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What to eat to prevent and control type 2 diabetes

The number of people suffering from this disease has skyrocketed in recent decades. The good news is that, in most cases, it can be controlled with an appropriate lifestyle in which food plays a key role

Qué hay que comer para prevenir y curar la diabetes tipo 2
Maskot (Getty Images)
Juan Revenga

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized, initially, by insulin resistance, and which progresses towards a decrease in insulin secretion. Despite all the scientific advances in its diagnosis and treatment, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus has grown dramatically in the last 60 years. It must be taken into account that this is a non-communicable disease; just like cancer or cardiovascular conditions, it is not contagious. Although there is a certain genetic predisposition in its onset, the truth is that (a poor) lifestyle — no physical activity and an unhealthy diet — can significantly condition its diagnosis.

Diet can make things worse, but it can also make them better

The dietary profile that people with diabetes should follow is simply that which is associated with a healthy eating pattern (even if this is not very specific). When asked how a diabetic person should eat, the answer must be categorical and without the need for further explanations: well. No need to adjust macronutrients. They just need to eat well.

Best of all: this dietary pattern is exactly the same as the one proposed for prevention. You could say that you have to eat like a diabetic to keep diabetes at bay. Let’s just concentrate on following a healthy diet, as made clear by various institutions that focus their work on this condition.

In the end, the diet therapy guides for the different non-communicable diseases — cancer, diabetes, etcetera — are virtually identical in their approaches, and so are the most current healthy eating guides aimed at the general population.

Stir-fried dishes are a quick and tasty option to eat all kinds of vegetables.
Stir-fried dishes are a quick and tasty option to eat all kinds of vegetables.Alfonso D. Martín

Daily life with type 2 diabetes

Patients with type 2 diabetes can do a lot in their day-to-day life. At the risk of being repetitive, it is of utmost importance to follow the recommendations that can improve the prognosis of this disease. Take these tips into consideration:

Legumes and leafy vegetables, a winning combination.
Legumes and leafy vegetables, a winning combination.Miriam García Martínez
Natural yogurt, yes; fruit, too.
Natural yogurt, yes; fruit, too.PXHERE

What if this chronic disease could subside?

Approximately 25 years ago the scientific community felt, as Obi-Wan Kenobi would say, a disturbance in the force: some patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the disease. The first indication that type 2 diabetes was fully reversible came from bariatric surgery. A study revealed that blood glucose levels normalized in obese people with type 2 diabetes who underwent this surgery and that, 10 years later, almost 90% were still free of diabetes. Later it was confirmed that bariatric surgery was not the cause of such “miracle,” although it was the mechanism that led these patients to eat healthier.

Another study, titled Type 2 Diabetes: Etiology and reversibility, found that in some cases, and without surgery of any kind, the same goal could be achieved with fairly strict management of both diet and physical activity. Time and new research seem to confirm this new approach: type 2 diabetes can indeed be reversed in many patients. Furthermore, even if total remission is not achieved, the same approach to diet and physical activity greatly improves the prognosis and quality of life of patients.

Midnight Runners
Exercise (any kind, as often as you can) is also important.Albert Garcia

I don’t know why type 2 diabetes, a chronic and, to some extent, degenerative disease with many comorbidities, which has spread enormously in recent years — and will continue to do so — and at the same time is so predictable, is unknown or ignored by most people and health authorities. How many public campaigns have you seen focused on its prevention?

Things get really serious when some health professionals go so far as to maintain that patients with diabetes can eat whatever they want as long as they have insulin and other drugs. I can’t help but wonder: what is the point of people with diabetes being able to continue eating the same things that made them sick in the first place?

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