Approximately 3 million people in the UK suffer diabetes. Only 15% have Type 1 – a life-long condition that requires insulin, but 85% of people have Type 11 – triggered by our ever escalating rates of obesity and poor diets. Most alarmingly children as young as 8 are now developing late onset diabetes – which 20 years ago would only be seen in people over 50. This is shocking especially when you consider that around 80% of late onset diabetes patients will die of cardiovascular disease.

Make no mistake late-onset diabetes can shorten your life and yet it is in the great majority of cases totally preventable.

Whereas Type I is caused by the failure of the pancreas to secrete adequate insulin, Type II Diabetes is generally characterised by adequate insulin production, but, the body has become resistant to it and simply doesn’t respond to the insulin as it should. Type I Diabetes is a life-long condition, which usually starts during early childhood. Both types of diabetes involve too high a level of sugar in the blood. The hormone insulin is responsible for lowering blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Type 1 and 2 are; increased thirst, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, increased urination especially at night and regular episodes of thrush. Complications associated with diabetes include peripheral neuropathy such as numbness, tingling or throbbing in extremities, poor circulation, slow wound healing, in adults impotence and eye problems. There is a greater risk for gangrene, heart disease and blindness.

The cascade of late onset diabetes is placing a huge burden on the NHS costing approximately £7 billion annually to treat.

This situation has been triggered by our over-consumption of refined, sugar-based carbohydrate foods such as cakes, biscuits and sugar filled fizzy drinks.  Therefore, despite high levels of insulin, glucose is not properly transported into the cells and it increases to unacceptable levels in the blood. Your body tries to get rid of excess sugar in the urine, hence why doctors test for diabetes through urine, although a blood test is more accurate.

While diabetes can have a hereditary link, your genes interact with your environment (including your diet) to either improve or worsen your health. We can inherit more from our parents than just their genes, their eating habits are often passed on too.

If you are diagnosed as diabetic by your doctor via a fasting blood test, you will very likely be offered various courses of action. In mild cases, late-onset diabetes can be kept in check by diet alone. If severe, the diet is accompanied by oral medication or injections to either increase the production of insulin or improve your sensitivity to insulin. Over the years I have interviewed many elderly diabetics and have been appalled that they have not been offered any advice on diet and yet most cases of late-onset diabetes can be kept in check by eating a healthier diet. It’s worth noting that if you suffer thrush regularly – you may be diabetic.

Foods to Avoid

  • Avoid refined sugar and foods containing sugar, such as fizzy drinks, chocolate, desserts and sweets, which release their sugars too quickly into the bloodstream.  According to the American Heart Association sugary drinks  alone contribute to  130,000  cases of Type 11 diabetes annually in the States – and these figures are rising fast.
  • Avoid all refined, mass produced ‘white’ flour and rice-based foods such as pizza, white rice and pastas, white breads, cakes and biscuits which are usually high in sugar and saturated fats.
  • Honey, maltose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose are still sugars and can exacerbate the problem.
  • Beware that most foods advertised as being low in fat are often high in sugar.
  • Don’t drink concentrated shop bought fruit juices. Make fresh juices or dilute low sugar  juices with one part juice to two parts water.
  • Reduce saturated fats from animal sources to less than 10% of your daily food intake. Cheese, chocolates, full fat dairy, red meats, pies, sausages and fried foods would need to be kept to a minimum.
  • Basically cut out red meats or only eat occasional organic lean steak, turkey, pork, venison or chicken with fat removed.
  • Reduce your use of sodium-based table salts, look for magnesium rich sea salts and only add a little to the food on your plate. Otherwise used powdered kelp or Nori flakes as a salt substitute. Himalayan  Crystal Salt would also be healthier- from good health shops.
  • Too much iron and copper in the body increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease – read labels especially on fortified cereals – and cut right down on red meat. Eat more curcumin (turmeric), which detoxifies the body of these metals.
  • Avoid high sugar content fruits such as Mango, bananas and grapes. OK to eat now and again !

Friendly Foods

  • Eat more unrefined, high-fibre carbohydrates such as wholemeal or rye bread, oat biscuits, amaranth crackers, brown rice, buckwheat, oats (especially porridge),  sweet potatoes, plus low-fat proteins such as beans, pulses, lentils and barley.
  • Mung Beans and Black beans are especially useful in helping to control blood sugar problems. Use in soups, stews and add cooked beans to salads.
  • Eggs, tofu, low fat meats, fish,  hemp seeds, lentils, chick peas and all pulses help balance blood sugar.
  • Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants and soluble fibre; eat them raw as much as possible.
  • Fish oils have been shown to improve the pre-diabetic condition and insulin resistance, and help to prevent full-blown late-onset diabetes developing, therefore eat more oily fish and fresh fish. But don’t fry it – poached or grilled is best.
  • Eat more unrefined sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and linseeds (flax seeds) and their unrefined oils, which are rich in omega-3 and -6 essential fats.
  • Blend these oils half and half with extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings.
  • Vitamin E-rich foods help to lower the risk of many conditions associated with diabetes such as circulation and eye problems. Food sources are soya beans, raw wheat germ, sprouting seeds, avocados, green vegetables, eggs, unrefined and unprocessed nuts especially almonds and hazelnuts. Look for a low-sugar muesli that is rich in nuts, oats and sprinkle raw wheat germ onto the muesli.
  • Eat fresh bilberries, blueberries, blackberries, papaya, spinach, watercress, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apricots, as these fruits help to protect the eyes.
  • Use lots of cinnamon in your foods – as it has been shown to help reduce glucose levels in the blood.
  • Eat more curries, as curcumin has been shown to  reduce the chances of developing diabetes if you are overweight.
  • Organic Agave Syrup and Xylitol (found in fruit fibre) are natural sugars which have low glycemic counts and therefore a minimal impact on blood sugar levels – use small amounts. A/v from health stores.

Useful Remedies

  • A high-strength, multi-vitamin and mineral complex taken every day provides a good baseline of nutrients.
  • The mineral chromium (200mcg) is vital for helping to control and prevent late-onset diabetes. Scientists in the US found that taking 200mcg of chromium daily helped reduce the incidence of late-onset diabetes by up to 50%. Chromium also helps to reduce cravings for sweet foods. And in time, chromium should enable you to reduce your medication, which you would need to discuss with your doctor.
  • Lipoic Acid and  L Carnitine are two potent nutrients that help to dramatically lower blood sugar. Take 250 mg of Lipoic Acid daily and 500mg of L Carnitine twice daily.
  • Vitamin C x 1gram twice daily can lower glucose response. Take with meals
  • Magnesium, which is needed to process insulin, is usually lacking in diabetics. Take a multi-mineral daily that contains 300–450mg of magnesium, 20mg zinc, and a trace of copper.
  • Take a B-complex, as diabetic patients are usually deficient in B-vitamins, needed for energy production and nerve health.
  • If you don’t eat oily fish regularly then take 2  grams of Omega 3 fish-oil  daily,  free from PCBs and dioxins. BioCare, Higher Nature, FSC and Seven Seas all make pure fish oil capsules.
  • The hormone DHEA helps to lower insulin levels, and protect vital organs, particularly the kidneys against damage due to high blood glucose. Don’t take hormones unless you have been shown to need them.
  • Aloe vera juice helps to lower blood-sugar levels in non-insulin dependant diabetes.
  • Nettle tea helps to lower blood sugar.
  • As we age we produce less, Co Enzyme Q 10, a vital vitamin like nutrient that  protects against heart disease 100mg daily with either breakfast or lunch.
  • Researchers  at the University of Granada in Spain found that taking Olive Leaf Extract helps to stimulate production of, and utilization of insulin. Take  500mg  daily.

NB: Taking supplements can affect blood sugar levels. Diabetes must be supervised by a medical practitioner, so any supplement regimen should only be undertaken with the help of a medical doctor and/or a nutritionist.

  • Pine Bark Extract known as pycnogenol has been shown to help protect against diabetic retinopathy. Take 80mg daily. Pharma Nord.

Helpful Hints

  • If you are overweight you greatly increase your risk for diabetes, especially after 50 (see Weight Problems).
  • Regular exercise is vital because it reduces the need for insulin; reduces blood cholesterol and prevents obesity. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise, but try and walk for at least 30 minutes daily, as regular walking has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose management. If you have been a “couch potato” for a long time, just start gently, walk for 15 minutes a day and then build up over a month to 30 minutes daily and within another month this can be increased to 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Have regular eye check-ups and see a chiropodist who can keep an eye on your feet, as both can be affected by diabetes.
  • Have regular reflexology on your feet, which improves circulation (see Useful Information).
  • For further help contact Diabetes UK, Macleod House, 10, Parkway, London NW1 7AA. Tel: 020 7424 1000. Website: www.diabetes.org.uk
  • Try reading How To Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine by Dr Michael Murray. Call the Nutri Centre bookshop on 020 7323 2382, or have a look at the author’s website on www.doctormurray.com