It’s Halloween, and you know what that means: sugar, sugar, sugar! Beginning in late summer, stores begin taunting and tantalizing us with prominently displayed festive treats conveniently packaged in small, easy to eat servings. By the time the actual holiday rolls around, we’ve been wading through candy corn and “fun sized” candy bars for months. (My personal favorite is candy corn and peanuts mixed together, but I digress!)
All holidays have their food traditions, but Halloween perhaps wins the prize for being the most focused on candy and other sweet treats as the center of attraction. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will undoubtedly find yourself staring down a candy bar before all is said and done.
Will you give in?
While one piece of candy won’t make or break your health, few of us stop at just one. In fact, most of us see Halloween as we see every other festive occasion from Thanksgiving to our neighbor’s cookout: as a perfectly good time to indulge in whichever kind of sweet temptations are presented to us.
But that indulgence takes its toll and it is manifesting itself more and more in the current epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes. It is called an epidemic because of the shocking increase in new cases of diabetes. Less than 5% of the population had diabetes in 1990. As of 2015, 30.3 million people in the United States, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes. More than 1 in 4 of them didn’t know they had the disease. Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 65. About 90-95 percent of cases in adults are type 2 diabetes, which is caused by several factors, primarily lifestyle factors and genes.
What is diabetes?
Much of the food that you eat is turned into glucose for your body to use as energy. After a meal, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin which helps the glucose, or sugar, move from your bloodstream into the cells in your body where it can be used for energy.
When you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin that it produces. The result is a buildup of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream.
High levels of blood sugar cause extensive damage in the body such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even amputations. Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die early as those without diabetes.
What’s the connection?
The connection between Halloween and Type 2 diabetes is simple: the more sugar you eat, the harder your pancreas has to work to produce insulin and keep your blood sugar within a safe range. But the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin are the only cells in your body that actually wear out from use. If you overwork them, they will eventually cease to perform in a way that can keep up with the demand.
Your body can also become resistant to the insulin that your pancreas produces. The more resistant your cells become to insulin, the more your pancreas has to make in order to have an effect.
When these situations develop, you have Type 2 diabetes.
Prevention The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is completely preventable. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you will never have to experience this disease. And if you already have Type 2 diabetes, you can do much to control it naturally.
The best strategy is to keep your weight within normal range, eat a healthy diet full of whole foods and very little sugar, and exercise at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week.
These simple lifestyle changes are the enemies of Type 2 diabetes.
This Halloween, choose future health over present pleasure. Enjoy one or two treats, and then stop. It’s not worth the price you will pay later. Visit The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website for an overview of “What is Diabetes”.
By Contributing Author: Brooke White, Sound Fitness