Two million Australians have prediabetes and are at high-risk of developing type 2 diabetes – but there is plenty you can do to turn your health around. So how do you know you’ve got it?
According to Professor Jennie Brand-Miller at the Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF), the short answer is that you won’t. A condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, prediabetes doesn’t come with any obvious warning symptoms.
However, this doesn’t mean there is nothing to look out for – or that nothing that can be done about it.
“There are a number of risk factors for prediabetes, so those at risk can request a blood glucose test which will show if their levels are elevated. Making lifestyle changes to reduce these risk factors can then help ward off type 2 diabetes,’ says Professor Brand-Miller.
The risk factors are similar to those of type 2 diabetes, and include being overweight – especially if you’re carrying excess weight around the midsection. This is something you can check yourself – a waist circumference over 80 cm for women or 94 cm for men is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Other risk factors include having a family history of type 2 diabetes or heart disease, being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, a sedentary lifestyle, high total cholesterol levels or high blood pressure. For women, having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or having had gestational diabetes is also on the list.
If you have any of the risk factors, ask your GP about a blood glucose test, which will show if your numbers are higher than normal. From here, they may recommend additional testing to see if there is a potential issue.
Why does it matter?
As well as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, being prediabetic increases the risk of cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease. Diabetes Australia report without making the necessary lifestyle changes, one in three people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
The good news? They report there is strong evidence to show type 2 diabetes can be prevented in up to 58% of cases in the high risk (prediabetes) population, by eating well, exercising and losing excess weight.
How the Total Wellbeing Diet can help
The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is an online weight loss program that incorporates low GI carbs into the meal plans. It’s also an easy to follow diet that means being able to eat with the rest of the family, and not having to shop for ‘special’ ingredients – you can rejig every day favourites simply by shopping low GI smarter (think swapping your daily spuds for a low GI Carisma or sweet potato, or choosing wholegrain over white bread.)
“There is significant evidence that low GI diets not only decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but also assist in improving the management of diabetes,” Jennie says.
She says low GI diets have been shown to:
- improve blood glucose levels by reducing blood glucose spikes
- lower insulin levels, which makes fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored
- reduce insulin resistance
- improve markers of average blood glucose levels
- improve blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol
- increase feelings of fullness after eating and reduce hunger between meals
- increase the rate of weight loss, reduce waist circumference
- help prevent weight regain over the longer term.
While following the Total Wellbeing Diet takes the guess work out of figuring out which foods are low GI and provides a range of recipes and meal plans, you can identify low GI foods by looking out for the “Low GI” symbol on food packaging, or you can look them up on the GI database.