Novem­ber is Di­a­betes Aware­ness Month

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

NOVEM­BER IS Di­a­betes Aware­ness Month. World Di­a­betes Day was on Novem­ber 14. The day was cho­sen to pay trib­ute to Dr Fred­er­ick Bant­ing, the co-dis­cov­erer of in­sulin (in 1921), who was born on Novem­ber 14, 1891.

Di­a­betes mel­li­tus is po­ten­tially an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous, de­bil­i­tat­ing and deadly dis­ease. The most com­mon kind is type 2 di­a­betes. It was for­merly a dis­ease of adult­hood but is now be­ing di­ag­nosed in chil­dren. It is of­ten fa­cil­i­tated by ex­cess body weight and phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity.

In this form of di­a­betes, the body is un­able to make good use of its own in­sulin, the hor­mone that helps to reg­u­late blood glu­cose lev­els. That is called in­sulin re­sis­tance. In re­sponse, the pan­creas in­creases its in­sulin pro­duc­tion but, over time, the pro­duc­tion wanes. When oral med­i­ca­tions pre­scribed to re­duce in­sulin re­sis­tance and oth­ers pre­scribed to ‘en­cour­age’ the pan­creas to pro­duce more in­sulin fail, in­sulin must be given by way of a tiny nee­dle.

Type 1 di­a­betes is far less com­mon. It starts from an early age and oc­curs in per­sons whose pan­creas fails to pro­duce ad­e­quate amounts of in­sulin. Th­ese peo­ple must be given in­sulin sev­eral times each day to sur­vive. The gen­e­sis of type 1 di­a­betes has no re­la­tion­ship to body habi­tus or phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion states that di­a­betes is ris­ing quickly in coun­tries like Ja­maica. The in­creas­ing global preva­lence of type 2 di­a­betes has been blamed on our ‘modern’ life­style. The dis­ease leads to multi-or­gan dam­age (stroke, heart at­tack, blind­ness, kid­ney fail­ure), loss of limbs, poor im­mune func­tion, sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to nu­mer­ous in­fec­tions and even bowel dys­func­tion.

I try to ex­plain di­a­betes to my pa­tients in this way: if Mary and Jane are roughly the same size and age and if Mary has di­a­betes in a very bad way but Jane does not, who has more sugar in their body? Although the sim­plic­ity of the ques­tion makes peo­ple won­der if it’s a trick, just about ev­ery­one thinks that, since Mary is badly di­a­betic, she has more sugar on board. In fact, both Mary and Jane will have the same amount of sugar in their bod­ies, but Mary has her sugar in the wrong place. A lot of her sugar (glu­cose) is stuck in the blood stream and is un­able to get from the blood stream to the in­di­vid­ual cells to pro­vide nour­ish­ment. Sugar (glu­cose) is the main en­ergy source for liv­ing cells.

All starch (car­bo­hy­drates) must be bro­ken down to glu­cose in or­der to be used by the body. Ev­ery­one iden­ti­fies items like ground pro­vi­sions, wheat prod­ucts, rice and fruits of all kinds as starch. How­ever, many peo­ple do not re­alise that veg­eta­bles are starches too. Our bod­ies find it easy to break down most starches to glu­cose and ab­sorb them, but veg­eta­bles pro­vide a chal­lenge since they are dif­fi­cult to work on and we can’t to­tally digest them.


In this 2005 file photo, then Cuban Pres­i­dent Fidel Castro (right) makes a com­ment to then Pres­i­dent of the Bo­li­var­ian Re­pub­lic of Venezuela Hugo Chávez (left), much to the amuse­ment of then Ja­maican Prime Min­is­ter P.J. Pat­ter­son.

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