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Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common chronic diseases of modern society. It is listed among noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which have a long duration, a slow progression and are not transmitted from person to person. The global burden of diabetes is estimated to be 10 percent of total population aged above 25. There are several types of diabetes, but the most common type which mostly contributes to such great burden is type 2 diabetes.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Our cells need glucose in order to produce energy, and insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which enables glucose to enter the cells (muscle and fat cells mostly require insulin). In contrast to type 1 diabetes, where the problem is insufficient insulin production in the pancreas, in type 2 diabetes, the cells do not react well to insulin, which is called insulin resistance. This results in an accumulation of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) while the cells are hungry for glucose.

A genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes is well established, as persons with close relatives with the condition are also at a higher risk of developing it themselves. However, it has been found that proper nutrition can not only prevent the development, but also improve the symptoms and prognosis in affected persons.

Medical Nutrition Therapy For Diabetes

Medical nutrition therapy encompasses diet plans and nutritional recommendations for people with current disease, in this case type 2 diabetes. So far, there were attempts to make a universal diet plan for people with diabetes. Healthcare providers are now no longer recommending a specific diabetic diet, and new approaches are emerging. Old diets were focused exclusively on blood glucose levels, but it is now recognized that targeting lipid metabolism is equally important.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests that carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats should cover 60 to 70 percent of daily caloric intake. Sugar and sweets are allowed, but they should not exceed 10 percent of a person's daily caloric intake. Saturated fats should also be limited to 10 percent, and even less for people with increased LDL (bad cholesterol). Polyunsaturated fat should constitute about 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Recommended protein intake is 15 to 20 percent of the daily caloric intake and salt should not exceed six grams per day.

Vitamins And Supplements

Diabetics should maintain optimal vitamin and mineral levels, taking special care to consume foods containing vitamins with antioxidant activity (vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, etc.). Getting most of your vitamins from vegetables and fruits  is optimal, and you should use supplements only in special situations (where recommended by your healthcare provider). Eat food rich in fiber, and use sweeteners to replace sugar, but only non-nutritive products (saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, etc.). Nutritive sweeteners such as xylitol, manitol, and sorbitol are not recommended.

Alcohol

Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific evidence that alcohol is harmful to diabetes patients. Excessive alcohol intake, however, can cause problems like hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), but this can be prevented by consuming food along with alcohol.

In summary, patients with type 2 diabetes should practice the general principles of a healthy lifestyle, which include proper nutrition, moderate physical activity, and sticking to prescribed treatments. That way, the complications can be prevented, and progression of the disease can be slowed down.

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