The Carb Connection: Diabetes and Sleeping Habits
Diabetes, in a nutshell, is a disease in which the body does not adequately produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that “unlocks” the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them.
Type 2 diabetes usually develops over a period of time and is the most common. In this type of diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin while the body’s cells ignore the insulin that is available, a condition called “insulin resistance”. Type 1 diabetes is normally found in children and young adults, and in this type of diabetes the body does not produce insulin at all.
Testing for Diabetes: Where do I stand?
In order to diagnose the disease, health-care providers conduct an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), or a Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG). With the FPG test, a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl signals pre-diabetes. A person with a fasting blood glucose level of 126 mg/dl or higher had diabetes.
In the OGTT test, a person’s blood glucose level is measured after a fast and two hours after drinking a glucose-rich beverage. If the two-hour blood glucose level is between 140 and 199 mg/dl, it indicates pre-diabetes. If the two-hour blood glucose level is at 200mg/dl or higher, the person tested has diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision. If you have some of the symptoms listed; if diabetes typically runs in your family; and if you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, you may want to talk to with your doctor about diabetes.
Prevention: What can I do to avoid it?
We already know that lifestyle changes can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Getting half an hour of moderate physical activity, as well as reducing body weight by 5-10% can cut the risk of developing diabetes by a whopping 58%. Getting enough sleep may help reduce your risk for diabetes, as well. But now new studies have added to the diabetes prevention plan: depending on their form, carbohydrates may raise or lower your risk.
Research indicates that the body absorbs carbohydrates from different foods at varying rates, leading to different effects on levels of blood glucose and insulin. Simple carbohydrate foods—such as white rice, white bread, and refined sugar—score high on the glycemic index; these foods cause a rapid spike and then a drop in blood glucose. High-fiber foods —like the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains—are lower on the Glycemic Index (GI) and have a more gradual effect on blood sugar and insulin.
Because high-Glycemic Index foods abruptly and significantly increase blood glucose levels, they increase the body’s demand for insulin. This may contribute to problems with the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin, eventually leading to diabetes.
Results also indicate that along with avoiding high-Glycemic Index foods, the risk of diabetes can be reduced by eating a diet that is high in cereal fiber. Incorporating fiber sources into the diet is relatively easy: a simple change from white bread (two slices contain 1.2 grams of fiber) to whole wheat bread (two slices contain 3.8grams of fiber) will move a person from a low fiber intake category to a moderate intake category, with a corresponding 10% reduction in risk.
A dietary connection with diabetes is easy to understand—but what about sleep? A new study suggests that getting too little shuteye may increase your risk of diabetes. Sleeping an average of five hours or less increased the odds for diabetes onset by about 50% compared with those who got seven hours of sleep. There is also evidence that short sleep duration increases insulin resistance and decreases glucose tolerance. Surprisingly, the researchers also found that sleeping an average of nine hours or more was associated with increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. Too little or too much sleep can be harmful to the body, so shooting for approximately 7 hours a day for adults seems to be the right amount for helping reduce the risks of diabetes development.