Diabetes topic of campus health discussion

Cutting back on TV time can reduce the risk of diabetes, said OCCC nursing student Randall
Cuthbertson in a presentation on campus.

“According to the Mayo Clinic, children who watch television [for] more than 20 hours a week
have much higher risk of diabetes than those who watch TV for 10 hours a week,” he said.

Cuthbertson spoke to a room of about 20 on Oct. 13 during the nursing department’s Brown Bag
Lunch Series in the Health Professions Building.

His topic was diabetes in youth and ways to reduce the risk of getting it.

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar, also called glucose.

Glucose is the brain’s main source of fuel. Diabetes means a person has too much glucose in the blood, which can lead to serious health problems.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are able to produce some of their own insulin, but often, it is not enough.

Certain people are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of genetics, Cuthbertson said. If you have a history of type 2 diabetes in your family, your risk is increased.

African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders also have a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes in children may develop gradually,” Cuthbertson said. “Some children who have type 2 diabetes have no signs or symptoms.”

Often type 2 diabetes is associated with people who are overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle, Cuthbertson said. You can help reduce the risk for diabetes by making several healthy lifestyle changes.

Focus on fruits and veggies, Cuthbertson said. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day may cut your diabetes risk by as much as 22 percent, according to results from a 12-year dietary study of 21,831 children.

“Get moving,” Cuthbertson said. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day can help cut your diabetes risk in half. If you are overweight, dropping a moderate 5 percent to 10 percent of your weight cuts your risk for complications in half.

Cut out sugary drinks, Cuthbertson said. Health data from 43,960 children showed that, compared with their peers, children who drink two or more sweet drinks (soda or fruit juice) a day have a 25 to 30 percent higher risk of diabetes.

What about those artificial sweeteners? Cuthbertson asked. They may not add to the solution.

Recent studies have suggested that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners may, in fact, cause the body to react in the same way as regular sugars by secreting a hormone that tells the body to create more insulin. This increase in insulin, over time, can lead to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance occurs when insulin, normally the “key” to open the body’s cells and allow the glucose to enter, fails to work.

A study conducted this year by Israeli researchers suggests that bacteria in the intestines exposed to artificial sweeteners are altered, resulting in a change in performance of the digestive tract, which leads to weight gain.

“Our findings suggest that [artificial sweeteners] may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic they themselves were intended to fight,” the study concludes.

Cuthbertson suggests using Stevia instead of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or saccharin.

Stevia is a natural sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. Stevia is up to 150 times sweeter than sugar and is non-caloric.

In 2013, there were an estimated 382 million people worldwide with diabetes and an estimated 37 million people in North America alone, Cuthbertson said.

The most severe form of diabetes is type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes.

With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks part of its own pancreas and destroys the insulin-producing cells.

According to the American Diabetes Association, only about 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, Cuthbertson said.

Long-term complications of diabetes will degrade a person’s health and lead to a shorter life, Cuth-bertson said.

These include an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, and skin conditions, as well as an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Nerve damage and poor blood flow to the feet increase the risk of foot complications.

For more information about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org.

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