During digestion, the body releases a number of hormones and chemicals to deal with the food. Everything that is eaten is converted to blood glucose and then burned immediately for energy, converted to glycogen and stored in the muscles to be burned later or converted to fat for longer term storage in the body. One of the major components of the digestive process is the release of insulin, which decides how much of the food is burned and how much is stored. The higher the level of blood sugar in the body, the more insulin is released and the more that fat storage will occur. In diabetes, the pancreas does not release enough insulin and the body is not as able to deal with the blood sugar.
Diagnosis of diabetes is done by a simple blood test; however, there is another blood test that may suggest its possibility. The A1C test, recommended by the American Diabetes Association, measures how well blood glucose has been controlled in the previous three months and can define a person who is at high risk of developing diabetes (pre-diabetic) as well as those who are actually diabetic. Testing should be done starting at age 45 for the average adult but should be done sooner for those who are deemed at high risk for developing the disease. The risk factors for diabetes include those who are more than 20% over their ideal weight, those who have hypertension, high cholesterol or a family history of diabetes, being a member of certain ethic groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans and women who have had gestational diabetes or have had a baby that weighed more than nine pounds (Source: Ammer, 2005).
Diabetes can lead to several additional diseases and conditions as well as making other conditions more serious and difficult to manage. Diabetes can cause vision problems up to and including blindness and is one of the leading reasons for amputation in the United States. It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and plays a major role in kidney disease.
There are three types of diabetes: Type I or juvenile diabetes, usually detected in childhood and affecting about 10% of all diabetics (Source: Ammer, 2005), Type II diabetes, which was once thought to be a disease only seen in adults but is now being seen in children and young teens. 90% of the people with Type II diabetes are obese. The third type of diabetes is gestational pregnancy diabetes, which typically disappears after the baby’s delivery, however, this is not always the case. It is believed that gestational diabetes is more serious than just another symptom or extension of pregnancy and that is a development of a disease that is already in place.
Because diabetes is so prevalent and has the potential for so many serious consequences, it is important that the warning signs be heeded and testing completed. An estimated 14 million Americans have diabetes and it is the third leading cause of death in this country (Source: MacLean 1993).
The warning signs of diabetes:
– Increased thirst
– Frequent urination, especially at night
– Constant hunger
– Blurred vision
– Unusual fatigue
– Sores that do not heal
– Unexplained weight loss
– Menstrual irregularity and chronic yeast infections
Because most people who already have or are at an increased risk of developing diabetes are obese, it is important that a balanced diet be adopted to help them reduce body fat. In many cases, diabetes can be controlled through diet alone, however, many will need medications and many others will eventually need to have insulin injections. (Some may have insulin pumps inserted in their abdomen instead of doing injections). Even a small reduction in weight can change the amount of medication that is needed for the average person. Because diabetes is often linked to heart disease, the American Heart Association heart healthy diet or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is often suggested. The DASH diet plan includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products but limited amounts of red meats and sugars. Sodium is limited with this diet as well.
Every diet should include the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Diabetics, as well as people who have heart or kidney disease, should not get excessive protein in their diets, with the American Heart Association suggesting 35% as the upper limit. The diet should be 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fats, however, for better weight loss the numbers for protein and fat should be changed slightly, making it 35% protein and only 15% fat (Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). This slightly increased protein amount is still within the safe range set by the AHA but allows for higher satiety scores. It does not affect the hunger hormones ghrelin or leptin at this level.
Protein is vital to every part of the body and plays a role in every cell and function. In a reduced-calorie diet, it might be necessary to supplement protein and other nutrients for optimal functioning, but diabetics must be careful to choose the right supplement for them. The doctor that is helping to manage your disease will have suggestions, however, there are two that might be worth investigating as well: whey protein and a liquid protein supplement called Profect.
Whey protein has a number of benefits related to blood sugar and blood sugar regulation. First, it helps to maintain an even blood sugar level after a meal and helps to promote healthy insulin secretion. It also helps insulin to work better as well. Whey protein is the highest natural food source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are important to weight loss. A BCAA is unique in that it is metabolized straight to muscle tissue rather than being converted first to glycogen and then back to glucose for energy. The muscles will burn these amino acids first during intense exercise or resistance training. Whey is also a good source of the amino acid leucine, which promotes muscle growth. Muscles burn more energy simply because they need more energy – the more muscle that you have, the more energy you will burn to maintain it. Whey also suppresses the appetite by stimulating the release of CCK and GLP-1. Whey is not appropriate for those who are lactose intolerant.
Profect also stabilizes blood sugar after a meal, making it a perfect between-meal snack. It can also be consumed before a meal so that the blood glucose level remains stable and there is less fat storage. It is only 100 calories and has zero carbohydrates and zero fats but a full 25 grams of highly digestible protein per serving. Each serving is less than three fluid ounces in size and can be consumed in seconds. Profect supplies all of the day’s vitamin C as well as half of the day’s B complex vitamins. Flavors of Profect include Blue Raspberry, Grapefruit-Mango, Fresh Citrus Berry and Cool Melon Splash.