Diabetes Explained


Diabetes is infact a silent pandemic that has already spread across the globe. The prevalence of this disease is so high even in low income countries – blame the low quality food, lack of knowledge and sedentary lifestyle.

What is Diabetes? How does diabetes work?

Diabetes is our body’s inability to manage and properly metabolise carbohydrates. Carbohydrates seen in rice, wheat, cereales, sweets etc are released to the bloodstream as glucose. Our blood should maintain this glucose within a certain level – i.e between 70 mg/dl to 120 mg /dl.

The hormone glucagon secreted by the alpha cells of pancreas monitors the lower limit and makes sure that the blood glucose does not fall below 70 mg/dl. Similarly, the hormone insulin secreted by the beta cells of Pancreas makes sure that the level does not go above 120 mg/dl

In diabetes, also known as hyperglycemia, the blood glucose levels are consistently above 120 mg/dl.

What causes diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes – Type 1 & Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is caused when the beta cells of the body lose its ability to produce insulin. This usually happens because of autoimmune disorders and a series of tests including fasting sugar levels, hba1c, GAD antibodies etc are commonly checked to confirm Type 1. This is more common among youngsters and typically happens in the age or 12 – 20 years. External Insulin injections are required in Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes, or T2DM (Type 2 diabetes Mellitus) is caused due to insulin resistance. This means, the beta cells in the pancreas are still producing insulin. However, the body cells are turning resistant to insulin and hence are unable to bring the blood glucose levels down. This happens because of a bad lifestyle which is improper nutrition often high in carbohydrates, low physical activity, lack of proper rest, sleep deprivation and high stress..and most often a combination of all these factors.

Which diabetes is caused by obesity?

Based on the above explanation, it is very clear that obesity has a direct link to Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) 

How does diabetes affect the pancreas?

Type 2 diabetes mellitus, which starts with insulin resistance of the body, when left uncontrolled can lead to a series of conditions. With an insulin resistant body, the blood glucose levels are always elevated! The pancreas senses the high blood glucose levels and as a response produces more and more insulin.

The beta cells become overworked and over a period of time gets tired, worn out and dies! This is how type 2 diabetes that starts as insulin resistance often progresses to type 1 diabetes. And once this happens, the person has to rely on insulin injection for the entire life.

Can diabetes be reversed?

Diabetes reversal is a controversial topic. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder and managing diabetes is definitely possible with lifestyle changes that involves proper diet, exercise and rest. The insulin resistance of the body can surely be reduced to a great extent by improving the body composition. I.e by reducing the body fat percentage and improving the lean muscle mass,

This will improve the metabolic parameters of the body, reducing the body’s resistance to inulin, thereby improving the body’s ability to manage glucose. Type 2 diabetes can thus be managed to a great extent and even nearly reversed. However, how far can T2DM be reversed depends on many factors such as – age, how chronic the diabetes is, how much have you abused your body in the past and even genetic and hereditary aspects.

Why is diabetes dangerous? Will diabetes kill?

Our clients often are clueless and ask us – “When diabetes (blood sugar level) is high, what happens!?

Diabetes is a silent killer. It is known as a silent killer because the onset of hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) does not cause any immediate trouble, pain or challenges. In many cases people do not even realise their body turning insulin resistant (type 2 diabetes), until they do a routine blood check up.

High blood sugar levels have a devastating impact on many organs and many bodily functions. It affects almost every organ from eyes, to the feet! The most common associated problem with chronic diabetes over a long duration is diabetic nephropathy and diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetic nephropathy is when high blood glucose levels affect the kidney. Kidney, which is actually a filtering apparatus that filters waste materials from the blood, gets affected as the filter (glomerulus) gets damaged slowly. As the kidney gets damaged, the fluid balance in the body goes for a toss, leading to fluid build up in legs known as edema. The blood pressure also may increase because of the improper fluid balance, which in turn affects many other organs including heart!

Diabetic neuropathy is when the nerves get damaged. Most people who complain of a numbness, burning or tingling sensation on hands, fingers, feet, legs etc, who are also diabetic for a long time most probably are at the onset of Diabetic Neuropathy. This is when the nerves that conduct signals and hence gives you the feeling of sensations get damaged because of the high glucose levels in the blood. 

This is commonly seen in the nerves around hands and feet. But this nerve damage can happen anywhere in the body including heart, sex organs etc.

Why is diabetes common in India?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, India ranks pretty high in the diabetic prevalence. Nearly 60 – 70 million is the expected diabetic population in India, according to various reports. This high prevalence of diabetes is owing to many factors, but primarily – Genetic and Socio-cultural.

Most of the Indian meals are largely carbohydrates oriented and are often low in protein because of social, cultural or religious reasons. This coupled with rapid urbanisation and sedentary lifestyle has contributed to increased instances of diabetes.

Further, Indians are found to be comparatively more insulin resistant than Caucasians or other races of similar age, and BMI (References – 1, 2 & 3). There are genetic factors also that make Indians more predisposed to diabetes.

Is Diabetes Genetic?

Yet another common question that our clients ask us – “Is / Are diabetes genetic?” OR “What  / Which diabetes is genetic?”

What kind of genes do you inherit from your parents definitely is a predictor of diabetes occurrence in future. However, it is also noteworthy that genetic factors alone do not determine if a person will be diabetic or not in the future. It is a complex combination of many factors – both genetic (hereditary, genes) and environmental (diet, lifestyle, physical activity levels) that predicts the possibility of uncontrolled blood sugar levels in the future

In short, even if your parents are diabetic, it is quite possible that you do not become diabetic if you lead a healthy lifestyle with well balanced nutrition and physical activities and exercises

Walking for diabetes

  • Is walking good for diabetes?  – Very much! Any activity for that matter, is great.
  • Is walking enough for diabetes – Nope! It is not!

Please do not get us wrong here; walking is great. We do not mean to say walking is pointless; it is definitely a great activity especially for elderely. However, walking alone is not going to make much of a difference in improving your insulin sensitivity. Walking is a light cardio vascular activity. If you brisk walk for 30 -40 mins, you are burning calories nearly worth –  twice the body weight in kilograms.

For example, a person weighing 75 kg will burn nearly 150 calories if he or she brisk walks for 30 – 40 mins. And to put that number in perspective, 1 home made dosa will be 100 – 120 calories!

Remember, our ancestors used to perform a lot of lifting, pulling and pushing weights etc as part of routine household work.  Lifting load, water pot, taking water from a well etc. are all activities involving muscles and they fall under the classification of resistance training exercises. Exercises using any kind of weights, including dumbbells is resistance training and has a direct impact on the lean muscle mass of our body 

As you improve the muscle mass, the metabolic parameters will improve.. And so will the insulin sensitivity. After all, remember – diabetes is a metabolic syndrome! 

How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes is treated by an endocrinologist through various types of drugs which does one or more of the functions like –  reducing the glucose absorption from food, increasing the insulin production by pancreas, removal of glucose through urine, reducing the conversion of glycogen to glucose, improving insulin sensitivity etc.

Read about them in our blog article – https://www.nuvovivo.com/blog/diabetes-medications-explained/

The most important thing to note is that, while these drugs will help you control the blood sugar levels, the long term solution to diabetes is a changed lifestyle ONLY – i,e calorie balanced diet, exercises and adequate rest and sleep!

About NuvoVivo –

NuvoVivo is an online health and fitness company and we help our clients anywhere in the world become healthy through our 3-month diet and exercise programs. We help them lose body fat, pack some muscles and manage lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, cholesterol, thyroid, pcod, fatty liver, uric, hypertension etc!

References – 

  1. Immunoreactive insulin responses to a glucose load in Asian Indian and Europeans –  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3519338/
  2. Insulin Resistance & obesity among asian Indians –  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15105039/
  3. Upper body obesity & insulin resistance among Indians – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12894199_Relationship_of_generalized_and_upper_body_obesity_to_insulin_resistance_in_Asian_Indian_men

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