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Diabetes: The importance of nutrition and physical activity in treatment and prevention

Published: November 18, 2022

Brisk walking can help stabilise blood glucose levels
Brisk walking can help stabilise blood glucose levels

Diabetes mellitus occurs when your body cannot effectively metabolise glucose.

This results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) which prevails over time and adversely affects many metabolic processes in your body.
There are two forms of diabetes mellitus:

  • Type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)
  • Type 2 or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) which accounts for about 90% of all diagnoses of diabetes mellitus.

Either form of diabetes mellitus poses a serious threat to your health, can increase the risk for other diseases, and may be fatal if left untreated.

Type 1 diabetes, once referred to as juvenile diabetes, usually develops in childhood and early adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes) usually develops in people over 40 as part of the aging process and loss of function of insulin producing cells.
Between 80-90% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight and type 2 diabetes is also diagnosed in overweight children.
It appears that overweight people may require more insulin to maintain blood glucose levels.
Drug therapy is an important factor in the treatment of either form of diabetes.
However, it is also recognised that regular physical activity and exercise, as well as paying attention to your nutrition can improve blood-glucose control.
This can reduce the risk of the negative health consequences commonly associated with diabetes mellitus.
Glucose metabolism
Glucose is a primary source of energy for all body cells and is obtained through the consumption of foods which contain carbohydrate.
During the digestive process carbohydrate is broken down into glucose, fructose and galactose. These monosaccharides are absorbed into your body where they are further metabolised.
A key factor in glucose metabolism is the hormone insulin, a peptide hormone.
Insulin is synthesised in the beta-cells of your pancreas and which facilitates the uptake of glucose from you blood into cells.
Cells use glucose as a source of energy and some cells, such as liver and skeletal muscle cells, have the ability to store glucose.
Not all cells in your body require insulin to facilitate the uptake of glucose.
Under normal conditions your beta-cells constantly synthesise and release low levels of insulin into your blood stream.
This enables the uptake of glucose into your skeletal and fat cells, and maintains relatively stable blood-glucose levels.
Insulin acts as a signal to glucose transporter proteins within your skeletal muscle...link to the full article to learn more.


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Centre for Science in the Public Interest. Nutrition Action News Letter (09/2013, May 2013, November 2011, October 2013, June 2009, July 2012, January 2011, December 2007, September 2010, April 2011, January 2010, June 2011, December 2012, May 2012, April 2014
Franz, M.J. (2000). Medical Nutrition Therapy for Diabetes Mellitus and Hypoglycaemia of Non-diabetic origin. In K. Mann & S. Escott-Stump (Eds.) Krause's Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy (2000) .pp. 792 - 837