Prediabetes is very often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
It is when your blood sugar level is higher than it should be but not high enough for your doctor to diagnose diabetes.
It occurs when your body doesn’t make or utilize insulin properly. This causes an excess of glucose to build up in your blood, which can be harmful to your body over time.
However, while there is a high likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes, it is possible to cure prediabetes and restore healthy blood glucose levels.
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How common is prediabetes?
- The CDC estimates that between 84 and 86 million Americans have prediabetes, this is approximately 36.5% of the population.
- This figure is similar to China, which has been facing increasing rates of diabetes as the diets have become higher in sugar and more westernized. The estimated prevalence of prediabetes in China in 2012 was 35.7%
- The UK’s National Health Service estimates 7 million Brits have prediabetes and The EU estimates that approximately 60 million Europeans have prediabetes. However, this figure is potentially the least accurate as there is a lot of variance in the monitoring of prediabetes in the individual EU countries and many individuals with prediabetes, metabolic syndrome or high glucose levels remain undiagnosed.
- Globally it is estimated that half a billion people will suffer from prediabetes by the year 2030. This may actually be a conservative estimate.
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?
One of the issues with prediabetes is that it is often asymptomatic for the majority of the time you might have it.
Because prediabetes has no obvious symptoms, it often goes undetected until serious health problems show up.
Some people may experience conditions that are associated with insulin resistance, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and acanthosis nigricans. This appears as dark, thick, and often velvety patches of skin. They can occur on the:
If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, it’s important to consult your doctor if you experience:
- increased thirst
- increased urination, especially at night
- blurry vision
- sores or cuts that won’t heal
Risk factor for prediabetes
Many risk factors can cause the development of type 2 diabetes, including ones that cannot be avoided or challenging to control, such as:
- Age: Although prediabetes can occur at any age, the risk of developing it increases after the age of 45.
- Family history: Your risk of prediabetes increases if a family member or close relative has type 2 diabetes.
- Race/ethnicity: It is not known why, but certain ethnicities have a higher chance of developing prediabetes, including African- Caribbean, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans.
- Sleep patterns: The quality, duration, and consistency of your sleep play a significant role in the regulation of endocrine functions, and glucose metabolism.
- Long term stress: A 2018 study found that men who routinely and consistently endured long term stress art at a higher risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome: This syndrome is the combination of the negative health impacts of obesity, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, or “bad” fats, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL or “good” fats. It increases insulin resistance and impairs your metabolism, which increases your risk of developing prediabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women who suffer from PCOS are more likely to develop insulin resistance, which can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: Women who give birth to babies that weigh more than 9 pounds seem to be at a higher risk of developing prediabetes. The children of women who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy seem to have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
- Steroids: Although beneficial for treating inflammatory conditions, steroid therapy can cause a rise in blood glucose, leading to the diagnosis of steroid-induced diabetes. This may or may not resolve when steroid therapy stops.
- Lack of physical activity: A lack of physical activity increases the risk of becoming insulin resistance or worsens the condition in someone who has an established diagnosis.
- Unhealthy eating/ poor dietary habits: Foods and drinks high in refined sugar, saturated fats, and excess in calories increase the likelihood of developing prediabetes and related disorders.
- Sedentary lifestyle / Lack of regular exercise – Studies have shown that people who spend the majority of their day sitting down are at a higher risk of developing diabetes and prediabetes. This is true even if they take a break for exercise.
- Overweight/Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of becoming insulin resistant.
The normal guidance is that you should start having blood screening tests for diabetes when you are 45 years old. Depending on your health and lifestyle you may want to include them as part of your annual checkup or have them ever 3 years.
However, if you have any of the risk factors above, then you should consider earlier and more frequent glucose testing, especially if there is a family history of diabetes or you are overweight.
There are three standard diagnostic tests that are used to determine if you are prediabetic.
Fasting Plasma Glucose Test: The first is a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG). If on this test, your blood glucose levels are between 100 and 125 milligrams, you would be considered prediabetic.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: Alternatively, you can have an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). On this test, a two-hour blood glucose value between 140 and 199 indicates you have prediabetes. If your score is lower than 100 on a fasting plasma glucose test, or 140 on the oral glucose tolerance test are considered healthy or normal scores. Scores above 125 or 199 of the second test would result in you being diagnosed with diabetes.
HbA1c: A further test, typically used is HbA1c test. HbA1c is your average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months and levels just below 6.5% may indicate pre-diabetes. According to the ADA, pre-diabetes is defined as an HbA1c between 5.7% and 6.4%.
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
- Nerve damage
- Vision problems
Treatment to Reverse Prediabetes
The good news about prediabetes is that it is a treatable, manageable, and even reversible condition. The earlier you are aware of your prediabetes, the better your chances are of successfully treating the disease.
If you want to reverse prediabetes, your best options are therapeutic lifestyle changes. This means losing weight if you are overweight, improving your diet with healthy eating, and engaging in more exercise if you live a sedentary lifestyle.
Research shows that weight loss of just 5- to 10 percent can significantly improve your blood glucose levels and help reverse prediabetes. This is also true of undertaking physical exercise.
Merely engaging in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day every day of the week, and you will see significant improvements in your health, weight, and blood glucose health.
A 3-year long study showed that those who made these improvements to their health had a 60 percent reduction in diabetes risk compared to a 30 percent reduction in a group that made no improvements and simply took medication.
Simply put, the best treatment of prediabetes is to exercise and make dietary changes that help you lose excess body weight.
If you are looking to make improvements to your diet or increase your physical activity, because you are concerned about prediabetes, insulin resistance, kidney disease, heart disease or high blood pressure then read this article now.
It is full of positive and easy changes you can make to lower your blood sugar, such as reducing your saturated fat intake.
Foods to include in a prediabetic diet:
- Fatty Fish, such as mackeral, salmon, and sardines
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Chia Seeds
Foods to Limit or Avoid
- Processed meats
- Fried foods
- Fatty red meat
- Solid fats (e.g., lard and butter)
- Refined grains
Some doctors recommend taking prescription medication as soon as you are diagnosed as being prediabetic. However, while the American Diabetes Association (ADA), does say that you can take Metformin (Glucophage) for prediabetes there are a few things that you should know before you consider it as an option.
Firstly The FDA has not approved Metformin for any other condition that type 2 diabetes and the FDA states that it is meant to be used alongside “diet and exercise.” Despite this some doctors do prescribe it for prediabetes, this is technically an off label prescription and not recommended by the FDA.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, Metformin may not be more effective than diet and lifestyle, and, some natural substances have been studied and shown to be similar or superior to Metformin without causing the same side effects.
In an interview with Endocrine Today, Dr. Buse, MD, Ph.D., professor of medicine and endocrinology at the University of North Carolina said: “Clinical data suggest that if a patient is able to adhere to it, then lifestyle intervention has broader benefits than drug therapies, and without the side effect profile”.
Often doctors prescribe metformin for prediabetes because they do not believe that the patient will make the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes. Or, they consider the changes financially burdensome, either due to the cost of a gym membership, or fitness equipment, or fresh fruits and healthy vegetables.
However, studies have noted that the long-term cost-savings of making improvements to your diet are lifestyle are actually significant, with healthy food being more nutritious and more affordable than high sugar, or high-fat junk foods.
Best supplements for treating prediabetes
Many people look for additional ways to help them combat prediabetes or lose weight, as it is often hard to stick to a diet or exercise regiment. Other people look for a way to speed up the process, either to lose weight faster or to tackle their prediabetes before it can progress.
Due to the side effects of Metformin (Glucophage), a lot of people turn to supplements to help them manage their diabetes or reverse their prediabetes.
The right supplement can help you reverse prediabetes, and even help you deal with full-blown type 2 diabetes. However, you have to be careful, as not all supplements are trustworthy, genuine, or as effective as they may seem. Only purchase supplements from reputable sources that you trust.
- Chromium: There has been growing interest and research surrounding the effects of chromium supplements on diabetes since the 1950s. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessed 180 people with type 2 diabetes and the effects of supplemental chromium. This revealed that Chromium could improve fasting glucose, postprandial glucose, insulin, hemoglobin A1c, and cholesterol.
- Berberine: Researchers have noticed that berberine suppresses oxidative stress and inflammation in tissues. These include kidney tissue, fat tissue, liver tissue, pancreatic tissue, and others. A three-month-long trial compared berberine and Metformin on 36 diabetic patients with a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The study found that berberine’s blood sugar lowering effect was like that of Metformin, and berberine led to significant decreases in hemoglobin a1c, from 9.5% to 7.5%.
- Banaba: Research shows that banaba can help the body to use insulin more efficiently and aid in weight loss. A scientific study found patients treated with 10mg of banaba leaf extract over 30 days had decreased blood sugar levels within 60 min.
- L-Leucine: A study on diet-induced obese mice found that leucine supplementation significantly improved glucose and energy metabolism. This suggests that leucine supplementation could be a beneficial adjuvant therapy for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Cinnamon Bark: Cinnamon bark has been shown to increase insulin and insulin sensitivity, prevent heart disease, increase antioxidant use in the body, lower blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and aid in weight loss.
- Bitter Melon: Researchers have found that bitter melon can have a hypoglycemic effect and help to lower blood sugar levels. Multiple studies have shown that bitter melon can inhibit intestinal absorption of glucose, suppress key glucogenic enzymes, and decrease hepatic gluconeogenesis.
- Gynostemma: One study tested the effects of gynostemma and found that steady-state plasma glucose responses markedly decreased after the treatment, indicating improved insulin sensitivity.
Ben’s Glucose Control
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Alongside improvements to your diet and lifestyle, Glucose Control is an effective treatment of prediabetes and can help reverse and control the symptoms of prediabetes and diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition that should be taken serious, as if untreated, it can develop into type 2 diabetes. The good news is that prediabetes is a treatable, manageable. By recognizing the signs and making healthy lifestyle changes early, it can be successfully reversed.