Diabetes Month Offers Helpful Guidelines Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  10/24/2006 12:14:09 AM

News You Can Use For November 2003

Diabetes is a serious, chronic – lifelong – and incurable disease. Because there is no cure, people with diabetes must learn to manage the disease and take care of themselves properly, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

The November American Diabetes Month campaign by the American Diabetes Association seeks to increase awareness that annual dilated eye exams, routine foot exams and good blood glucose and blood pressure control can prevent serious complications of diabetes.

Almost 17 million Americans have diabetes. Of that number, some 151,000 people under 20 years of age are afflicted. Approximately 200,000 Louisiana adults have diabetes.

People who are more likely to develop diabetes include those who have family members with diabetes, certain ethnic groups and some health conditions, according to ADA studies. The disease is not contagious, however, and can’t be caught from another person.

Reames explains that people with diabetes either can’t make or properly use a hormone called insulin. Insulin enables the body to process the sugar from digested food for energy. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) levels in the blood get very high.

There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the beta cells of the pancreas do not produce any insulin. It accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of diabetes. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin by injection or diabetes pump to stay alive.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t use insulin properly to change sugar into energy. It accounts for 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes. It is increasing in all age groups because of inactivity, poor eating habits and overweight.

Reames says the number of children with type 2 is also increasing. "Poor dietary habits, inactivity and overweight may keep the body from using insulin properly and lead to type 2 diabetes," the LSU AgCenter nutritionist says, adding, "People with type 2 diabetes may take oral medications and/or insulin. Some people may be able to treat type 2 with diet and exercise and no medication."

Although currently there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, Reames asserts that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. Preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes will prevent damage to blood vessels and nerves that causes health problems.

"When children and youth get type 2, there is more time for damage to blood vessels and nerves to occur," Reames says. "Children and young adults with diabetes are more likely to suffer severe and costly complications as they age."

The nutritionist says helping children and teens avoid gaining too much weight by eating nutritious meals and snacks and being more physically active may keep them from developing type 2 diabetes.

But she cautions that children should not be placed on restrictive diets. Instead, health experts recommend that children increase their physical activity and change their eating habits.

Research studies of adults show that a small weight loss of only 5 percent to 10 percent may prevent or delay development of type 2 diabetes and may also decrease or eliminate the need for medications.

As an example, Reames says a person who weighs 180 pounds would be helped by losing only 9 to 18 pounds. "Always check with your doctor to determine if weight loss may be helpful," she advises.

The LSU AgCenter’s Diabetes Education Awareness Recommendations Program provides information on eating healthfully to help control blood glucose levels. The eating plan is based on the food guide pyramid and will also help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

The AgCenter’s Portions Healthy Weight Program provides information on healthful eating, physical activity recommendations and lifestyle habits to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

For information about these programs or about eating healthfully using the Food Guide Pyramid, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish. Also, log on to the Family and Consumer Sciences section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/

On the Internet: American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/homepage.jsp

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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