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Is there anything I can do to reduce my childrens risk of getting diabetes?

There is presently little that can reliably be done to reduce a person's risk of type 1 diabetes, as discussed in Question 19. However, type 2 diabetes has undergone a dramatic increase in children and adolescents in recent years, and it is clear that this is driven, in the most part, by childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity as well as lack of regular exercise. Therefore, establishment of a healthy pattern of eating in childhood, without excess calorie intake, and encouragement of regular exercise can be the most effective means of preventing the development of diabetes. It is important not only to provide children with these elements, but to ensure that they understand how to make healthy choices for themselves and that they realize the lifelong benefits that maintenance of healthy body weight and regular exercise can bring. In this way, they are more likely to establish and attach importance to a healthy lifestyle in adulthood and thus reduce their likelihood of developing diabetes lifelong.

Are there any natural herbs, minerals, or other remedies that prevent diabetes?

While it would be premature to answer yes to this question, it does appear that certain compounds can favorably impact the blood sugar and may have the potential to delay or prevent diabetes. Those for whom there is at least some evidence include uncooked walnuts, gymnema sylvestre (also known as gurmar booti or gurmar), green tea, and certain compounds of chromium, zinc, and vanadium. While it is not known how most of these compounds work, the metallic compounds may work by facilitating the body's mechanisms

Establishment of a healthy pattern of eating in childhood, without excess calorie intake, and encouragement of regular exercise can be the most effective means of preventing the development of diabetes.

Immunization

The process of inducing immunity, usually through inoculation or vaccination.

for releasing insulin, or responding to insulin. Overall, the effect of most of these items is quite mild, and they may influence the blood sugar by a few points. However, occasional individuals have a fairly dramatic response. In addition, there is a known association between low levels of vitamin D and diabetes. It is possible that this may not result from the lack of vitamin D itself, but from other factors somehow related to low vitamin D levels. Replenishment of vitamin D has not been shown to prevent diabetes long term and it is too early to draw conclusions about this. Some of these compounds are shown in Table 3.

Can type 1 diabetes also be prevented?

At the present time, we do not think that type 1 diabetes can effectively be prevented. Part of the problem is that we do not know the exact environmental triggers), although there is provocative evidence for a number of factors, such as early exposure to cow's milk, certain viral strains, and lack of stimulation of the immune system at an early age by natural exposure to infective agents. The evidence is insufficient to make specific recommendations for avoidance of, or immunization against, specific potential triggering agents. A number of clinical trials of agents that modify the immune system attack on the insulin- producing cells of the pancreas (see Question 2) are under way. In general, these agents cause a number of side effects. Trials are focused on patients with newly diagnosed diabetes, to determine whether very early diabetes can be reversed, before their use in people without symptoms who are at an increased risk of development of the disease can be justified. There is also a significant genetic (hereditary) component of risk for type 1 diabetes (see Question 7) that can presently not be modified. First, therapies based on genetic modification in general are still at a very early stage of development. Second, the exact gene or genes that require modification are not conclusively known.

Table 3 Herbs, Minerals, Etc. That May Help to Prevent Diabetes

Name

Chromium picolinate

Zinc

Walnuts

Bitter melon

Gymnema sylvestre

Tea

Flaxseed

Vitamin D

Several members of my close family have diabetes. Will attempts at prevention still work for me?

Please refer to Question 19 regarding type 1 diabetes. Regarding type 2 diabetes, your success in preventing- diabetes depends upon a combination of how successful you are at attaining the necessary goals and how susceptible your family is. Inherited susceptibility can range from modest to very high. The risk also depends very much on whether both sides of a person's family have a hereditary pattern of diabetes. If both the mother and the father's sides have a high frequency of diabetes, then their offspring will have a marked tendency to develop type 2 diabetes. The general degree of risk is described in Question 7. In spite of the importance of heredity, it is clear than environment and lifestyle play a major role. This is clearly the case because hereditary tendencies to disease change little over the course of a few generations, while environment and lifestyle can change very rapidly. The recent explosive rise in the frequency of type 2 diabetes in most regions of the world clearly implicates the latter as the most important factor. The most readily identifiable lifestyle factors that precipitate type 2 diabetes are weight gain and lack of exercise. Greater than 90% of type 2 diabetes in our society results from one, or usually both, of these factors. Depending on the severity of your inherited risk, a greater or lesser degree of adherence to a lifestyle that avoids overweight or obesity and engages you in regular exercise will effectively prevent you from developing type 2 diabetes.

If both the mother and the fathers sides have a high frequency of diabetes, then their offspring will have a marked tendency to develop type 2 diabetes.

 
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