I received a number of unexpected and interesting comments after my article was published here last week entitled, “The Key to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes.” Some of the comments suggested a naivety on my part whereas others simply exposed a lack of knowledge in regard to type 2 diabetes.
Perhaps the comments that surprised me the most were those suggesting that diabetes had not been cured or would not be cured, because there was too much money to be made from the disease. The comments inferred that the pharmaceutical companies, blood glucose strip manufacturers and doctors all have too much to gain financially for type 2 diabetes to be cured. Granted, all of the above would stand to lose millions of dollars if type 2 diabetes was cured, I do not believe for one minute that every effort to cure and/or eradicate diabetes is not being made.
I certainly hope there are not many people that truly believe diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s still exist because health related companies make more money treating the illness versus curing it. How sad that would be.
A number of people indicated that it is all genetics driven, that type 2 diabetes is a disorder that we inherit from our parents, lessening our own responsibility for developing the disease. The tendency to develop type 2 diabetes can be passed from one generation to another. This does not mean, however, that if your mom or dad has type 2 diabetes that it is pretty much a certainty that you are going to develop type 2 diabetes, particularly if your lifestyle is different. It works more like this.
If your mom and dad were lean, fit and trim, and this was a result of them eating healthfully and exercising very regularly, then their risk of developing type 2 diabetes would be low. If as their child you learned their same habits and were fit and trim and active, and stayed that way through adulthood, then your risk of getting type 2 diabetes would be low as well.
On the other hand, if both parents, or even one, tended to over eat and led a more sedentary lifestyle, then they would be at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, as would you, if your lifestyle was that of your parents. We often grow up and adopt the same type of lifestyle as our parents or those we have been around. This as you can imagine can be good or bad. Our parents can set a good example or a poor example.
So basically, if your mom or dad, let’s say, is at risk for type 2 diabetes because of lifestyle issues and eventually develops type 2 diabetes, then if you were their child you would now be at risk. But, if your lifestyle was significantly more healthy than the parent that developed diabetes, then you very likely would never become diabetic. Unfortunately, in my estimation, too many people are under the misconception that if their parents, sister, or brother has diabetes that if they end up with the illness that it was inevitable; it’s not. You have a lot of control over your future whether you have a family history or not.
Yes, as I said in my previous article, type 2 diabetes is highly preventable, if you know what steps to take to prevent it. Too many times, due to a lack of knowledge, etc. children of a parent with type 2 diabetes end up with the same illness. I like to always tell my patients that if they do not want their kids to develop type 2 diabetes, to encourage the kids to be as physically active as possible and to make sure that they maintain a normal bodyweight. If they do this, their kids may never develop the illness.
I do want to point out that it is entirely possible to develop type 2 diabetes when fit and trim. We do not see this happen too often but it can. These cases can be a bit more tricky to figure out. In some of these cases we are looking at a late onset type 1, but that’s another story, for another time.
One last concept I would like to clear up is that once you have type 2 diabetes you will likely always have diabetes. (This is something that people often have a hard time understanding, that I explain in very simple terms in my book.) To the best of our knowledge, in spite of what some might have you believe, type 2 diabetes cannot at this time be cured. It is certainly possible though, that with lifestyle modifications and weight loss, blood sugar levels may return to normal, in some cases due to reduced needs for insulin.
You see, by losing excess weight, eating less carbohydrates and sugar, and becoming more physically active, you require less insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels, which is good since with type 2 diabetes you can no longer make as much insulin as someone that does not have diabetes (and never will be able to again). Under these conditions (and this is the key) the reduced amount of insulin that can still be made by the pancreas may be enough to keep blood sugar levels normal, but the diabetes is still present and as soon as the person becomes careless and starts to put weight back on, or eats too many sweets and becomes less active again, blood sugar levels will climb right back up to abnormal levels. This is because increasing needs for insulin due to weight gain, eating too much, etc. cannot be met by the pancreas.
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