Diabetes month is reminder about healthful eating

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  10/29/2009 6:24:49 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 10/29/09

Every November during American Diabetes Month, LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames reminds people healthful eating is important for managing diabetes.

“Diabetes is now an epidemic in the United States, and this year's theme, ‘Stop Diabetes’, seeks to confront, fight and stop diabetes,” Reames says, explaining that nearly 24 million people have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and another 57 million people have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. One out of every three children will face a future with diabetes if current trends continue.

Reames says Type 1 diabetes is a disease that occurs because the body can’t make insulin and sugar levels in blood get too high. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that the body needs to move glucose (sugar) from the blood into body cells to be used for energy.

Type 1 diabetes used to be called “juvenile diabetes” and “insulin-dependent” diabetes. Most cases of Type 1 diabetes develop in youth, but it can develop at any age. Five to 10 percent of all diabetes cases are Type 1.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs because the body either can’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly, causing sugar to build up in the blood. Type 2 diabetes was previously known as “adult-onset” and “non-insulin-dependent diabetes.”

“Type 2 usually begins as insulin resistance in which one’s cells do not use insulin properly, resulting in the pancreas gradually losing its ability to produce insulin,” Reames explains.

From 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases are Type 2. Most cases of Type 2 begin after age 30 or 40, but the number of children and teens with Type 2 is increasing.

The death rate for diabetes has continued to grow since 1987 while the death rates from heart disease, stroke and cancer have declined. Diabetes complications include heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke and amputations. Keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol in control can reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.

Reames notes that the risk for diabetes increases with age, excessive weight gain and inactivity. Diabetes is more common in African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The nutritionist offers several healthful food choices to help manage the disease:

– Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Try picking from the rainbow of colors available to maximize variety. Eat nonstarchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans with meals.

– Choose whole-grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with stir-fry or whole-wheat spaghetti with pasta sauce.

– Include dried beans (like kidney or pinto beans) and lentils in meals.

– Include fish in meals two to three times a week.

– Choose lean meats like cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin" such as pork loin and sirloin.

– Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.

– Choose nonfat dairy products such as skim milk, nonfat yogurt and nonfat cheese.

– Choose water and calorie-free "diet" drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

– Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats, which can be high in saturated and trans fats.

– Remember fats are high in calories. If you're trying to lose weight, watch your portion sizes of added fats.

– Cut back on high calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes and full-fat ice cream.

– Watch portion sizes. Even eating too much of healthful foods can lead to weight gain.

The LSU AgCenter’s Diabetes Education Awareness Recommendations (DEAR) program and Smart Portions Healthy Weight program provide information on healthful eating, physical activity recommendations and lifestyle habits. For information about these programs or about eating healthfully using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid eating guide, contact the LSU AgCenter extension agent in your parish, or visit the AgCenter Web site www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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