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WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes is a common disease caused by both hereditary and environmental conditions. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels which cannot be processed effectively or efficiently by the body. Blood glucose levels are controlled by a complex interaction of multiple chemicals and hormones in the body, including the hormone insulin produced by the pancreas. Diabetes is the result of high blood glucose levels due to defects in either insulin secretion or insulin action in the body.

So in preventing and treating diabetes, it is important to control the intake of sugar as well as the production of insulin and its effective action on the blood glucose.

There are different types of diabetes. The first type is due to insufficient production of insulin. The second type is due not to the lack of insulin but the ineffective chemical interaction where insulin processes the blood sugar. The second type also occurs in gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.
Both types of diabetes lead to hyperglycemia that causes excessive urine producation, resulting compensatory thirst and increased fluid intake, blurred vision, weight loss, lethargy and low energy levels.

There is no cure for diabetes but it can be treated and managed through insulin. For the first type of diabetes, insulin is injected to compensate for poor or insufficient production in the body. For the second type, management is through a combination of proper diet, exercise, medications and insulin supplementation. It is very important to monitor and regulate one's intake of foods with sugar.

If the disease goes unmonitored and untreated, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure, retinal damage (that can lead to blindness), nerve and microvascular damage (that can cause erectile dysfunction and poor wound healing).


WHAT IS GLYCEMIC INDEX?

People need carbohydrates in the body through food intake. Glycemic index or GI is the measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a high GI are those that break down rapidly during digestion, releasing glucose at a fast rate into the bloodstream. The body has to cope with the high and fast release of glucose, and produce more insulin. Carbohydrates with a low GI are those that break down slowly during digestion, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream. So the body is not taxed by having to cope with oversupply of glucose. Thus, for most people, it is healthier to eat foods that have a low GI and it is equated with a lower insulin demand.

Below are examples of foods and their glycemic index.

 
Classification GI range Examples
Low GI 55 or less most fruit and vegetables (except potatoes, watermelon), grainy breads, legumes, brown rice
Medium GI 56 - 69 Whole wheat products, orange, sweet potato, table sugar, most white rices
High GI 70 and above corn flakes, baked potato, watermelon, white bread,
In cases of very low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, as well as after intensive exercise, foods with high GI might be more suitable because of the need for fast recovery of blood glucose levels. Otherwise, generally, low to medium GI foods are healthier for daily diets.
 
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