Britain is in the grip of a Type 2 diabetes epidemic.
Yet the disease is regarded by many experts as entirely preventable.
With the right diet and lifestyle choices, millions could avoid a deadly condition that raises their risk of heart disease, blindness and amputations.
Crucially, those choices can often be tiny tweaks – rather than wholesale changes that involve turning your daily routine upside down.
“It’s all about setting realistic goals that fit into your current lifestyle,” says Natasha Marsland, senior clinical adviser with the charity Diabetes UK.
“Even little things can make a significant difference.”
So what are the small adjustments you can make that could help to protect you against the scourge of diabetes?
Lose just 5% of your body weight
Fighting off diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean doing an Adele-like slimathon and shedding huge amounts of weight.
In fact, studies show losing just five to 10% of your total body weight can have a dramatic impact on your risk, slashing it by up to 60%.
To put that in context, somebody weighing 15st (95kg) would need to ditch just 10-11lb (4-4.5kg) to significantly reduce their chances of developing the condition.
A recent study, involving more than 7,000 adults at the University of Texas at Houston, US, found small amounts of weight loss helped, although the more patients shed, the greater the benefits.
Researchers said: “If you’re overweight or obese, even losing just a little is better than nothing.
“But the rewards appear to be greater for those who manage to lose more.”
Go for a 10-minute stroll after meals
Going for a 10-minute brisk walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner could be one of the best ways to control blood sugar and potentially slash your risk of diabetes.
A 2016 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand found it was better at keeping glucose readings down than a single daily 30-minute walk.
Scientists tracked 41 adults and found shorter, more frequent strolls after large meals cut blood sugar readings by 12% more than a half-hour walk.
It’s thought getting up and moving straight after food may be better at controlling the spike which usually occurs in blood sugar scores directly after eating.
Other studies show walking up and down stairs for just three minutes after a meal has the same effect.
An apple a day keeps diabetes away
A healthy diet is crucial for preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
But certain foods may have a more potent effect than others.
One study in the British Medical Journal found eating just one apple a day can keep the condition at bay – but only if you eat it whole rather than juiced.
Scientists at Harvard School of Public Health, US, looked at the effects of various fruits.
Apples, grapes and blueberries seemed to have the most benefit.
Volunteers eating at least two servings a week were 23% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those eating them just once a month or less.
But the same study found that drinking fruit juice every day actually increased the diabetes risk by 21%, due to the high natural sugar content.
Turn the TV off after two hours
Slumping in front of the TV for hours on end is known to be bad for health. But how much telly a day is too much?
According to scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health the answer is anything more than about two hours.
After that, the risks for diabetes and heart disease begin to increase sharply.
They tracked thousands of volunteers and found after two hours, the risk of Type 2 diabetes went up by about 20%.
If they sat in front of the TV for four to six hours, it went up even further. Researchers said in a report on their findings: “The message is simple. Cutting back on TV watching significantly reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and premature death.”
Enjoy a daily tipple – but just the one
It might sound like unconventional health advice but enjoying an alcoholic drink each day might actually reduce your risk of Type 2.
Heavy drinking, in excess of government guidelines, is known to be bad for health generally by increasing your calorie intake and the amount of fat you are carrying, making it more likely you could end up with Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
But in moderation – one drink a day – research shows alcohol can actually improve insulin sensitivity. This makes it easier for insulin to “open” the lock on muscle and tissue cells, so that blood sugar can get in and be burned up as fuel.
Insulin needs to work properly to stop diabetes setting in and tests suggest small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis may help it do so – providing it’s in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Numerous studies have linked regular coffee consumption with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
But the latest science suggests the benefits are more likely to be seen with decaffeinated products.
That’s because coffee contains plant chemicals called polyphenols, which are thought to dampen down inflammation inside blood vessels that can lead to complications in Type 2 diabetes.
The beverage also contains minerals like magnesium and chromium – both of which have been linked with lower rates of the disease. Caffeine, on the other hand, has been found to damage the way insulin works in the body – making it less efficient at getting rid of excess glucose and making it more likely that diabetes could set in.
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep deprivation is becoming recognised as one of the major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
Studies show people regularly getting six hours or less a night are at a higher risk than those who enjoy seven or eight hours.
The reason is that sleep loss interferes with the release of insulin – the hormone that keeps diabetes in check – and stimulates the production of stress hormones, like cortisol, which make it even harder for insulin to do its job.
On top of this, insufficient rest increases your appetite and makes you crave carbohydrates and sugary foods.
Scoffing too many of these over a long period of time wreaks havoc with blood sugar levels, making diabetes more likely to develop.
Tuck into a trendy avocado for brekkie
They’re the breakfast choice of hipsters but avocados could potentially be much more than a tasty treat, according to scientists.
Experts at the University of Guelph in Canada recently discovered making them a regular part of your diet could prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
That’s because the fruit contains a compound which, experts believe, can inhibit the cellular processes that lead to the condition.
Tests revealed that avocatin B – a fat molecule found only in avocados – improves the body’s response to insulin, which makes it better able to burn up the glucose circulating in the bloodstream, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes setting in.
Enjoy them in moderation, however, as avocados are high
Do a little bit of weight training
Physical activity is obviously good for warding off diabetes, but could weight training in particular be the key?
One study at Iowa State University , US, found adults on the verge of getting Type 2 diabetes were able to keep it at bay by doing strength-training exercises.
The regime did not mean having to bulk up like an Olympic weightlifter or signing up to an expensive gym. Instead, regular exercises with moderate weights at home could reap the same benefits.
The study found weight training reduced their risk of the illness by 32%, partly because building muscle helps to improve the body’s response to insulin produced by the pancreas.
It also burns up blood sugar, easing the strain on insulin from the pancreas to do the job entirely on its own.
Switch from white rice to brown
British shoppers spend an estimated £400million a year on rice and the vast majority of this goes on the white variety.
But simply switching to brown rice could work wonders for your health.
White rice is classed as a refined carbohydrate with a high glycaemic index. This means it can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels which, over time, increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Brown rice, on the other hand, has a low glycaemic index – which means it is digested more slowly and triggers a smaller and more gentle increase in blood sugar levels.
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry last year found brown rice triggers a reaction which makes the body more effective at using insulin to control glucose levels.
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