No one likes feeling guilty, especially when it comes to their eating habits.
But the next time you reach for that candy bar or leftover Halloween candy, consider this not-so-sweet fact: Roughly 35 percent of American adults have prediabetes, a precursor to type II diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another 8.3 percent of Americans have diabetes, according to the CDC, and those numbers are growing at a rapid clip. By 2050, the CDC estimates that one third of Americans will have diabetes, if current trends continue.
“We’re victims of our own success,” Bantle said. “We’ve learned how to produce enormous amounts of food and make it cheap and good tasting. And so we’re saturating our bodies with energy.”
So what can you do to reduce your risk during American Diabetes Month in November?
First, let’s define prediabetes and diabetes risk factors. A person is prediabetic if their fasting blood glucose level—a measure of blood sugar taken after an eight-hour overnight period without food—is 100 to 125. Individuals with a fasting blood glucose level of 126 or above are considered diabetic, Bantle said. Genetics plays a large role in determining if you are at risk for type II diabetes, but lifestyle choices are also important, Bantle said.
Most importantly, people with prediabetes are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and other health problems usually associated with full-blown diabetes. Roughly 15 to 30 percent of those with the condition will also develop type II diabetes within five years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
The Minnesota Department of Health, using CDC numbers, estimates roughly 1.4 million Minnesotans are prediabetic. Many of those Minnesotans do not even know they have the condition, according to the department.
Those that are aware of their risk can take steps to drastically reduce the chance that they will develop type II diabetes, according Carol Brunzell, a diabetes educator with the University of Minnesota.
Brunzell recommends those who are prediabetic follow the recommendations from the Diabetes Prevention Program. Those recommendations include: 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, like walking, losing between 5 and 10 percent of your body weight. Doing so, Brunzell said, can reduce a prediabetic’s risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent. Brunzell also advocates following a heart-healthy, low animal fat diet focusing on whole grains, fruits vegetables, fat-free or low-fat diary, a small amount of nuts or seeds and lean protein sources.
But the most important element to consider when selecting a nutrition plan, Brunzell said, is whether the diet is sustainable over a long period of time.
“There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all for your diet, you have to individualize it, you have to be realistic,” Brunzell said.
Genetic traits play a big role in the development of type II diabetes, Bantle said, but he recommends weight loss as the best way to reduce risk. Bariatric surgery may also be a smart option for those with prediabetes or diabetes and a Body Mass Index of 30 or above.
“It’s something to think about,” Bantle said. “People typically lose 50-100 pounds, and [bariatric surgery] knocks the socks off of diabetes and puts prediabetes in check.”
For more information on diabetes and prediabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website.