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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Penna

Diabetes - A National Health Issue

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

Are you or someone you care about at risk of developing Diabetes?

This month, National Diabetes Awareness is being promoted around Australia as the number of people with the disease continues to grow.

Every day in Australia, 280 people develop Diabetes.  That is one person every five minutes.

The statistics around Diabetes are shocking and when you think Type 2 Diabetes is largely preventable. We have to do something NOW, not wait until its is too late. Understanding if you have any of the signs or symptoms of metabolic syndrome (impaired glucose tolerance, pre-Diabetes, Syndrome X and Insulin resistance) will be crucial to identifying if you have a problem.

Medications such as those used to treat high cholesterol (Statins), have also been associated with the onset of Diabetes.

The fact that we can identify people who are highly likely to develop the disease years before they do, allows us to step in with the dietary and lifestyle changes as well as nutritional support that can prevent the disease from continuing to develop.

There are two subgroups that are associated with Diabetes as well as pre-Diabetes categories that are important to know.

Two Types of Diabetes

Type 1- Diabetes is an auto-immune condition in which the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. We don't know what causes this auto-immune reaction, but these is some evidence that genetic factors and our environment do contribute to the onset of the disorder.

There is no known cure for Type 1 Diabetes but lifestyle factors and nutritional support can be used to help prevent ongoing complications and a decline in health alongside medication.

In type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach, stops making insulin because the cells have been destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without insulin, the body’s cells cannot turn glucose (sugar), into energy.

People with Type 1 Diabetes depend on insulin every day of their lives to replace the body's natural production. The onset of type 1 Diabetes occurs most frequently in people under 30 years, however new research suggests almost half of all people who develop the condition are diagnosed over the age of 30.

About 10-15 percent of all cases of Diabetes are Type 1 indicating that there are unknown factors such as genetics and possibly infections or environmental triggers that activate the onset of the disease.

Type 2 Diabetes - develops over a long period of time (years). During this period of time insulin resistance starts, this is where the insulin is increasingly ineffective at managing the blood glucose levels.

As a result of this insulin resistance, the pancreas responds by producing greater and greater amounts of insulin, to try and achieve some degree of management of the blood glucose levels.

As insulin overproduction occurs over a very long period of time, the insulin producing cells in the pancreas wear themselves out, so that by the time someone is diagnosed with T2 Diabetes, they have lost 50-70% of their insulin producing cells. This means T2

Diabetes is a combination of ineffective insulin and not enough insulin.

When people refer to T2 Diabetes as a progressive condition, they are referring to the ongoing destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

T2 Diabetes must be managed with a strict healthy eating and regular physical activity plan for life. If not the progression of the disease will need to be managed with medication and eventually require insulin.

Long Term Health Complications

Long-term health complications will progress the same as T1 Diabetes over time if dietary and lifestyle habits are not followed. It is important to note that mainstream medicine’s approach is to monitor and watch the disease progress and then medicate as necessary to treat the symptoms of the disease.


This is the condition where we can do a lot of good and change the progress of the disease using restricted dietary programs and nutritional therapies. Pre-Diabetes describes a condition in which blood glucose, and often insulin levels are higher than normal, although not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes.

People with pre-Diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 Diabetes as well as cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease. Two million Australians have pre-Diabetes (these are the ones who have been tested that we know of), and are at high-risk of developing T2 Diabetes in their lifetime.

Without sustained lifestyle changes, including strict dietary changes alongside increased activity and losing weight, approximately one in three people with pre-Diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for pre-Diabetes are similar to those for Type 2 Diabetes which are:

  • Being overweight – especially those who have excess weight around the waistline (ie: more than 94cm for men and more than 80cm for women).

  • Being physically inactive.

  • Having high triglycerides and low HDL-cholesterol

  • Having high blood pressure.

  • Having a family history of type 2 Diabetes and or heart disease.

  • Other conditions associated with pre Diabetes

  • Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

  • Women who have had Diabetes in pregnancy (gestational Diabetes) or given birth to a big baby (more than 4.5kgs).

  • Those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background.

  • Those from certain ethnic backgrounds such as the Pacific Islands, Asia and the Indian sub-continent.

Symptoms may include:-

  • Thirst, dry mouth

  • Frequent urination

  • Getting up through the night to go to the toilet

  • Tiredness, fatigue, irritability that is not relieved by rest

  • Unexplained change in weight - loss or gain

  • Nausea, headaches, sweating

  • Constant sugar cravings

  • Trembling if miss a meal

  • Anxiety, confusion, drowsiness,

  • Speech difficulty

  • Diagnosis of fatty liver (NAFLD)

The good news is that pre-Diabetes, and T2 Diabetes responds very well to lifestyle and dietary changes. Foods such as processed and refined sugars, soft drinks, fruit juice, sweets, refined carbohydrates and alcohol need to be removed from the diet.

Carbohydrate restriction will vary from person to person based on genetic factors and insulin resistance.

Restricted fasting has shown some great results in reducing insulin levels. A full health and nutritional work up is recommended as this metabolic condition often interacts with other systems in the body. Pre-Diabetes puts your long-term health at risk and also increases your risk of other diseases such as autoimmune, cancer, skin disorders and infertility.

For more information on Diabetes, visit


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