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Diabetes day: Your queries answered!

Last updated on: November 14, 2012 10:14 IST

Diabetes day: Your queries answered!

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Preeti Desai

Today is World Diabetes Day. We had invited you to ask questions on how to deal with the disease on Rediff ZaraBol. Our in-house nutritionist Preeti Desai answered selected questions that address most of those you asked.

It is no secret that diabetes is a silent killer. The disease affects at least six persons around the world from diabetes each minute and has been the cause of over 4 million deaths every year -- as many as those caused by AIDS.

We'd invited you to share your diabetes-related questions with us and promised to get our in-house nutritionist Preeti Desai to answer them. Over the last few days, we have been flooded with your queries.

Since it may not be possible to answer every single question specifically we selected a few questions that would broadly address the entire spectrum of diabetes related issues. First up we have Jatin Shah whose question we reproduce her:

My father had diabetes; I am 42, I check every month it seems to be normal. let me know what all are symptoms?

Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem so harmless.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes include  frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue and irritability, frequent infections, blurred vision, slow healing of cut and bruises, tingling and or numbness in the hands or feet, recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh


Photographs: Brian Snyder/Reuters

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S Sridharan asks: Are sugar substitutes really effective? Do they have side effects like causing cancer?

Artificial sweeteners (zero calories ones) helps food taste sweet without adding more carbohydrates to your diabetes diet.

Your doctor will recommend certain low calorie sweeteners for diabetic nutrition like Saccharin (Sweet'N Low); Aspartame (Sugarfree, NutraSweet, Equal); Acesulfame potassium (Sunett); Sucralose (Splenda)

Artificial sweeteners are too sweet so use them in smaller amount to sweeten foods. Ensure you discuss with your doctor the amount of artificial sugar you are allowed per day; many research studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities, even for pregnant women.

Artificial sweeteners have been the subject of intense research for decades. But according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there's no sound scientific evidence that any of the approved artificial sweeteners can cause cancer or other serious health problems.


Image: Packets of Cyclamate, a sugar substitute
Photographs: Rama/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Sanjay asks: My mother aged 62 is diabetic. She complains of knee pain. What measures & food habits to assume

Since I don't know how for how many years has she been suffering from diabetes, her diet or her current sugar levels, it is a little tough to answer this question holistically but I have added some details to guide you;

She may be suffering from diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused due to out-of-control glucose levels, obesity or abdominal obesity and high blood pressure.

Neuropathy is one of the complications of diabetes, and is common in individuals who have suffered for diabetes for 10 years or more and includes symptoms like tingling, numbness, pain and swelling in the affected area -- a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and pain and may strikes diabetics knees.

Controlling glucose levels in the body is a good way to start. Below power foods are healthy for anyone especially a diabetic;

Dark, leafy greens like Spinach, Collard greens, Mustard greens, and Kale are nutrient-dense (Vitamins A and C and Calcium), low in calories and low in carbohydrates.

Spinach and other green leafy veggies may help reduce type 2 diabetes risk being rich in Polyphenols, Vitamin C and Magnesium.

Enjoying a handful of walnuts daily can help lower a diabetic's heart disease risk as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.

Flaxseed is rich in fiber and healthy omega 3 fats; Flax seeds also help in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar.

Amino acids from Fenugreek (methi) help facilitate glucose and insulin management. Fenugreek helps speed the process of blood glucose being utilized for energy, thereby preventing unhealthy levels of glucose continuing to circulate in the blood.

Beans (kidney, pinto, navy, black) are rich in nutrients and packed in soluble fiber, which helps makes you feel full longer, it actually slows digestion and keeps blood sugar from spiking after a meal, keep blood sugar steady and plus help lower cholesterol levels.

Lentils are healthy for diabetics as they help control your blood sugar levels as just1 cup cooked Lentils contains 16 grams of fibre. Lentils boost your energy levels and improve your mood.

Fat free yogurt will provide the calcium and vitamin D that adults need plus serves as a healthy in-between snack helping to curb cravings.

Salmon or mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna are healthy as they are rich in protein and healing Omega 3 fats.

Barley is one of the healthiest grains and is packed with a specific kind of soluble fiber called beta-glucan that can lower total and LDL cholesterol by preventing your body's ability to absorb it.

Oats are a diabetes power food because of their rich fiber content; Oats can also lower total and bad / LDL cholesterol levels plus improve insulin resistance. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and fiber and are lower in carbohydrate content.


Photographs: Courtesy Gud2Eat.com

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Chandru asks: I am 62, a diabetic since 20 years, sugar level under control. Age catching up, retired. Advise on controlling.

Suresh asks: with diabetes for past three years. height 5'11'' weight 84 kg. Please tell me about exercise/medicine regimen

Dear Chandru and Suresh, your questions are related. So my answer is common

Your doctor needs to advise you on a unique treatment plan depending on your age, body, current sugar levels, any other health conditions and your lifestyle.

It is essential to follow your treatment plan, of exercise and diet, and take your medication as directed.

It is vital to avoid a sugar spike after meals

Eat on a schedule, eat small multiple meals, specific portions especially of carbohydrates; exercise daily and take your medicine on time to avoid blood sugar spokes. The best diet has a variety of vegetables, fruits, and meats, as well as nuts, dairy, and grains.

Exercise has a healthy effect of blood sugar levels

Daily exercise routines can positively affect blood sugar, and improves your body's sensitivity to insulin and stimulates your liver and muscles to use glucose.

Note that regular exercise can also cause your sugar to drop so keep healthy snacks handy like a fruit or handful of nuts.

Stress, smoking, alcohol can affect Diabetes

Stress usually sends blood sugar level soaring, try stress busting activities like a favorite hobby, yoga or meditation.

Smoking increases your risk of developing diabetes related complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease and nerve damage.

It is advisable to drink alcohol only when your blood sugar is stable.

Refer to the list of power foods in the previous slide or simply click here!


Image: Smoking and alcohol is the perfect cocktail for high blood sugar
Photographs: Joymaster/Wikimedia Commons

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Tina asks: I was recently detected with diabetes. 5ft 2" n weigh 65 kg is it due to overweight. plz help n tell me 2 deal with it.

Do read what I have mentioned in the previous slide. As for weight loss, it may not come as news to you that weight loss is healthy for diabetics.

Health benefits of losing weight include lowering of blood fats, blood pressure and blood glucose levels all risk factors to many chronic diseases.

Say no to restrictive diets

Instead of considering a restrictive diet, eat healthy and burn more calories than you eat.

Quick-fix diet may result in a temporary weight loss which usually is water loss and loss of muscle mass.

Tips for weight loss goals

Be aware of what you are eating daily; Eat multiple meals a day; Add plenty of uncooked foods to your meals like fruits and vegetables; Reduce your food portions; Fill you're your plate with vegetables; Choose healthier snacks that can give you sustained energy for a longer time; Plan your meals; Become more active;

Consult your doctor for weight-loss programme

Everyone has unique nutritional needs consult your doctor for a specific weight loss programme that includes healthy foods, exercise and lots of sleep.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh


Image: Weightloss is important but ensure it is done in a healthy manner


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Amit asks: Without any medicine how to control my Diabetes? At present my Fasting 190.

Whole grains are packed with antioxidants and soluble and insoluble fiber, helping reduce blood sugar spikes, overcome insulin resistance, metabolize fats and also keep the digestive track healthy.
People who eat whole grains regularly have lower blood cholesterol and the grain also keeps blood sugar levels stable.

Lean meat is healthy for diabetics

Lean meats, fish, beans, soy products and low fat dairy products are great sources of protein.

Ensure that the protein food you choose is low in calories and saturated fat.

Protein choices for diabetics

The best choices of protein foods are lower in saturated fat and calories.

Dried beans, legumes, peas and lentils as they are packed with protein, fibre and complex carbs;

Fish and Seafood like cod, halibut herring, salmon, trout, tuna, are excellent protein foods for diabetics

Try poultry, without skin with lean cuts of Chicken, and turkey.

Eggs packed with nutrients are also good for diabetics. Caution if you have heart problem avoid egg yolk as it contains cholesterol.

Omega 3-rich foods for diabetics

Salmon is rich in protein and healthy omega 3 fats that help stabilize blood sugar.

You may also include cod, halibut herring, trout, or tuna or walnuts and flaxseeds in your diabetic diet as they all are a good source healthy omega 3 fats;

Nuts are healthy for diabetics

Nuts are rich in fibre and magnesium, both of which may help regulate your blood sugar; Nuts are good food sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps prevent nerve and eye damage. Nuts go a long way in providing seniors with healthy monounsaturated fats that is good for the diabetic heart.

Nuts are high in calories so a small handful each day is enough.

Spices healthy for diabetics

Polyphenols found in spices and herbs are powerful antioxidants and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Phytonutrients in Cinnamon help improve the ability to respond to insulin, thus helping normalizing blood sugar levels.
Add cloves, cinnamon, oregano, marjoram, and sage to your meal.

Fibre-rich natural foods important for diabetics

Diabetics should load up on fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains  as they provide extraordinary support to your digestive system plus your liver. These foods add up the fiber content that helps in clearing toxins from your body as fiber binds to wastes and moves them out of your system.

Why daily exercise is crucial for diabetics

Exercise done daily helps stimulate your respiratory system that includes heart, lungs and breathing that are all natural detoxifiers.

Even as you lose weight, you shed the fat that stores toxins.


Image: Eggs packed with nutrients are good for diabetics
Photographs: Courtesy: Gud2Eat.com
Tags: Cinnamon

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Zishan asks: Is Diabetes 100% heriditary? What are the possible ways & steps to avoid it when ur parents are Diabetic?

Harish asks: Am 49, I do not eat sweets and checked last week, it is just above the normal . any way to control it

Zishan, to answer your question: Is Diabetes hereditary?

Individuals are at a higher risk of developing diabetes if both or a single parent has got diabetes though research has not concluded the precise reasons for the same.

You are at a greater risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes if 1) you have a family history of diabetes; 2) you are overweight 3) if you do not exercise regularly or lead a sedentary lifestyle 4) you have low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure 5) you have an impaired glucose tolerance;

Harish and Zishan, what follows is for both of you:

Factors that cause diabetes

The factors that can cause diabetes include genetic history, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise bad lifestyle habits;

Food tips to prevent diabetes

Pack your plate with vegetables and choose less-starchy kinds such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and green beans 2) Opt for fiber rich foods 3) Add whole grain foods instead of processed grains or opt for brown rice instead of white rice.

Swap out high-calorie foods

Choose skim milk rather than whole milk, drink diet soda rather than regular soda; try low fat dairy foods and salad dressings.

Snack smartly rather than high fat, high calorie chips and desserts, try eating fresh fruit, whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese.

If overweight should lose weight

Pursue a healthier lifestyle and work on losing weight and eating a healthy diet plus exercise regularly.

Sleep well

Anyone not getting enough sleep tends to tired and grumpy plus it increases stress hormones in your body, which causes the body to store fat and tough to lose weight.

Not enough sleep also interferes with your body's ability to use insulin effectively, and may be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Become more active

Physical activity play an important part in effectively preventing diabetes as exercise helps lowers and maintain blood glucose levels plus helps in decreasing body fat.

(This advice column from does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Rediff.com and should not be considered in the capacity of professional counselling.)


Image: Pack your plate with less starchy vegetables such as broccoli among others


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