Why you should probably be worried about sugar and diabetes.
One in three of us is now pre-diabetic (consistently raised blood sugar levels), and we all know Brits eat too much sugar. Julie Lardner reports on why she has completely given up sugar.
Pre-diabetes has been in the health news this summer after research was published in the BMJ revealing a sobering statistic: a third of adults in the UK is likely to have pre-diabetes (raised sugar levels).
With everyone now alert to the nation’s over-consumption of sugar, it’s another reminder to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices. Type 2 diabetes is a debilitating and devastating disease. Yet it is largely preventable.
What happens when you get type 2 diabetes?
To lead healthy lives and for our body to function correctly, it needs to convert the glucose from the foods we eat into energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for this conversion to take place.
When things go wrong, as in type 2 diabetes, glucose is left to roam around in our bloodstream rather than enter our cells to be used as energy. The associated complications of diabetes are so staggering it’s worth a closer look.
Observational studies suggest a link between type 2 diabetes and cognitive impairment, dementia, depression, mobility impairment, disability, falls and urinary incontinence. If it’s not treated, type 2 diabetes can lead to blood vessel damage.
A review of relevant studies found that diabetes was associated with a 47 per cent increase in any dementia, a 39 per cent increase in Alzheimer’s disease and a whopping 138 per cent increase in vascular dementia.
Much of the current research concludes that the leading cause of type 2 diabetes is excessive weight gain and long-term obesity.
You might think, as I once did, that the long-term treatment of diabetes is just about cutting back on cakes and sweets and taking your prescribed medication. But, while it is recommended to minimise sugary foods, no clear link is suggested between sugar consumption and the onset of type 2 diabetes.
However, if this is the case, it poses more important questions we should all be asking. Why are type 2 diabetes and dementia, which appear to be linked, on the rise? Why are medical authorities warning us of the potential of an epidemic?
In the UK, 3.8 million people live with type 2 diabetes, and 35 per cent of the population is pre-diabetic (meaning borderline diabetic). It is fast becoming a national health emergency.
Why did I decide to give up sugar?
Scientific evidence aside, watching my mother suffer the consequences of type 2 diabetes for the last 20 years of her life was enough for me to take stock of my health.
If maintaining a healthy weight was the primary cause of type 2 diabetes, it made perfect sense to quit sugar for good.
Of course, it’s never just one thing or as simple as giving up certain food groups. There is more to avoiding type 2 diabetes than giving up sugar. Regular exercise, cutting back on refined carbs, minimising the consumption of processed foods (laden with sugar) and maintaining your weight within a healthy range are all paramount to prevention.
Regarding type 2 diabetes, adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent your risk by up to 90 per cent.
With all this in mind, if I was going do something worthwhile that my future self would thank me for, attempting to halt the family legacy of type 2 diabetes and vascular dementia was imperative. The sugar had to go.
Attempting to halt the family legacy of type 2 diabetes and vascular dementia was imperative.
I gave up sugar just over two years ago. I had never been a big consumer of the sweet stuff, but there was enough in my diet to cause concern. So, after researching the perils of sugar on my health and well-being, I decided to go cold turkey.
It’s not for everyone, but it seemed the best way for me. I set the date, cleaned out the cupboards and began a new life, sugar-free.
It has become a statement in my life, making it so much easier when faced with the occasional birthday party cake, where the simple act of refusal feels like a sticky situation. It becomes easier when you can say, “No thanks, I don’t eat sugar”, and it feels pretty liberating.
Is it time for you to give up sugar?
My anger over how much sugar is hidden in our foods helped strengthen my resolve and determination.
Unless your diet is entirely unpacked and unpackaged, you will find sugar EVERYWHERE!!
This newfound knowledge led to an all-out boycott of foods with unnecessary sugar. Why was so much sugar being added to packaged food? For what purpose?
Has our taste for sweetness become so commonplace that we don’t even realise how much we’re consuming?
It appears so. It seems we have become desensitised to sugar in our foods.
Like all ground swells, a debate has begun to rage, as it should. Everyone has a point of view, and some say moderation is just fine; others say avoid all sugars, including fruits with high levels of fructose.
Debating this topic is a good thing. It’s the beginning of change, and judging by the statistics on diseases such as obesity, diabetes and dementia, change is necessary.
If you’re considering giving up sugar, take the time and do some research. You may, like me, find that saying no to sugar gives you more than just a trimmer waistline; it may go a long way in lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes and dementia.