Smoking 16 to 20 cigarettes a day or more can increase a person's risk of developing diabetes to more than three times that of nonsmokers. The exact reason for this isn't well understood. It may be that smoking directly decreases the body's ability to utilize insulin. Moreover, it has been observed that after smoking, blood sugar levels increase. Finally, there is also an association between smoking and body fat distribution, smoking tends to encourage the "apple" shape, which is a risk factor for diabetes.
Long bouts of hot, sweaty exercise aren’t necessary to reap this benefit. Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggest that walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. (18, 19) More recently, The Black Women’s Health Study reported similar diabetes-prevention benefits for brisk walking of more than 5 hours per week. (20) This amount of exercise has a variety of other benefits as well. And even greater cardiovascular and other advantages can be attained by more, and more intense, exercise.
In addition, many sugar-containing foods also contain a lot of fat. Foods such as cookies, pastries, ice cream and cakes should be avoided largely because of the fat content and because they don't contribute much nutritional value. If you do want a "sweet," make a low-fat choice, such as low-fat frozen yogurt, gingersnaps, fig bars, or graham crackers and substitute it for other carbohydrates on your meal plan.
So how does one prevent a diabetes diagnosis from happening? Diet is definitely a factor in the development of diabetes, though not the only factor. Other potential influences include age, genetics, family history, physical activity, mental health, income, hormonal conditions, and ethnicity. So even if your diet is perfectly engineered towards preventing the chronic disease, you still might be at risk. That being said, your diet does still play a role. Why not reduce your risk as much as you can?
The process of type 2 diabetes begins years or even decades before the diagnosis of diabetes, with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the beginning of the body not dealing well with sugar, which is the breakdown product of all carbohydrates. Insulin tells certain body cells to open up and store glucose as fat. When the cells stop responding your blood sugar rises, which triggers the release of more insulin in a vicious cycle. Insulin resistance is associated with abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and low HDL ("good cholesterol"). When these occur together, it is known as metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes. It is a risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Research has found, too, that the Pritikin Program can actually reverse the Metabolic Syndrome. In 50% of adult Americans studied, the Pritikin Program reversed the clinical diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome, and in just three weeks. In research following children with the Metabolic Syndrome, 100% no longer had the syndrome within two weeks of starting the Pritikin Program.
I encourage my clients with Type 2 Diabetes to do the following: stop dieting and labeling foods “good” or “bad” and, instead, think of them as having high or low health benefits. The diet mentality only promotes rebound eating. The goal is to develop an internal, rather than an external, locus of control. I also encourage them to learn how to become “normal” or intuitive eaters by connecting to appetite cues for hunger, fullness and satisfaction, and eating with awareness, which often means without distractions.
You can talk to your diabetes health care team about making any necessary meal or medication adjustments when you exercise. They'll offer specific suggestions to help you get ready for exercise or join a sport and give you written instructions to help you respond to any diabetes problems that may happen during exercise, like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Although we cannot change your genetic risk for developing type 2 diabetes, we do know that even modest exercise and weight loss can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. A landmark research study in the United States, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was completed in 2002 and showed that when people modified their risk factors for type 2 diabetes, they reduced their chance of developing the condition. Similar results have been shown in Finland.
It’s like packing your clothes into a suitcase. At first, the clothes go without any trouble. After a certain point, though, it is just impossible to jam in those last 2 T-shirts. You can’t close the suitcase. The luggage is now ‘resistant’ to the clothes. It’s waaayyy harder to put those last 2 T-shirts than the first 2. It’s the same overflow phenomenon. The cell is filled to bursting with glucose, so trying to force more in is difficult and requires much higher doses of insulin.
The types of fats in your diet can also affect the development of diabetes. Good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds can help ward off type 2 diabetes. (39) Trans fats do just the opposite. (8, 40) These bad fats are found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, fried foods in most fast-food restaurants, and any product that lists “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the label. Eating polyunsaturated fats from fish—also known as “long chain omega 3” or “marine omega 3” fats—does not protect against diabetes, even though there is much evidence that these marine omega 3 fats help prevent heart disease. (41) If you already have diabetes, eating fish can help protect you against a heart attack or dying from heart disease. (42)
Commit to 30 – 60 minutes of daily exercise. Although not a diet tip, to control blood sugar individuals need to commit to adding 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise to their routine. Adding exercise will help with weight loss and improve blood sugar since exercise, even at moderate levels, helps your muscles use glucose which ultimately helps to lower your blood sugar. Exercise such as walking, cycling, swimming, yoga or tennis can all be beneficial. What’s most important is choosing an exercise/activity that you will enjoy and stick to!