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Sweet nothings: Discard myths to successfully manage diabetes

By EMN Updated: Nov 13, 2013 10:22 pm

Azera Parveen Rahaman

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]oes consuming too much sugar cause diabetes? Is diabetes a disease of the elderly? India’s diabetes population is dangerously on the rise and set to cross 100 million by 2030 and yet misconceptions and myths about this lifestyle disease that is linked to various other health complications are in abundance.Prevention, as doctors say, can be practised with knowledge and therefore awareness is an important tool to fight this health monster.
One of the most popular myths associated with diabetes, according to S.V. Madhu, secretary, Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI), is that it is caused by consuming too much sugar.
Eating sugar does not cause diabetes per se, although it is recommended to limit your sugar intake,” Madhu told IANS. “Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the glucose level in the blood rises beyond the normal limit which damages tissues in the body and can lead to a host of complications like cardiac problems, kidney problems and even blindness”.
Another common myth is that once you start taking insulin you become dependent on it for life.
“People often think that insulin is like a drug that you get addicted to, but the truth is that diabetics are not so much bothered about insulin itself as the process of daily injecting themselves with it,” Pradeep Chowbey, vice chairman, Max Healthcare, told IANS.
“Insulin, in fact, reduces the complications that come with diabetes and helps you lead a better life,” he added.
S.K. Nagrani, senior consultant, Diabetology at Max Hospital, concurred. “People think that insulin may drastically reduce their blood sugar level and harm them, but the truth is insulin is the best way to control diabetes,” he said.
Most people also still have a notion that diabetes is the disease of the elderly, and that people whose parents are diabetics will, in turn, suffer from the disease too – both of which are not true.
“That diabetes is the disease of the old is the most common myth in the Indian scenario,” Madhu said. “Although the chances of type 2 diabetes increases with age, diabetes is being detected in youngsters, children, even newborns. When it comes to children and youngsters, lifestyle plays a big role in preventing this disease”.
Less outdoor activity and junk food are the two main culprits of childhood obesity in kids these days – a point of concern by itself – which in turn makes children vulnerable to diabetes at an early age.
“Our lives are becoming busier than ever, and that has started reflecting in our food habits and lifestyle. When it comes to children, in the rush of daily life and the need for something attractive enough to eat, parents pack ready-to-eat food stuff like burgers or crisps and fried snacks in their lunch box which is hardly healthy,” said nutritionist Esha Verma.
“In this context, it’s a good idea to take reference from our traditional Indian food that offers a perfect balance of nutrients in the simple roti-subji, and improvise it. School and college canteens too should encourage healthy eating options,” she added.
Like in children, obesity in adults too can lead to health complications like diabetes. According to Chowbey, almost 50 percent diabetics are obese.
“Diabetes is a chronic disease which cannot be cured but can be controlled, and a diabetic can live a healthy life with proper medication and regular check-ups. A healthy diet is one in which 40-60 percent calories come from carbohydrates, 20 percent from proteins, and 30 percent or less from fats. Anyone who says that ‘special diabetic food’ is good enough is wrong,” Madhu said.
Diabetes and TB interlinked, say doctors
In more bad news for people diagnosed with diabetes, the lifestyle disease has now been linked to an increased incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in patients.
According to the government-run Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), people with diabetes have a two-three times higher risk of TB compared to people without diabetes and about 10 percent of TB cases globally are linked to diabetes.
Diabetes, which is characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood and the inability of the body to regulate blood sugar levels, is an independent risk factor for all lower respiratory tract infections, doctors said.
“The link between diabetes and tuberculosis is a recent knowledge and the subject of much research. Studies show that diabetes can lead to TB and the reverse is also true,” Anoop Mishra, chairman Fortis Centre of Excellence for Diabetes Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology (CDOC), told IANS.
People with diabetes who are diagnosed with TB, an infectious disease of the lungs, have a higher risk of death during TB treatment and of TB relapse after treatment is over.
“Diabetes is complicated by the presence of infectious diseases like TB,” Mishra added.
Doctors are, therefore, increasingly screening both diabetes and TB patients for the two diseases, he added.
The reason behind diabetes patients easily contracting TB is the low immunity in them that results in high chances of infection.
India has a high burden of both diabetes and tuberculosis. In India, there are nearly 50 million diabetics, according to the statistics of the International Diabetes Federation – a global advocate for the promotion of diabetes care, prevention and cure.
The federation had declared that India was emerging as the diabetes capital of the world.
India has approximately two to three million people infected with Tuberculosis.
According to Rajeev Chawla of the North Delhi Diabetes Centre: “Previously there was a link between diabetes and HIV, but now we can see a link between diabetes and TB. Diabetes and TB can be seen to co-exist in many cases.”
“If a patient develops diabetes, it can also lead to reactivation of his or her TB which has been cured earlier.
“Diabetics should avoid contact with TB patients and always keep their blood sugar levels under check,” Chawla told IANS.
Also, in a large proportion of people, diabetes as well as TB is not diagnosed or is diagnosed too late.
Diabetes can lengthen the time to sputum culture conversion and theoretically this could lead to the development of drug resistance in TB patients, the doctor added.
Experts say the incidence of diabetes is increasing worldwide, especially in developing countries where TB is most prevalent.
Therefore, the convergence of these two epidemics is most likely to occur in the places with the least amount of healthcare resources, the doctors added.
Mishra said diabetic patients should maintain their blood sugar level in the best possible manner, exercise regularly, have proper diets and ensure that they get enough of Vitamin D.
The symptoms of diabetes can vary from person to person and depend upon the levels of sugar in the blood.
People with diabetes often feel extremely thirsty and need to urinate often. In addition to extreme hunger and unexplained weight loss, diabetes causes fatigue, blurred vision and high blood pressure.

By EMN Updated: Nov 13, 2013 10:22:06 pm