How to Prevent Diabetes

How to Prevent Diabetes

By Dr Murray McDonald

Sugar, We’re Going Down
Diabetes has been robbing us of our health and lives for thousands of years. “Diabetes” in the original Greek even means “to drain”. But while some of the risks are out of our control (genetics, etc), a LOT of it is down to our lifestyles [1]. So – do you want to have your life drained from you, or do you want to fight back?

The march of diabetes mellitus (DM) in the world seems near unstoppable. Five years ago, nearly 400 million people worldwide were living with diabetes [2]. The International Diabetes Federation (the other, other IDF) predicts that by 2030, roughly 1 in 10 adults will be diabetic and the largest increases will come from developing countries (South Africa – that’s you).

What is DM?
It’s when your body’s ability to get energy into your cells becomes compromised. Like you’re trying to feed your toddlers, but they refuse to open wide. This means that your cells start malfunctioning and all the chemicals start to build up in your bloodstream. Is that good? No. That is not good. Your body releases more and more hormones (mainly insulin) to try get your cells to open until they eventually just stop responding to insulin (“insulin resistance”). From there it’s a bit of a downward spiral to fatigue, increased hunger & thirst, and eventual cell & organ damage. Blindness. Kidney failure. Amputations. Heart disease.

How do we stop this?
When you have diabetes, you usually use medication like insulin or metformin to unlock your cells and to help get energy in. But what else can help? And how can we stop it getting that far? Well, you’re not going to believe this…

Diet & Exercise
Yup – the old stalwarts. The two things we know we need to do but somehow seem to avoid. Like “saving money” or “staying in touch”. A healthy diet & exercise help by making our cells open more easily, as well as helping us maintain a healthy weight (which does the same and more) [3]. But why are these things so hard to do? If they’re so good for us, why don’t we find them easier to do? Well, that’s a bit more complicated than we have time for here. But to summarise – “diet & exercise” is often too big a concept for our minds to use. We don’t understand the general idea, the specifics always seem controversial, and so we avoid it. We fall back on our lifestyle habits – and those aren’t always based on the right values. But they do predict our outcomes [4].

How to make Healthy Habits
Make no mistake - when we’re faced with a choice, we fall back on our habits. Do we take the lift or the stairs? Would you like that with chips or salad? I’m guessing your choices are usually the same. But which one – now that you are sitting in the cold light of day – do you think would be better for your health? These things are different for everyone based on individuality and context, but it’s usually the stairs and salad that we need more often than the lift or chips. But if they are better for us, why don’t we choose them?

I’m not going to answer this for you. I want you to think about it. Why do you keeping choosing something that you know will harm you in the long run?

Let us know the answer on Twitter @TheChiroHealth / email me at

1. Stevens, J.W., et al., Preventing the progression to Type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults at high risk: A systematic review and network meta-analysis of lifestyle, pharmacological and surgical interventions. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2015. 107(3): p. 320-331.

2. Cheng, A.Y.Y., Canadian Guidelines on Diabetes: Introduction. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 2013. 37(Supplement 1): p. S1-S3.

3. Franz, M.J., et al., Lifestyle Weight-Loss Intervention Outcomes in Overweight and Obese Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015. 115(9): p. 1447-1463.

4. Ghody, P., et al., Identifying prediabetes – Is it beneficial in the long run? Maturitas, 2015. 81(2): p. 282-286.