life

Can you reverse diabetes by changing your lifestyle?

Whether you have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or you’ve been told you’re at risk

08:00 November 14, 2017
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For World Diabetes Day later this week, we wanted to find out if it was possible to reverse the condition completely.


Can We Reverse the Effects of Diabetes?

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or you’ve been told you’re at risk, read on to find out how and if you can reverse the effects of diabetes. We sit down with Dr. Andrew Jamieson, who is a Consultant Endocrinologist at Valiant Clinic with over 20 years’ experience in general medicine, diabetes, endocrinology, acute medicine, and eating disorders.

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Before we start, here’s some interesting things you need to know about diabetes:


3 key facts to know:

People with type 1 diabetes are usually born with it. Their body cannot make insulin on its own.

People with type 2 diabetes can make insulin, but an unhealthy diet causes their insulin not to work properly

As far as we know, there’s no cure for type 1 diabetes. But you can reverse type 2 with lifestyle changes.

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What causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Factor 1

There are two vital factors linked to the increase and prevalence of diabetes in the UAE.

The first one is genetic factors – it is still unknown why GCC nationals are predisposed genetically to the development of type 2 diabetes. Usually having just one parent with type 2 diabetes confers a lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes of around 50 per cent on the child.

Factor 2

The other factor is lifestyle. A recent article in the journal ‘The Lancet’ highlighted the rapid rise in childhood and adult obesity in the MENA region – both in the absolute number of individuals with obesity and the speed at which they are gaining weight.


What exactly is a bad lifestyle?

Fast food, energy drinks and sugary sweets are also driving this as well as a reduction in childhood and adult exercise.

Top 10 foods that cause diabetes

  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Onion rings
  • Ice cream
  • Energy drinks
  • French fries
  • Large bags of potato chips
  • Large amounts of bread
  • Any sugary Karak tea
  • Family sized bags of sweets for one person

Evidence suggests that from the age of 5 onwards, we can detect those individuals who will become overweight or obese as teenagers. Our main fear is that the new generation dies younger and younger!


Preventing Diabetes

dawn, dusk, forest

The cornerstone of treatment is lifestyle modification – this can reduce the need for medication, or even prevent it being used for many years if done properly. Preventing diabetes through diet alone is almost impossible, but a vital part of the solution. It is the first step to take. Here is what you need to remember when you eat.

1. Lower your calorie intake

Make sure your calorie intake is moderate and never goes above 2,000-2,500 calories per day unless there is a clear need for such an increase.

2. Less carbs

Decrease your carbohydrates, as they are the main cause for a spike in your blood sugar. Carbs are converted into sugar, when they are broken down in your body.

3. Cut down on artificial products

Avoid energy drinks on a regular basis, as they are high in sugar and caffeine.

4. Eat more fruit and vegetables

Eat at least 5-7 portions of vegetables or fruit per day, especially those which are low in readily available sugar e.g. grapes and mangos. The trick of this, is to get your tummy full on whole foods, rather than refined and processed things.

5. Stop drinking Alcohol

Alcohol is not great for your blood sugar at all and can lead to toxicity in your liver. Heavy drinking (three or more glasses a day) is really bad for your body and causes a dangerous spike in your blood sugar levels.

6. Generally...

To reverse the high blood sugar level and bring it back to normal, we need to see a healthcare professional with experience in both diagnosing and managing diabetes and its complications.

Medication can be used, either tablet, injections or both, and when chosen wisely and used with lifestyle modifications. This can result in very good control of blood glucose levels which can reduce the potential for life changing and life-threatening complications. (E.g. blindness, amputations, heart attacks and premature death)


A typical healthy day in meals:

breakfast, cherry tomatoes, cup

If you start your day with a high protein meal that hardly has any sugar in it, you typically feel full and satiated for the entire morning until lunch. To keep your blood sugar levels steady, try a low fat meat option with a fresh side salad. At this point you can have a snack, which involves some dairy or nuts. End the healthy day with a big chunk of protein and warm, filling veggies.  

Breakfast:  2 Egg omelette with green spinach and crumbled up Feta cheese.

Lunch: Ground Turkey patty with sweet potatoes and a small salad

Snack: A handful of almonds and some cheddar cheese

Dinner: Grilled Salmon with roasted cauliflower, broccoli and new potato.

Extra things you can do:

In addition to a healthy diet, a great way to prevent or reverse diabetes is through regular exercise. When you are someone who exercises regularly throughout your life, you aren't just preventing diabetes, you are preventing all kinds of diseases. The healthiest people exercise at least three times in the week, to the point that they sweat. Make sure you do both HIIT cardio and weights as well.