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Diabetes: The 7 Things We Don’t Know Too Often

by Nathan L Williams

A complex disease, diabetes does not prevent you from living “almost” normally. It does, however, require daily care and education. Here are 7 pieces of information that may surprise you and improve your daily life.

Doctors explain how to manage the disease on a daily basis, prevent complications and detail possible treatments. Lifestyle changes, regular blood sugar control and sometimes several daily insulin injections… Not easy to say or remember everything in a single appointment? A little catch-up session with our experts.

  1. Snacking is no longer an obligation:

It is now possible to modulate insulin injections according to what one eats and the time of the meal. Snacking is therefore no longer an obligation.

Similarly, it is no longer imperative to eat at a fixed time. “However, there is an exception for pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, where it is still difficult to stabilize blood glucose levels. They often have to split their meals with at least one snack a day, usually in the morning,” says Prof. Jean-François Gautier, head of the University Diabetes Centre at Lariboisière Hospital (Paris).

  1. Sugar is not the number 1 enemy of diabetes:

“Because diabetes results in high blood sugar levels, there is often confusion about whether or not carbohydrates should be removed from the diet. This is a mistake because the brain needs sugar to function! exclaims Prof. Gautier. It is above all the intake of calories, especially fats, that must be reduced, without excluding them. »

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates must be present on the plate at every meal, especially in the form of starchy foods. But to prevent blood sugar levels from skyrocketing, it’s best to choose pasta and pulses (lentils, kidney beans, split peas), which have a low glycemic index (GI), over semolina or white rice, which have a higher GI.

Dark chocolate with 70% cocoa, with its GI equivalent to that of red fruits, does not affect the glycemic balance. One can even crack from time to time for a chocolate fondant even if it means adapting one’s insulin injection. “It would even be dangerous to avoid the sweet taste because the risk is to think only about it and to develop eating disorders with sweet compulsions,” adds Professor André Grimaldi, Professor Emeritus of Diabetology at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital (Paris).

  1. Sweeteners do not provide any benefit:

They don’t help you lose weight, they might even deregulate blood sugar levels. As for calories, the argument is not convincing.

“One sugar in coffee is 20 calories, which is not a lot. Replacing it with a sweetener therefore makes no sense,” notes Prof. André Grimaldi. Obviously, if you drink two liters of soda a day, it is better to choose the sweetened version.

  1. Seeing an ophthalmologist is essential:

“The question that should be asked first to a diabetic relative is: “Have you seen an ophthalmologist,” insists Prof. Grimaldi. If detected early, retinopathy can be treated. “In France, this damage to the eyes linked to excess sugar in the blood is the first cause of blindness before the age of 60. It is therefore important not to forget to visit the ophthalmologist once a year.

Neither the annual scaling appointment at the dentist: “Not only are diabetics more at risk of developing periodontal disease, but a treated periodontal disease improves blood sugar levels,” emphasizes Pr Gautier.

  1. It is in the evening that it is necessary to walk:

Walking for 15 minutes after lunch, in a brisk pace, lowers blood glucose levels more than walking for 45 minutes in the morning or afternoon. Of course, any physical activity lowers blood sugar levels. Brisk walking, cycling, swimming, jogging… these endurance activities improve the insulin sensitivity of the muscles. Strengthening exercises are also useful.

“It has long been said that diabetics should limit themselves to endurance activities, but we can combine endurance and muscle strengthening during tennis games, for example,” says Jean-François Gautier.

In the early stages of diabetes, activity can even avoid or delay taking medication. The only precaution: type 1 diabetics must adapt their diet (or their insulin intake) because sport is hypoglycemic.

  1. It is not a genetic disease:

Heredity matters, but there are no diabetes genes. They are only “predispositions”.

In type 1 diabetes, it is even very low: one parent, father or mother, is diabetic in about 5% of patients.
On the other hand, it is more frequent for type 2 diabetes, since a parent (father, mother, brother, etc.) is affected in 40% of patients. It is the interaction of the environment (diet, sedentary lifestyle, etc.) with the genetic heritage that causes the disease to occur.

  1. Sleeping well is antidiabetic:

Recent studies have shown the beneficial effect of a good night’s sleep: when it is long enough (at least 7 hours) and of good quality, sleep helps control blood sugar levels.

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