Diabetes is a complicated condition and is therefore frequently misunderstood and misrepresented by individuals as well as in the media.
One common area of misrepresentation is blame is directed at people for having diabetes, most notably type 2 diabetes.
Why are people with diabetes blamed for having it?
The main reason people are incorrectly blamed for having diabetes is based on the assumption that type 2 diabetes is brought on by over-eating, ignorance or even gluttony.
Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked with obesity as around 80% of people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, having a BMI in the obese range.
Surely then, this means that those of us with people with type 2 diabetes have eaten ourselves into this condition?
This is a common assumption but one that ignores a number of other important factors. Research indicates that whilst diet is a factor, it is just one out of many that can combine to raise the risk of diabetes.
Our genetics lay the blueprints for how our body develops and operates. Multiple genes are involved in helping to keep blood glucose levels under control and a variation in any of these genes could increase the likelihood of developing diabetes.
One indication of whether you may have an increased genetic risk is if you have close family members with type 2 diabetes.
Genes controlling how and where fat is stored on the body and how well we respond to a multitude of hormones can all play a part, which is one reason why attempting to simplify or stereotype diabetes can so often be misleading.
- Read more about genetic risks of diabetes
Many of us will be all too familiar with the experience of stress. The body’s response to stressful situations is to initiate the freeze, fight or flight response. The body releases a number of hormones to increase alertness, which includes raising blood sugar levels.
If you’re undergoing stress on a persistent basis, it can start to effect your health and your blood glucose levels may begin to rise on a more permanent level in response to the stress your body is under.
- Read more about stress and diabetes
A number of medications have been linked with increased incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Corticosteroids are medications that are regularly prescribed to treat a number of conditions which may pose a serious threat to health but side effects can include weight gain and increased blood glucose levels.
An even more commonly prescribed group of medications that has been linked to higher blood glucose levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes is statins. Whilst the increased risk of diabetes in not as high as in corticosteroids, reviews of studies have shown taking statins can lead to statistically significant increased rates of developing diabetes.
Research indicates that diet is a factor in type 2 diabetes but, as we’ve seen above, is certainly not the only factor. Animal research shows that type 2 diabetes can brought on through dietary means and large human studies also indicate that diet can play a role in increasing the likelihood of developing diabetes.
A lot of media coverage over type 2 diabetes concentrates on fat, carbohydrate and calorie intake. Taking in more calories than your body uses on a regular basis will most likely lead to putting on weight and research indicates that when fat is deposited around organs such as the liver and pancreas, type 2 diabetes is more likely to develop.
Research has shown that excess calorie intake, whether it’s from fat, protein or carbohydrate, will lead to weight gain. You cannot directly see how much fat is being deposited around your organs but a good indicator is if you have a larger than recommended waistline. Fat stored around the organs is often referred to as visceral fat
So is my diet to blame?
Blame is not a word that should be used lightly or without knowledge of people’s individual circumstances.
Statistics show that type 2 diabetes prevalence tends to be notably higher in deprived areas. Diabetes UK notes that people in deprived areas could be as much as 4 times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
There may be a number of reasons for why this may be the case. One factor for consideration is the fact that eating on a tight budget is difficult and can often lead to families having to rely on energy dense foods with otherwise low nutritional value, that is to say the foods are high in calories but low in fibre, vitamins and minerals
Reliance on energy dense foods can lead to sharper swings in blood glucose levels which can then lead to increases in appetite and weight gain.
However, whilst diet may be a contributing factor in some cases, there are a significant number of other factors that can play a part.
- Read more on causes of type 2 diabetes