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Diabetes Mellitus and the Western Diet: Diabetes Is No Longer Just an American Disease — an article on the Smart Living Network
November 23, 2007 at 1:38 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Diabetes Mellitus and the Western Diet: Diabetes Is No Longer Just an American Disease


There are over 16 million American diabetics, and the World Health Organization estimates that there are 120-140 million diabetics worldwide.Worse, this number is expected to double within 20 years.

Between 90-95% of these cases are type 2 diabetes-meaning they are largely preventable by diet and exercise.Many diabetics don't even know they have the condition until their blood sugars start to cause serious problems. If left untreated diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Why is there such a staggering presence of this preventable disease? Researchers point to the spread of the Western diet and lifestyle around the world.

The Western Diet

Many studies have focused on individual nutritional aspects of diabetes, like fat, sugar and fiber-which are important, but detract from the bigger picture: the massive problem of the Western Diet.

Studies show that that the following foods typical of the Western diet increase the risk of diabetes by more than 50%:

  • red meat
  • processed red meat
  • refined grains
  • high-fat dairy products
  • French fries
  • desserts

The risk is compounded by obesity and little to no exercise, which typically go hand in hand with the Western diet.

No Longer just an American Disease

As of the year 2000, more than 10% of the population of each of these countries is estimated to have diabetes mellitus:

  • Pakistan
  • Czech Republic
  • China
  • Singapore

Between 6-10%:

  • Egypt
  • Cuba
  • New Zealand
  • USA
  • Malaysia
  • Japan
  • Hungary
  • Israel

Between 2-6%

  • Poland
  • South Africa
  • Venezuela
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • Brazil
  • Turkey

Diabetes and Westernization

Diabetes mellitus appears to be growing faster in developing countries, and is rising in urban areas and in younger people as westernization spreads across the globe. Diabetes experts attribute these alarming rises to the western diet including sodas, snacks, and sugars.

As American-owned fast food chains and convenience stores become established in foreign countries like Thailand, the people start wanting fried chicken instead of the traditional Thai diet including vegetables, fish, and fruit.

Initiatives to combat the Western diet include taxation of the sugary sodas and education in schools promoting a healthy diet and exercise.

A Preventable Epidemic

A healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes by 16%.Of course, there are countless resources if you're looking to start a healthy diet, but here are some guidelines:

  • Fish and poultry
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables

The spread of the Western diet and diabetes mellitus are threatening on a global scale, but education and action can put a stop to both. If you have diabetes, it's even more important that you start eating right.

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