Diabetes is a metabolic disorder which reduces the ability of the body to control the amount of glucose in the blood. According to PHE (public health England), 3.8m people are estimated to have diabetes in the UK and about 1million have the condition but have not been diagnosed. People of African-Caribbean, Black African descent have a greater risk of developing diabetes compared to the Caucasian population. People with diabetes can live long and fulfilling lives if the condition is well managed. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to devastating and costly complications such as; retinopathy (blindness), kidney disease, amputations, stroke and heart attack.
There are 2 common type of diabetes;
Type 1; this affects around 10% of the diabetes population in the UK, type 1 develops when the pancreas cannot make any insulin. Insulin is the hormone that moves glucose from our body to the body cells where it’s used for energy. Usually occurs in younger people (under 40) but can develop at any age
Type 2; this affects approximately 90% of the diabetes population, obesity is the most significant risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, accounting for 80-85% of the overall risk of developing the condition (1). Usually develops in people over 40 years of age or 25 or over in BME (Black Ethnic Minority) population, people who have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes, women with waistline bigger than 80cm (31.5in), men with waistline bigger than 94cm (37in), women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or have had gestational diabetes, known to have pre-diabetes
Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat of our times and an urgent public health issue, it is estimated that the NHS spends about £10 billion on diabetes every year; this is about 10% of the NHS budget (1)
We as Christians should therefore not become a burden to the NHS; the bible says we are the salt of the earth, Matt 5:13, we should therefore add value to the nation not be a burden. Diet is fundamental in the management of diabetes, a healthy balanced diet coupled with physical activity for type 2 and carbohydrate counting with Physical activity for type 1. A healthy balanced diet is low in fat, high in fibre, and has adequate amount of carbohydrate foods (slower broken down options i.e. wholegrain/whole-wheat – low glycaemic index) and controlling portions of this in the diet to help maintain blood glucose level, will focus more on diet in part 2 of this article
As a registered dietitian (RD) working in the specialist area of diabetes for about 15 years it greatly saddens my heart when I come across people from Black African and African-Caribbean descent usually with type 2 diabetes not compliant with their medication due to religious beliefs, in proverbs 14:15-16, the bible advises about searching for reliable information (the naïve or inexperienced is easily misled), why would you listen to someone telling you not to take your medication! Do not get me wrong no one actually comes out and tell us in clinic that they have been told by their pastor/spiritual leader not to take their medication, (comments such as; ‘I have been told I have diabetes’ and ‘I belief I can fight this’ are usual clues) when we ask if they are compliant with medication prescribed they give positive response however, no improvement whatsoever in HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin), we then discuss about progression unto insulin and the response is usually please give me 2-3 months and do the blood test again and lo and behold, on their return to clinic in the stipulated time we notice dramatic improvement in glycaemic control. Why should this be happening in this day and age, yes! God heals, when you are sick you see a doctor, (Matt 9:12 attest to this) you see your pastor for spiritual healing and growth. Be careful who you listen to on things relating to your health. We should therefore play our part by eating a healthy balanced diet, take your medication if applicable, and exercise more so you can live a life of purpose.
1. Diabetes UK – State of the nation (England) 2016
2. Public Health England report (2016)
Modupe Peters Bsc (Hons) PG cert RD is a diabetes specialist/freelance dietitian with over 15 years experience. She currently works in the NHS and is also one of the directors of food for purpose (FFP)