Medical research has always set
a new precedent with every passing day. Each day, we uncover new research and
realities related to health and our lifestyles. While Pakistanis are a big fan
of food in general, we are also prone to developing health related disorders at
a faster pace when compared to other Asian countries. In recent years, the rate
of diabetes spread within Pakistan (7th highest number of diabetics in the
world) has been alarming and reflects the growing need of health awareness
needed to caution people of the associated negative consequences –medical and
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus is characterized as a disorder in which body is
incapable of breaking down glucose in the blood stream and hence results in high
blood sugar level for the patient. It also refers to the inability of the body's
cells to absorb glucose, leading to accumulation in the blood plasma. There are
two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.
What are the causes and types of Diabetes?
Our pancreas contain specific cells which are responsible for producing insulin.
They are known as the Islets of Langerhans. They produce the hormones insulin
(beta cells) and glucagon (alpha cells). Insulin is responsible for the
breakdown of sugar in the bloodstream into storage-friendly form, whereas,
glucagon converts the stored sugar into usable or metabolic form. In simpler
words, the hormone insulin signals the cells of the body to whether absorb sugar
Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is an example of autoimmune disease because the body’s immune
system attacks the pancreas of the body viewing them to be foreign part of the
body. Therefore, it is insulin-dependent diabetes and develops in children and
teenagers and in a few rare cases, in adults.
In type 1 diabetes, the insulin production is sacrificed due to the destruction
of the islets of Langerhans and therefore the cells of the body die due to sugar
deficiency. The cells in the human body require sugar for metabolism in order to
produce energy for driving its biochemical activities. In the absence of sugar,
the cells are unable to produce energy and eventually die out. The blood sugar
levels keep rising as the sugar is not being absorbed and is accumulated in the
blood plasma. In cases where the blood sugar level is not normalized, it can
lead to the blindness, stroke, amputations, heart failure and kidney failure.
Refer to the illustration by Marham providing an overview of the repercussions
of high blood sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes:
Type 2 diabetes, in comparison to Type 1, is non-insulin dependent and develops
in adults or during the latter part of life. Often people who are overweight and
have a deskbound jobs end up developing type 2 diabetes as their bodies are
unable to produce enough insulin to metabolize the accumulating blood sugar
levels. Furthermore, cells of the body can also develop resistance for insulin
and not be able to absorb glucose from the bloodstream.
Association of diabetes with Retinopathy and Stress:
Diabetes and Blindness:
Blindness due to diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in most of the
populations across the world, including Pakistan. Vision impairment and
blindness due to diabetes is referred to as diabetic retinopathy in medical
terminology. Retionopathy is caused by increased levels of blood sugar leading
to abnormal development of new blood vessels in the eye’s retina. Patients who
are conscious about the glycaemic index (measures quantitatively the effect of
sugar contained in the foods on the blood sugar levels) of the food they consume
portray reduction in the development or progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Examples of food with low GI include:
1. Brown rice
2. Wholegrain bread
3. Bran cereal or oatmeal
4. Sweet potatoes
5. Frozen grapes
7. Vegie sticks
8. Milk or Tomato juice
9. Beans and lentils
Diabetes and Stress:
In conventional research of at least one decade ago, it was strongly believed
that the genetic make-up of any person determines the diseases we are prone to
developing. However, the advancement in research dictates that genes do not
influence the growth and development of any person without the possible
influence of the environment. Therefore, factors such as physical inactivity,
nutrition and stressful environment also play a crucial role.
When body is under stress, hormone named cortisol is released in order to
prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’ response. Cortisol prevents the cells
from absorbing insulin and instead promotes the blood sugar levels for the
required energy in order to fight off the stress. However, if there is lack of
‘flight’ or physical activity to use the produced amount of energy or metabolize
the abundant amount of glucose, the body may be triggered to develop diabetes
type 2 in consistently stressed patients. Regular production of cortisol and
insulin resistance in the body may induce the beta cells to produce increased
levels of insulin to prompt the desired response of breaking down glucose and
therefore may lead to the wearing down of beta cells.
Therefore, with the alarming rise of the number of patients being diagnosed with
Diabetes, regardless of the specific type, calls for an informative health
awareness campaign to help people in rectifying their diet and lifestyle. In the
form of collaborative efforts aimed at the increased health standards of people,
the increasing pandemic of diabetes can be prevented and people can be educated
regarding the healthier alternatives of food.