How To Naturally Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes Type 2

The number of people with diabetes has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. There are now around 422 million people worldwide with the disease, and if the trend carries on by 2045, 1 in 8 adults, that’s approximately 783 million people, will be living with diabetes. Each year, 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes. Plus, it’s a major cause of sight loss and lower limb amputation, as well as increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. While Type 1 Diabetes is considered a genetic and autoimmune condition, Type 2 is largely seen as diet and lifestyle-related. Ninety per cent of all cases are Type 2. However, research consistently shows that improving diet, weight loss, and lifestyle changes can be effective ways to reduce your risk of diabetes.

A Chronic Condition

When we eat sugar and carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose. When they enter the bloodstream, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which keeps blood sugar levels in check. It sweeps out any excess glucose into our cells for storage. When energy is needed, the pancreas sends out another hormone called glucagon and the stored glucose is released. This system has worked effectively for thousands of years but is now coming unstuck because of our modern sugary diet and lack of exercise. Constantly eating sugary foods means cells may struggle to take up all the glucose. The pancreas will release more insulin, and if the cells don’t respond, it will send out even more. The cells can start to become insulin resistant, which means blood sugar will remain dangerously high. This uncontrolled, raised blood sugar can cause serious damage, especially to the nerves and blood vessels.

What Are the Risk Factors

Ageing is a significant risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. It rises significantly when people reach 45 and rises considerably after age 65. There is also a strong genetic link. People are two to six times more likely to get type 2 diabetes if they have a family member with the condition. Scientists have identified several genes contributing to the risk of type 2 diabetes, but diet and lifestyle can play a huge role in whether or not these genes will be expressed or activated.

How Weight Gain Impacts Diabetes

Obesity is considered one of the main contributing factors to type 2 diabetes. Almost two-thirds of the UK adult population is now considered overweight, so inevitably, cases of type 2 diabetes will also be on the increase. In particular, central obesity, which is caused by excess fat around the middle and upper parts of the body, is of particular concern. Studies have found an increased waist circumference is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Research suggests people with a BMI of more than 30 are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those with a BMI of less than 22. So, maintaining a healthy body weight will help reduce your risk of diabetes.

The Downside of a Western Diet

Dietary choices can also have a massive impact. The macronutrient composition of a meal will determine the amount of insulin released. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin release, while fat has a minimal effect, and protein stimulates some insulin but also stimulates glucagon, an antagonist to insulin.

The Western diet now often consists of sugary foods, pasta, cereals, and potatoes, as well as unhealthy fats. It lacks fibre, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Alongside this model, we have seen a steady rise in chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, as well as obesity. It appears the higher the diet is in refined or processed carbohydrates, such as cakes, biscuits, pizzas, and pasta, the worse the level of insulin resistance. Eliminating these foods and replacing them with lots of vegetables, proteins from organic meat, oily fish, tofu, beans and pulses, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds will help reduce your risk of diabetes.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes

Lose Excess Pounds

A clinical trial at Newcastle University has shown weight loss programs can even help reverse type 2 diabetes without medication. Professor Roy Taylor, who led the trial, suggests people with type 2 diabetes have become too heavy for their own body. If they accumulate more fat than they can cope with, it can’t be stored under the skin, so it will go elsewhere, including the liver and pancreas, causing insulin resistance and increased blood sugar. The amount which can be stored under the skin varies from person to person, indicating a ‘personal fat threshold.’ He has found weight loss of around 15kg is necessary for most people.

How Fasting Helps

Intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding can be a great way to reduce insulin levels. It takes around 8-10 hours to use up the glycogen stores, then the body starts to burn fat, and insulin levels start to fall. So, even a 12-hour overnight fast can be a beneficial way to reduce your risk of diabetes.

Get Exercising

Exercise is an effective way to lower insulin resistance and can help reduce your risk of diabetes. Building muscle increases glycogen storage, so more glucose can be taken out of the bloodstream rapidly, avoiding fluctuations in blood sugar and spikes in insulin. When exercising, the body uses stored glycogen, and the metabolic rate increases up to ten times, which can remain elevated for fifteen hours afterwards.

Quit Smoking

Research by the University of Newcastle suggests quitting smoking can reduce your risk of diabetes by as much as 30–40%. Quitting smoking also substantially improves the management of Type 2 diabetes and reduces the risk of complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and blindness. Smoking also delays wound healing and increases the risk of lower limb amputations. 

Manage Stress

Cortisol, the hormone we produce when stressed, directly opposes the action of insulin, leading to raised blood glucose levels. Introducing calming activities like deep breathing can help reverse this and improve insulin sensitivity to reduce your risk of diabetes.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

It is now recognised that sleeping less than seven hours a night is a major contributor to type 2 diabetes. Not only can it cause insulin resistance, but it also increases the hunger hormone ghrelin, leading to poor diet choices, which contributes to high blood sugar and obesity. So aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night to reduce your risk of diabetes. 

Address Nutrient Deficiencies

Deficiencies in Vitamin D, chromium, biotin, thiamine, and vitamin C have all been noted in people with diabetes. Correcting any of these can help reduce one’s risk of diabetes.

Vitamin D receptors are present in pancreatic beta cells, and low levels of the sunshine vitamin are associated with increased insulin resistance. It is hypothesised that seasonal fluctuations in glycemic control in type 2 diabetics may be due to fluctuations in vitamin D levels.

People with type 2 diabetes often have lower circulating levels of biotin. There appears to be an inverse relationship between biotin levels and fasting plasma glucose. In one longitudinal study, diabetic patients treated for 28 days with biotin supplements improved their fasting glucose and insulin levels.

People with diabetes also seem to have lower plasma levels of vitamin C. In a study of 232,007 older adults, vitamin C supplementation was associated with mildly lower rates of type 2 diabetes. People who took 500mg daily had a 9% reduction in prevalence of diabetes.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, but 80% of the population suffers some level of deficiency. It is needed for insulin to act effectively. To enter the cells magnesium requires insulin, so a vicious cycle can occur with low magnesium levels causing insulin resistance, and thus leading to lower magnesium uptake. 

Alpha Lipoic Acid

This powerful antioxidant is found in foods such as spinach, broccoli and red meat and is also produced in smaller amounts in the body. It can help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar uptake into the cells. It may also protect against damage caused by high blood sugar, offering protection for nerves, eyes, heart, kidneys, and pancreas. Studies have also discovered it can help with neuropathy, reducing symptoms like pain, tingling, and prickling in the feet and legs. 

Bergamot

Bergamot is a a citrus fruit native to Southern Italy. Scientists have explored its potential for managing blood glucose levels. A 2019 study of people with Type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia showed supplementing with bergamot resulted in a considerable reduction of fasting plasma glucose serum, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing in the more beneficial HDL cholesterol. 

Curcumin

Curcumin is the compound that gives turmeric its wonderful golden colour. It has a long history of use for diabetics in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Recent scientific research has confirmed that it could play an important role in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its associated disorders, including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and pancreatic damage, and help prevent complications of diabetes. 

To Conclude

With numbers on the rise, it is important to assess your risk and take action to reduce your risk of diabetes. Prioritize nourishing foods, reduce starchy carbohydrates and sugary snacks, get regular exercise, find ways to deal with stress, and ensure you get adequate sleep to support optimal metabolic health and overall well-being.

Precautions: if taking medication, always check with a healthcare provider before starting any supplements

 

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