(BlackDoctor.org) Obesity has reached near epidemic proportions in the United States. Obesity rate are high among African Americans, particularly African American women. The risk of diabetes is significantly related to obesity.
Cultural changes in food preparation and family meals likely play a role in the problem. In 1934, all food was prepared from scratch and was largely consumed based on seasonal harvests. The advent of frozen food in 1954 opened up a wider array of food choices, and the introduction of the microwave oven in 1974 meant that children could take a far more active role in choosing and preparing foods without parental guidance.
Adding to this problem is the recent trend of eating food that has been prepared outside the home. National food surveys show that about 30 percent of family meals nationwide are fixed outside the home, regardless of family income. Such meals often are higher in calories and fat and contain larger portions than those prepared at home
Results from studies indicate that there is a relationship between obesity and the increased risk of diabetes. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that 14 million Americans had diabetes in 1995 and that number is expected to increase to 22 million in the year 2025. Diabetes is a major health problem for African Americans for whom the prevalence rate is 1.6 times the rate for whites.
When we eat, our bodies break food down into organic compounds, one of which is glucose.
The cells of our bodies use glucose as a source of energy for movement, growth, repair, and other functions. But before the cells can use glucose, it must move from the bloodstream into the individual cells. This process requires insulin.
Insulin is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. When glucose, from the foods we eat, enters our blood, the pancreas should automatically produce the right amount of insulin to move glucose into our cells. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin. People with type 2 diabetes do not always produce enough insulin.
To understand why insulin is important, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of your food is broken down into a simple sugar called “glucose.” Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to the cells of your body where it can be used to provide some of the energy your body needs for daily activities.
The amount of glucose in your bloodstream is tightly regulated by the hormone insulin. Insulin is always being released in small amounts by the pancreas. When the amount of glucose in your blood rises to a certain level, the pancreas will release more insulin to push more glucose into the cells. This causes the glucose levels in your blood (blood glucose levels) to drop.
To keep your blood glucose levels from getting too low (hypoglycemia or low blood sugar), your body signals you to eat and releases some glucose from the stores kept in the liver.
People with diabetes either don’t make insulin or their body’s cells no longer are able to recognize insulin, leading to high blood sugars. By definition, diabetes is having a blood glucose level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more after an overnight fast (not eating anything).
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes.
Three out of four diabetes-related deaths are caused by heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have heart disease than persons without diabetes. Even people with type 2 diabetes who do not have heart disease have an increased risk of having a heart attack. People with diabetes also tend to have other risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels that feed the retina of the eye. In nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), an early stage of diabetic eye disease, the blood vessels may leak fluid. This may cause the retina to swell and vision to blur, a condition called diabetic macular edema. In advanced or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The abnormal blood vessels don