November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. We have all heard of diabetes, but how many of us actually know exactly what it is? Over the month we will look at what diabetes is, types of diabetes, some great diabetes friendly recipes and how weight loss surgery, particularly gastric bypass surgery, can help prevent and even cure type 2 diabetes.
Alongside the obesity epidemic, America has been hit by a diabetes epidemic. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the States, with around 24 million Americans living with the condition today. In addition, it is estimated that millions more Americans have undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes (or Diabetes Mellitus) is a term to describe a group of diseases where individuals have high levels of glucose in their blood. This condition develops when the body is unable to produce, or process insulin properly.
Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas. It allows glucose to enter the body’s cells so that it can be used as fuel for the body’s tissues.
Glucose is essential for giving energy for cells to burn so that they can function properly. Glucose comes primarily from food, such as carbohydrates (starchy foods, potatoes, bread), fruit, sugar and sweet foods.
If insulin production or absorption is not right, the body doesn’t use glucose properly. This means that cells aren’t given the fuel for energy essential for their function. In addition, if the glucose is not helped into the cells by insulin (because, the insulin isn’t working properly), the glucose stays in the blood, resulting in high blood glucose levels. This is the case for diabetics.
What Causes Diabetes?
Types 1 and 2 diabetes are both the result of the bodies inability to either produce, or recognize, insulin. Both diseases result in the ability of the body’s cells to allow glucose into the cells and give them power. However, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are two very different diseases. As with all chronic disease, the exact causes remain unknown.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks cells in the pancreas, impairing its ability to produce insulin. It is uncertain what causes type 1 diabetes, although there are several theories, including infection from certain viruses and bacteria and exposure to certain foods and chemicals within food that can trigger the autoimmune response.
If a person has type 2 diabetes, the insulin receptors outside the cells don’t respond to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. As the cells fail to allow glucose into the cells, blood glucose levels rise. This causes the body to produce more insulin to help the cells to absorb the excess glucose in the blood. There are a range of risk factors that make a person more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, including age, physical inactivity, obesity and illness that damages the pancreas, such as pancreatitis. Genetics play a part too; a child of someone with type 2 diabetes has a 33% chance of developing the condition. However, it is unlikely that this is down to genetics alone, but a combination of genetics and shared environmental factors.
What Can You Do?
The best thing that you can do to reduce, or even eliminate, your risk of developing diabetes is lose weight. Whilst eating high levels of sugar does NOT cause diabetes, it can cause you to gain weight, which is a high risk factor for developing the condition.
Weight loss surgery, such as gastric bypass, lap band surgery and gastric sleeve surgery, has been shown to not only cut an individual’s diabetes risks but, in many patients, it reverses the condition itself, leaving a formerly obese, diabetic individual free of diabetes.
If you would like to know more about how weight loss surgery can benefit you, contact us today for a free consultation.