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Type II Diabetes - nutrition and training

12 October 2013

Type II Diabetes and the effects of nutrition and training

Diabetes and the effects of nutrition and training

Physical exercise is an excellent “means” to reduce the negative effects of diabetes. Besides which, nutrition plays an important role. There has been sufficient research to the effects of just lifestyle on diabetes, with positive results. These confirm that a change in lifestyle, by means of physical activity and a proper dietary program, is opportune for people that suffer from type II diabetes.

As far as training is concerned, you may conclude from scientific literature that it is best to combine strength training with endurance training. See for instance what the ADA (American Diabetes Association) advises, 30 minutes of average to hard intensive endurance training for 5 days a week (or a total of 150 minutes per week). Try to mete this out throughout your week and don’t do it all in one day. Besides, it is recommended to build this up slowly, especially when you are not used to this!

Strength training is also good and is recommended. Moreover, when you get older strength training can prevent muscle loss and so ensures that you can maintain an independent lifestyle as long as possible. It is advised to train large muscle groups 2-3 times a week.

Note: Naturally this is all in the absence of contraindications (discuss these matters with your doctor). Also make sure you decide together with a physician on your best strategies!

As far as nutrition is concerned, there have been ample scientific studies. It is recommended to eat foods with a low GI (Glycaemic index) and a low GL (Glycaemic load). The glycemic index is a method of measuring that deals with how quick the blood sugar levels rise after the intake of carbohydrates. Low GI food is recommended, these are generally high fibre food products that contain a lot of micronutrients. Besides, the intake of food with a low GI causes the blood sugar levels to rise less quickly than food with an average or high GI.

The glycemic load is even more important than the GI, since this also depicts the amount of carbohydrates that is being consumed. The glycaemic load is determined by multiplying the amount of carbs in a meal by the GI (of the respective nutrients in that meal).

In general, fibre rich foods are good. Fibres are not digested and absorbed in the small intestines, but enter the colon where bacterial fermentation takes place. Only then the fibres are dissolved. Extra intake of fibres in a meal will delay the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream and so positively affect the blood sugar levels.

It is also recommended to eat foods that are low in saturated fats. A diet that contains a lot of fat, specifically saturated fats, is associated with a lower insulin sensitivity and hyperinsulinemia (when insulin levels are elevated). But a diet that contains a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids (as replacement of the saturated fatty acids) seems to improve the insulin sensitivity. The outcome of most large observational studies is that saturated fat is ‘positively associated’ with the risk of type II diabetes. On the other hand it seems, based on several studies, that the intake of unsaturated fat leads to a reduced risk of type II diabetes.

Yet another advice: Do not drink large amounts of alcohol. Yet, it seems that 1 or 2 glasses a day might even have a positive influence on countering type II diabetes (depending of course on the type of drink and the size of the glasses).

Always do discuss these aforementioned matters with a physician/dietician first, to decide what is the best intake for you.

Another interesting fact is that people that suffer type 2 diabetes are often also obese. Between 70 and 80% of the people that are diagnosed with diabetes type II are overweight. These people usually get the advice to lose weight and work towards a “healthy” weight. This is absolutely the right way! But also here, we need to point something out; the decision in which weight class a person belongs is often made on basis of the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculation. This BMI calculation is made based on the length and weight of someone. For adults goes: when you have a BMI lower than 18.5 you are considered to be underweight. A value between 18.5 and 25 means you have a healthy weight and with values higher than that you are labelled overweight or even obese.

And even though this method can be used for a lot of people, it is not suitable for all. Let’s take fitness enthusiasts or bodybuilders. When you just consider the weight and length to decide the BMI, the outcome will be that all bodybuilders are overweight, some maybe even seriously obese. This is of course not right, since these people owe their weight to their muscle mass. BMI is therefore not suitable for all and more factors should be taken into consideration (like fat percentage) before conclusions are made and people are put in weight classes on basis of the BMI calculation.

All the methods discussed here are excellent ways to prevent type II diabetes. Make sure you live a healthy life with a well-balanced diet and training schedule. And always discuss these matters with your physician, since he or she has an understanding of your precise situation.


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