Diabetes on the Rampage

Nancy Berkoff

America’s growing waistline is not just an aesthetic issue. As we can tell from all the media attention, excess weight from fat can be a causative factor in many health issues, including hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and diabetes. We are beginning to see the effects of being chronically overweight, including in children as young as age ten.

Diabetes has been with mankind for a long time. Egyptian, ancient Greek and Roman medical records describe the disease of “sweet urine,” so-called because people with uncontrolled diabetes may have urine that has a grassy or hay-like aroma. Over the centuries, different diet regimens and the use of medicinal herbs were tried, but not successful, for controlling diabetes.

The link between diabetes and the insulin-producing pancreas was not demonstrated until the late 1890s. In the 1920s, the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company was the first to produce insulin for consumer use.

Type 2 diabetes is often linked to excess weight, which can make controlling the symptoms very difficult. People with Type 2 diabetes may see an elevation in symptoms and may begin to suffer nervous, circulatory, visual, and cardiac problems.

There has been a ten-fold escalation in Type 2 diabetes since 1980, including a 75 % jump in cases involving people under the age of thirty. Depending on the cause, Type 2 diabetes can be either prevented or managed, with an eye to daily calorie intake, amount of fat and sugar in the diet and amount of regular exercise.

“It’s our society,” said Debbie Foulds, a diabetes educator and case manager with the Diabetes and Renal Care Center at the Penrose-St. Francis Health Learning Center,

“We’re super-sizing, eating meals in front of the computer and kids are eating high-fat, high-carbohydrate meals. We’re not exercising but we’re increasing our energy intakes.”

 In the meantime, food scientists are developing products that cater to people with diabetes. People with diabetes have become a very visible part of the population, and manufacturers are scrambling to meet their special needs.

Make a fast tour of a large market or retail store and you will find liquid meal replacements (such as Glucerna), energy bars, candy and cookies, baking mixes and bottled beverages formulated especially for people with diabetes. Select these products with care, remembering that “ real” food is usually a better option.

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