foods, Almased is a low-glycemic high-protein meal replacement shake program that makes it easy. Shakes are low in glycemic index, which makes it diabetic-friendly.
Is diabetes control a winding road? It can be, but is mainly about continual commitment. Maintain daily logs of blood glucose values and A1C values every two months. With diet, physical activity and a low-glycemic diet, you will be able to achieve metabolic mastery of your glucose and your health!