Coronavirus and type 2 diabetes: TV doctor reveals top tips to reduce risks posed by virus
Coronavirus is a hard concept for many people to get their head around. The virus has upended our daily lives and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the UK yet the threat is imperceptible to the eye for many. Its amorphousness is what makes it so terrifying – how can you protect yourself against something you cannot see?
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The UK population may be united in worry but some members of the public will be understandably more unsettled than others.
That’s because the virus is proving more deadly in people with underlying conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
The fact that millions of people across the UK live with the chronic condition, it is reasonable to expect this large subset to be feeling quite shakey.
As Dr Michael Mosley of thefast800.com points out, the major risk factor that underlies type 2 diabetes – high blood sugar levels – is believed to be one of the primary reasons for developing complications from COVID-19.
As Diabetes UK explains, COVID-19 is likely to make it harder for people with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels stable.
“Your body tries to fight the illness by releasing stored glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream to give you energy. But your body can’t produce insulin to cope with this, so your blood sugars rise,” says the health site.
It adds: “Your body is working overtime to fight the illness, making it harder to manage your diabetes. This means you’re more at risk of having serious blood sugar highs and lows, as well as longer-term problems with your eyes, feet and other areas of your body.”
It is therefore more imperative than ever for people with type 2 diabetes to stabilise their blood sugar levels.
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How to keep blood sugar in check
As Dr Michael Mosley explains, eating certain foods can both stabilise your blood sugar levels and help you maintain a healthy weight – another risk factor associated with COVID-19.
To kill two birds with one stone, he recommends opting for a Mediterranean-style diet which is low in sugar, but rich in healthy fats such as salmon, mackerel and nuts.
“Eating fruits and vegetables, as well as full fat yoghurt is also encouraged,” he says.
Evidence attests to the blood-sugar lowering benefits reaped from eating a Mediterranean-style diet.
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The diet is typically low in carb and a low-carb diet has been shown to have a marked improvement on blood sugar control.
In one study, conducted at Bispebjerg Hospital in collaboration among other partners, patients with type 2 diabetes improved their ability to regulate blood sugar levels when they ate food with a reduced carbohydrate content and an increased share of protein and fat.
28 patients with type 2 diabetes participated in the study over a total period of 12 weeks.
For six weeks, the patients were given a conventional diabetes diet with a high carbohydrate content, and, for the other six weeks, they were given a diet with a reduced carbohydrate content, high protein content and moderately increased fat content.
The patients were given the diet types in random order.
The study found the following:
- A diet with a reduced carbohydrate content, high protein content and moderately increased fat content improves glycaemic control (the ability to regulate blood sugar) by reducing blood sugar after meals and ‘long-term blood sugar’ (measured by ‘HbA1c’, which is a blood test used to measure the average blood sugar level over approximately the past two months).
- A diet with a reduced carbohydrate content, a high protein content and a moderately increased fat content reduces liver fat content.
- A diet with a reduced carbohydrate content may be beneficial to patients with type 2 diabetes — even if it does not lead to weight loss.
What other conditions put you at a higher risk of COVID-19?
According to the NHS, other at-risk conditions include:
- Lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
- Heart disease, such as heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver disease, such as hepatitis
- Conditions affecting the brain and nerves, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- Problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease, or if you’ve had your spleen removed
- A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- Being very overweight (having a BMI of 40 or above).
“People most at risk from coronavirus are sometimes called ‘shielded’ or ‘extremely vulnerable’ people,” says the health site.
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