Smoking is another risk factor, and people exposed to second-hand smoke are also likely to develop diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes are at higher risk, as are people with gum disease. Even insomnia increases the likelihood of developing the disease.
Finally, some individuals have an inherited risk for diabetes. For example, more than one-third of subjects in a recent study carry a variant gene that increases their chances of Type 2 diabetes by 45 percent.
Diet for Diabetes
Eating less has been shown to improve glycemic control in people with Type 2 diabetes. Start by cutting down on refined and sugary foods. “A large sugar intake means that huge amounts of rapidly digested and absorbed simple sugar (glucose and fructose) flood the body at intervals,” explains health journalist Frank Murray. This sudden influx of sugar may stress the pancreas in people genetically prone to diabetes, he adds.
In men, caffeine can impair insulin sensitivity. So consider decaf or drink herbal tea.
Based on current research, the best diet is low in calories and saturated or trans fat but high in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and popcorn can help shed belly fat (linked to Type 2 diabetes). Research shows that women who consume plenty of fruit and green, leafy vegetables are less likely to develop diabetes.
“Don’t be nearly so concerned about how much fat you eat as about what fat you eat,” advises Frank Shallenberger, MD. While eating saturated fats has been linked to lower insulin sensitivity, monounsaturated fats are useful, as are omega-3 fats in cold-water fish and flaxseed. “Protein, along with fat, is what your body is made of,” adds Dr. Shallenberger. “Since no single source of protein is totally adequate, make sure you eat a variety of these foods” including “omega-3-rich eggs, fish and shellfish, lamb, grass-fed beef and poultry, and dairy.”
Certain B vitamins support carbohydrate and protein metabolism, while others help lower cholesterol levels, important since heart disease is closely linked to diabetes. Similarly, vitamin C helps normalize imbalances in glucose metabolism, while helping to prevent cardiovascular problems. Low levels of vitamin D may be a significant risk factor for glucose intolerance, find London researchers, as the vitamin helps cells in the pancreas secrete insulin normally. When vitamin E levels are low, the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases almost fourfold.
Some beneficial herbs to consider include garlic, ginseng (but not if you have high blood pressure), and green tea.