Both my mother, grandmother and brother have developed type two diabetes, Is it genetic and is there anything that I can do to prevent me from developing it?
Type two diabetes is believed to be a multi-factorial disease; this means that it is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. It’s possible that people with a family history of the disease are at higher risk of developing because they are likely to share similar environments and dietary patterns.
Research has found that you are at a higher risk of developing type two diabetes if you have any of the following conditions obesity, suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and are physical inactivity.
Type two diabetes occurs when you have too much sugar in your blood. This can happen if a person eats too much sugar or high Glycemic Load foods, or because their insulin isn’t working properly. As soon as your blood sugar goes too high the body pumps insulin into the bloodstream which gets the excess out as fast as possible, converting much of it into fat.
If you don’t make enough insulin, or you are ‘insulin resistant’ your blood sugar (glucose) level stays too high. This is problematic as glucose in large amounts can be toxic. It has the potential to damage arteries, brain cells, kidneys and the eyes. Glucose also feeds infections, chronic inflammation and promotes the formation of blood clots; some 80 % of people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease.
To help lower your risk eating a low Glycemic load diet is helpful. This is because when you eat low Glycemic load food you need to make less insulin to keep your blood sugar level stable, and to naturally improve your sensitivity to insulin so you need less insulin to get the job done. There is a wide range of studies that now concur that a low GL Load diet helps to improve blood sugar balance and makes you less insulin-resistant. These are well summarised in a review article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.(1)
A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine put volunteers onto one of three diets:
1. A conventional low-calorie, low-fat diet,
2. A Mediterranean diet, low glycemic carbohydrates, moderate protein, high in fibre and monounsaturated fats,
3 A high-protein high-fat, low carbohydrate diet, similar to the Atkins diet, but emphasising vegetarian sources of protein rather than meat and dairy products. (2)
The Mediterranean diet was the most effective for diabetes, it significantly lowered glucose levels in diabetics. It stands to reason that this would therefore be helpful as a preventative measure too.
A low Glycemic load diet focuses on eating slow-releasing carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein.
A days eating in the low GL way could be
Breakfast – poached eggs on wholegrain bread with fresh tomatoes and mushrooms
Snack - total 0% fat Greek yogurt and a pear
Lunch – chicken breast with new boiled potatoes in their own skin and salad
Snack - hummus with cucumber and celery
Dinner - salmon, wild rice and green vegetables
1. D S Ludwig, ‘The Glycemic Index’, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002, vol 287 (18), pp 2414–23
2. Shai et al, ‘Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial’, New England Journal of Medicine, 2008, vol 359 (3), pp 229-241