It is estimated that by 2020, diabetes will cost the Canadian healthcare system $16.9 billion a year. Aside from the financial burden of diabetes, it shortens life expectancy and is a contributing factor in the deaths of approximately 41,500 Canadians each year.
The primary prevention strategy for diabetes is to identify the presence of risk factors, and to reduce these risk factors by using appropriate dietary guidelines, healthy lifestyle choices, and nutritional supplements. Although there is a genetic component to developing diabetes, ultimately, it is secondary to dietary, lifestyle, and other environmental factors in determining whether diabetes will develop. Hence the term genetic predisposition basically suggests that something else must occur to initiate the disease process, such as dietary and environmental factors.
Since type 1 diabetes is due to an autoimmune cause, a key prevention strategy is to maintain a healthy immune system. A healthy gut is of prime importance as about 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. This can be achieved through proper early nutrition from breast milk (breast-feeding for at least 6 months) and a delayed introduction of cow’s milk (i.e. infant formula containing cow’s milk proteins.) Avoiding food allergies by following a hypoallergenic food introduction schedule or a gluten-free diet can also help to maintain a healthy gut immune system. Viral infections of the gastrointestinal tract can also affect your immune system (i.e. enteroviruses.) It is also important to reduce nitrate-containing foods (i.e. bacon and smoked/cured meats) since these foods produce free radicals that can be damaging to pancreatic beta-cells. For older children, it is important to eat healthy snacks and drinks. Supplements can also be used for diabetes prevention and management.
Type 2 diabetes has a stronger genetic factor than type 1, but is still significantly affected by diet and environmental factors. Since type 2 diabetes is mainly caused by insulin resistance, and insulin resistance is often associated with abdominal obesity, the onset of type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed through increased physical activity, weight loss and a healthy diet.
At our clinic, we follow all of the above guidelines in helping you prevent diabetes.