Data reveals key step to reducing diabetes risk

Australia is in the grip of an uncontrolled diabetes epidemic, national data reveals, and it’s
possible you could be among the hundreds of thousands – potentially millions – of
undiagnosed Australians.

There are 1.3 million people living with type 2 diabetes in this country, two million with
prediabetes, with the latest data suggesting half a million could be going undiagnosed.

Other research suggests this figure could be 18-20 per cent of the population, or up to 5.3
million Australians potentially undiagnosed.

Unfortunately, the data suggests these exponential rates are expected to continue to rise,
with an estimated trajectory of approximately 3.4 million people living with type 2 diabetes,
prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes in 2050.

While these statistics may look grim, this is very important information, as diabetes can put
you at increased risk for other health conditions, such as dementia, heart disease, stroke,
non-alcoholic fatty liver, vision loss and kidney issues among other conditions.

These are complications that develop due to the elevated blood glucose levels that occur in
diabetes, which is why it is so critical to be aware of your risk and the symptoms, so you can be proactive with screening and treatment if necessary.

Understanding your diabetes risk

Knowing your risk factors for type 2 diabetes can help you take proactive steps towards
prevention. Firstly, age is a significant risk factor, particularly for those over 55.

Other key risk factors include family history of type 2 diabetes, being overweight (especially around the midsection), lack of physical activity, a diet high in processed and sugar-rich foods and drinks, high blood pressure or cholesterol, history of gestational diabetes, smoking and certain cultural backgrounds (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background).

Understanding these factors allows you to take targeted action, such as maintaining a
healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity and eating more nutrient-rich whole

Recognising symptoms of diabetes

One of the frustrating things is that the symptoms of diabetes can be quite vague and easily overlooked.

Common symptoms can include increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, fatigue,
blurred vision, slow-healing sores, frequent infections, or unexplained weight loss.

If you’re going to the bathroom a bit more than usual, feel like you’re eating more or feel
tired, you might not put those things down to a diabetes diagnosis. That’s why it’s not
uncommon for people to live with undiagnosed diabetes for an average of seven years. It’s
also common for people to receive a surprise diagnosis when a developing complication is
identified, before you even know you have diabetes!

This is why it is so important to have regular health checks with your doctor and get
screened for diabetes. Early detection and management can prevent the development of
serious complications and help maintain good health and quality of life.

Reducing your risk of diabetes

According to the National Health Survey, one key step you can take to reduce your risk of
diabetes and other health conditions is to increase your intake of vegetables.

You may be among the 93.5 per cent of Australians not meeting the daily recommended
vegetable intake, which is at least five servings a day.

One serving is approximately 75 grams of vegetables, which could be one tomato, one
carrot, one cup of salad greens or spinach, a quarter cup of baked beans or other legumes,
or half a cup of cooked broccoli, cauliflower or other vegetables – all of these items are
around 75 grams each.

To achieve this practically, let’s look at an example of a nutritious daily eating plan:

Breakfast: switch out the boxed breakfast cereal and incorporate avocado, tomato, baby
spinach and mushrooms in an omelette, frittata or egg muffins.

TIP: frittatas and egg muffins can be cooked ahead and reheated for a grab-and-go

Lunch: opt for a chicken and salad sandwich or a sandwich wrap layered with lettuce,
tomato, beetroot, onion, grated carrot and sliced onion, choosing breads or wraps with lower carbohydrate and higher fibre.

TIP: grab a barbecue chicken and some packs of ready-made salad, combine together for a quick and easy lunch.

Dinner: skip the rice or pasta for a beef and vegetable stir-fry, stew or casserole; or at the
very least include a tasty side of vegetables alongside your beef, chicken, fish or choice of
meat-free protein.

TIP: you can purchase chopped, prepackaged vegetables to streamline your time in the
kitchen and mix through pesto and some parmesan cheese for a quick and tasty side dish. 

Based on this daily menu, you’d be including more than five serves of vegetables a day, and aiming for more is ideal. There are countless ways to include more vegetables in your daily plan, so start building changes into one meal and work from there.

The key point is that if you can focus on reducing your intake of sugar-rich processed foods
and try including more vegetables with every meal, your health will improve. Every small
step counts!

Access and availability to nutrition education and support

Adding vegetables to your daily routine is one positive step forward, but what about further
education and support on diet and nutrition for those living with type 2 diabetes and
prediabetes? Or for those interested in prevention?

Ample research demonstrates that improving the quality of your diet and nutrition is an
essential step to optimise your health, reduce your risk of diabetes and to manage diabetes
more effectively.

In fact, for people with type 2 diabetes, numerous studies have shown that improving diet
quality can be more effective than many oral diabetes medications, and changes in diet can
help you minimise medication dependency.

This is a very important health outcome for you, as polypharmacy (taking multiple
medications) is more common in older people and can lead to side-effects and even hospital admissions.

Despite the proven benefits of nutrition to change diabetes health, or prevent it, many
Australians lack adequate support. One top challenge is limited access and availability, an
issue further emphasised in the latest national data.

Quite simply, there are not enough healthcare professionals to serve every person with
diabetes. But there is hope. And more than that, a proven solution.

Closing the gap: digital nutrition the way of the future

To find access to nutrition education and support, you will likely need to turn to digital support programs.

Currently, the T2Diet Program is Australia’s only scientifically proven online nutrition program for people living with type 2 diabetes – a program backed by world-leading multiphase research conducted at Deakin University and including a randomised controlled trial (the highest standard of evidence).

In the 16-week trial, the average reductions in haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in the program
group were almost 1 per cent (0.94 per cent), which is a large reduction in a short time.

Average weight loss was 4.36 kg and 87 per cent of participants reduced medication. Some
participants reduced HbA1c by as much as 3 per cent and lost 14 kg in the 16 weeks.

Fast forward a year or so and people all across Australia are sustaining life-changing health
outcomes—lower HbA1c, sustained weight loss, and many have reduced or even stopped

Digital nutrition education and support is a positive and highly effective solution to close the gap on our current national crisis and support people to achieve better health.

Do you suspect you may be at risk of diabetes and when was your last health check? How
might you start including more vegetables in your daily eating plan? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Can you reverse type 2 diabetes?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice.
For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Dr Jedha Dening
Dr Jedha Dening
Dr. Jedha Dening is a leading specialist in nutritional management of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, and the founder of the T2Diet Program, Australia’s only scientifically proven online nutrition program changing lives by reducing blood sugar, weight and medications.
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