DiabetesSaturday Nov 14th was World Diabetes Day, the largest awareness campaign for this global epidemic. By 2035, almost 600 million people worldwide may be living with diabetes. Today in Ireland, it is estimated that there are 200,000 people with diabetes, many unaware of their condition. Another 200,000 people suffer from pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) of which 40% will develop diabetes within 5 years if no lifestyle changes are undertaken.

Diabetes is a condition where glucose (sugar) levels in the blood are elevated due to an issue with the body’s absorptive ability. Glucose is released as a result of the digestion of carbohydrate in food or it may be produced in the liver. Insulin is the hormone that enables glucose to enter the body’s cells.

With diabetes, the body is unable to utilise glucose as fuel, therefore it accumulates in the blood. If the amount of glucose is too high, over time it can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves

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There are two major forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin. It can develop at any age usually appearing before 40, particularly in childhood thus it is sometimes known as early-onset diabetes. It is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system damages insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The exact cause is unknown. There is no cure, management of the condition aims to maintain blood glucose levels as normal as possible through regular insulin treatment via injection or pump.


  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Passing urine more often than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle mass
  • Blurred vision

The lack of insulin prevents the absorption of glucose, causing glucose levels to increase. The body needs to dispose of the excess, therefore resulting in an increased rate of urine production to allow this.

Type 2

In Type 2 diabetes the body is unable to produce enough insulin or the body’s cells are not responding to the insulin being produced. Type 2 is much more prevalent than type one, comprising of around 90% of cases globally. Symptoms are similar to those of Type 1 but often less marked. As a result it can be years after onset before the disease is diagnosed and the complications of the disease have already begun. Like Type 1, there is no cure for the condition. Treatment will aim to keep blood glucose levels as normal as possible to prevent complications in later life. Eating healthy, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight may allow you to maintain glucose levels at a healthy level without the need for any further treatment. However as Type 2 diabetes eventually gets worse you may eventually need medication to help control glucose levels.
To help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes the World Health Organisation has recommended the following:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days (More activity is required for weight control)
  • Eat a healthy diet of between 3 and 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and reduce sugar and saturated fats intake
  • Avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases

If you have any of the above symptoms of diabetes, you should contact your GP.

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Liam Leech, MSc. ANutr.

Associate Nutritionist







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