While we don’t believe in scaring people into submission, the facts around diabetes in South Africa are pretty frightening, and you need to be aware of them. As always, though, there is good news: Using food as medicine can massively reduce the impact and our chances of developing the condition.
Here are the facts you need to know:
1. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease that attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which is needed to turn sugar in our bodies into energy. These cases are largely managed by injecting insulin, and patients are encouraged to lead a clean, healthy lifestyle.
2. Type 2 diabetes is the tsunami that is literally drowning the world and especially our continent. It is caused when insulin does not work properly, causing blood sugar levels to become too high. Type 2 makes up almost 90% of all diabetes cases, and it is largely brought on through unhealthy lifestyle practices such as poor diet, smoking, drinking and not exercising enough.
3. It is the second biggest killer in SA after TB, causing over 5% of all deaths. If diabetes doesn’t kill you, it can result in some other scary medical issues like blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack, amputation and impotence.
4. In 2017 there were 1.8 million reported adult cases of Type 2 diabetes in SA.
5. The scariest thing about Type 2? In Africa, the proportion of undiagnosed diabetes is 69.2% – almost 20% higher than the global average of 50%. This means that up to 70% of Type 2 diabetics in our country do NOT KNOW they have the condition. Thus, regular blood sugar screenings are essential. It is far better to manage the condition and whip it into remission than to not know and have your body deteriorate.
6. Most Type 2’s are over 40, but there has been a significant increase in childhood diabetes as our lifestyles become more Westernised and urbanised.
7. The main causes of this lifestyle condition are poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking and stress, which means it can largely be prevented.
8. Eating a low-sugar diet consisting mainly of plant-based foods can often turn this condition around completely. The less sugar we ingest, the less stress we put on our pancreas, which means there’s less chance that things will go wrong. Simple!
9. The massive cost of treatment of this disease means that changing your diet and lifestyle is the cheapest and easiest way to prevent or treat the condition.
10. One study revealed that “lifestyle modification” reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 58%, as compared to a 31% risk reduction achieved with the anti-diabetes drug metformin. Read more here.
11. Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors, and it has been shown that every kilogram of weight lost can reduce your diabetes risk by up to 16%. That’s worth the effort right?
12. However, just because you’re not overweight doesn’t mean you’re not at risk! If you’re not following a balanced, healthy diet, you’re just as likely to develop the disease.
13. High-calorie diets rich in sugar have become more prevalent as we’ve Westernised and urbanised. With people working longer hours, there is the temptation is to buy fast foods which are nutrient poor, and stress often results in overeating or turning to drinking or drugs as a way to relax.
14. South Africa has the highest level of obesity in sub-Saharan Africa. This shocking statistic encouraged the government to introduce a Sugar Tax to deter people from drinking sugary drinks. Cold drinks can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, so you can understand how regular consumption of these negatively impacts diabetes stats.
The bottom line (as always)?
You are what you eat. Nourish your body with healthy plant-rich, organic foods, and you put yourself at a massive advantage in the lifestyle diseases realm. The rest goes without saying: Exercise, meditate, stop smoking and monitor your alcohol intake.