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Understanding diabetes and the importance of diet

November 14 marks International Diabetes Day.

It’s estimated that nearly 5 million South African adults have diabetes – and the figure is growing steadily.

Worldwide, the International Diabetes Federation believes that by the year 2040, 1 in 10 adults will have diabetes.

South Africans exceeded the expected number of people with diabetes for 2025 in 2009.

Dietician and clinical consultant Hamish van Wyk says some of the predictions are conservative estimates.

Van Wyk explains that the majority diabetics are people with Type 2 diabetics, which is primarily a lifestyle-driven condition.

90% to 95% of diabetics are Type 2. The bulk of people with diabetes.

Hamish van Wyk, dietician and clinical consultant at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin, losing the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas.

According to van Wyk, most people are not aware that they have diabetes and 60% of those diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes do not have any symptoms for 12 years.

At the time of diagnosis, 50% of the pancreas' ability to produce insulin is already gone.

Hamish van Wyk, dietician and clinical consultant at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology

Van Wyk advises that increased waistlines, stomach fat or "beer boep" is the primary risk fat for the Type 2 condition.

He says healthy diet and nutritional management is key to preventing and managing diabetes.

80% to 90% of Type 2 diabetes cases are preventable through effective dietary management and fitness.

Hamish van Wyk, dietician and clinical consultant at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology

Symptoms of diabetes:

  • excessive thirst
  • unintended weight loss
  • increased urination
  • raised fat

Take a listen to the full discussion on diabetes and diet:


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