The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10 percent of the earth’s population have diabetes; 2 million people die each year from this disease. Every day more people are diagnosed with diabetes, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We explore how Ramadan can reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that develops early in life where the immune system damages the pancreas.
- Type 2 diabetes is predominantly due to over consumption of sugar, carbohydrates and processed foods.
Although the two diseases share the same name, they are very different. Type 1 diabetics need to take insulin, usually as an injection. Type 2 diabetics are usually prescribed pills or dietary changes to manage their condition.
According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of diabetics are in fact Type 2, this means that they, like many others, may be eating far too much sugar.
When you eat sugar, your body responds with the hormone insulin, which helps absorb the sugar, thus providing you with energy. Insulin also directs the body to convert any ‘spare’ sugar to fat, which it stores all over your body.
When you eat too much sugar, especially over a long period of time, your body can stop responding as it should. This is called insulin resistance, which frequently leads to Type 2 diabetes. Most diabetes medications focus on the insulin resistance, instead of looking for root causes. Our bodies were simply not designed to consume a lot of sugar and store it in vast amounts as fat!
Why Do We Eat so Much Sugar?
Over 75 percent of processed foods contain added sugar, even when they’re supposed to be savory. It adds shelf-life and increases your appetite. Sugar acts just like a drug in the brain and makes us crave more. The economics of sugar are immense: add more sugar, and people eat more, vastly increasing profit.
Diabetes isn’t the only disease impacted by our sugar-coated diet. Studies show sugar relates to cancer, cardiovascular problems, Alzheimer’s and many more modern ‘lifestyle diseases’.
What Does Sugar Do?
Your body is like an engine. When you eat the correct ‘fuel’ for your body-engine, all is well. Fruit and vegetables contain a little natural sugar, balanced out with fiber and other nutrients. Processed foods, however, have super-concentrated refined sugars, simple carbohydrates and starch with very little fiber to balance out the effects.
When you eat the concentrated sugars in processed foods, they make your body-engine work really hard. The sugar-fuel is so potent the body doesn’t have time to react calmly; it panics and releases lots of insulin to cope. This high dose of insulin increases fat storage and you can rapidly gain weight.
The body-engine is pretty amazing. It can cope with super-charged-sugar fuel, but only occasionally. Just like your car! You can drive really fast, but if you always drove really fast, revving the engine as much as possible and racing around, you would wear the engine out. It is the same for your body.
When you eat more sugar than you need the insulin tells your body to store it as fat. However, the body doesn’t want to store all this fat, it has no choice. Everything you eat has to go somewhere!
Your genetics, combined with your diet, will help determine how much sugar can be safely consumed and stored as fat, before you risk developing diabetes.
What Does Fasting Do?
Imagine racing around in your car, driving really fast, the engine starts to overheat. What would be the first thing you do? Stop! Let the engine rest and cool down. So, what do we need to do for the body? Exactly the same thing; stop and rest!
If you have a diet high in refined sugars or a family history of diabetes, then a period of fasting could help you regain control of your body.
Fasting during Ramadan gives your body a break from the high-sugar ‘grazing’ diet of fast food and snacking, reducing the number of hours spent eating and changing the type of foods eaten. That can have a big impact.
How Does Fasting Help Me?
Numerous health benefits link to fasting. It is also a time of spiritual and physical purification in many religions.
Specifically, Ramadan can help you:
- Reduce Weight — this links to many positive health effects, including reduced diabetes risk. You can lose 8 percent of your weight during the month of Ramadan.
- Reduce Insulin Production — giving the body a well-deserved break, releasing stored fat.
- Improve Cholesterol — 20 percent reduction in ‘bad’ cholesterol and 15 percent increase in ‘good’ cholesterol
- Improve Blood Sugar Control — an improvement equivalent to nearly 12 percent in just one month.
- Increase Insulin Sensitivity — up to 20 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity.
To achieve the observed benefits, the pre-dawn SUHOOR meal should contain limited carbohydrates and focus on proteins and fats to slow digestion and sustain you throughout the day. After breaking the fast at IFTAR with dates and plenty of water, avoid the temptation to binge, as you risk undoing the benefits this period of food modesty offers.
Don’t become the next statistic
Type 2 diabetes is not random; it is not by chance that you develop the disease. For some people years of sugar abuse only becomes apparent in later life, for others the sugary side-effects can start in childhood.
Your health is your responsibility. What you choose to eat has a major impact on your body. Taking the time to rethink your food strategy could prevent you developing one of the many lifestyle diseases killing society. You can defeat diabetes and you can keep your health into old age. What are you going to eat tonight?
Disclaimer: Type 1 and unstable Type 2 diabetics are strongly advised to seek the council of a doctor or diabetes professional before they initiate any dietary change to see if modifications to medications or other precautions are warranted. Type 1 diabetes should not attempt fasting without strict medical supervision.References