Type 2 diabetes
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease. These are diseases that cause disorders in the metabolism. People with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin and/or the insulin that is produced does not have enough effect because they are less sensitive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that plays an important role in keeping blood glucose levels under control. Another word for blood glucose is blood sugar.
Insulin is needed to allow glucose into the cells. In people with diabetes, less glucose can enter the cell and more remains in the blood. The blood glucose level is therefore too high. The kidneys excrete part of the glucose through the urine.
Naming: diabetes, diabetes disease or age-related diabetes?
The full official name for diabetes is diabetes mellitus. You often hear the term diabetes. The term diabetes can lead to wrong conclusions. Such as that someone with diabetes should not eat sugar at all.
Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called age-related diabetes, but young people can also get this type of diabetes. The term age-related diabetes is therefore incorrect.
Besides type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes also exists. And a number of variants of diabetes that resemble type 2 diabetes, but require specific treatment.
How many people have type 2 diabetes?
In 2019, there were over 1.1 million people in the Netherlands with a diagnosis of diabetes. In almost all age groups, diabetes occurs slightly more often in men than in women. About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. The number of people with type 2 diabetes is constantly increasing. There are also people who have diabetes but don’t know it yet. It is not known how big this group is. This causes problems because they take action too late. And complications can arise that can be prevented with timely treatment.
What happens in type 2 diabetes?
When you ingest starches and sugars, the body converts them into glucose. Glucose ends up in the blood. There we call it blood glucose or blood sugar. Through the blood, the glucose ends up in the body cells. This gives you energy, which is necessary for breathing, moving and the beating of your heart.
Cells absorb blood glucose with the help of the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body’s cells becoming insensitive to insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes your cells to absorb less glucose. At a certain point, your body produces less insulin and so the cells absorb even less sugar.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms
Type 2 diabetes causes various complaints, such as fatigue, thirst, dry mouth, wounds that do not heal properly, shortness of breath, frequent urination and infections that often recur (e.g. cystitis). If the diabetes is treated, the complaints usually disappear quickly.
At the beginning, people with Type 2 diabetes often have few or no symptoms. As a result, they may have the disease for years before it is discovered. If blood glucose levels remain high for a long time, the blood vessels and nerves are damaged. Therefore, people with diabetes are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases. Other complications that can arise are chronic kidney damage, a diabetic foot and impaired vision.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes depends on a number of factors. The chance of developing this disease is higher:
- In old age
- In case of excess weight. Abdominal fat in particular increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes. More than 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
- When a person moves little
- If someone has family members, such as a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes.
- If someone has had gestational diabetes in the past or if the mother had gestational diabetes.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs more often in Dutch people of Asian, African, Latin American, Hindustani-Surinamese, Turkish and Moroccan descent. It is also more common in these groups at a younger age: as young as 35.
- In people with a low socio-economic status
- For high blood pressure
- For fat metabolism problems
- For stress and poor sleep
- If you smoke
Nutrition in Type 2 diabetes
By eating healthily, people can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. First of all, by achieving or maintaining a healthier weight. Certain foods also reduce or increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The foods listed below increase the risk of type 2 diabetes:
- Sugary drinks such as soft drinks, fruit juices and sweetened dairy drinks (330 ml/day)
- Red meat (from 100 grams of unprocessed red meat per day)
- Processed meat (from 50 grams of processed meat, such as meat products, per day)
- Eggs (7 or more per week) and high cholesterol intake (400 mg/day)
The following foods reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes:
- Whole grain cereals
- Green leafy vegetables
- Filtered coffee
- Black and green tea
The following foods both increase and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes:
- Alcohol. Low alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk, while low consumption of beer in men and of spirits in women is associated with a higher risk.
People who do not have Type 2 diabetes reduce the risk of this disease if they maintain or gain a healthy weight. Losing a few kilos already has a positive effect. The advice to prevent type 2 diabetes:
- drink sugary drinks such as soft drinks and juices as little as possible.
- Do not eat too much red meat and processed meat such as deli meats.
- eat lots of wholemeal products.
- Take yoghurt.
- Eat enough fruit and vegetables.
Usually, medication is also needed for the treatment, e.g. insulin or metformin. Medication and diet are geared to one another. How type 2 diabetes is best treated is different for each patient. The doctor and the dietician are therefore always leading. They tailor the advice to the specific situation.
Sometimes you read that supplements with, for example, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, chromium, copper, zinc, magnesium, ginger, garlic or cinnamon are good for people with diabetes. But there is still much uncertainty about this. If no deficiency has been established, or if there is an increased risk of one, taking supplements is not recommended. This also applies to supplements with ginger, garlic and cinnamon.