Nutrition and Diabetes
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 17.3% of the UAE population between the ages of 20 and 79 had Type 2 diabetes in 2017. Over one million people are living with diabetes in the UAE, placing the country fifteenth worldwide for age-adjusted comparative prevalence. Trends also indicate that the prevalence of diabetes in the UAE is rising at a faster rate than both the MENA region and the rest of the world. Risk factors such as rapid economic growth, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy diets are characteristic of the UAE, leading the expected number of people with diabetes to double to 2.2 million by 2040. However, an increasing population and a greater understanding of the condition have also contributed to the increase in patients diagnosed with the disease.
Nutritional Therapy for Diabetes
The Consensus Report on Nutritional Therapy for Diabetes shows strong evidence that supports the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of nutrition therapy as a component of quality diabetes care, including its integration into the medical management of diabetes. Nutrition counseling that works toward improving or maintaining glycemic targets, achieving weight management goals, and improving cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., blood pressure, lipids, etc.) within individualized treatment goals is recommended for all adults with diabetes and prediabetes.
Reducing Risk for Diabetes
Prediabetes is often considered a transition step to Type 2 diabetes, but with necessary lifestyle changes, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed. This can be achieved by making changes to eating habits, being physically active, and weight management. These steps also lower the risk of long-term complications caused by diabetes. A one-size-fits-all eating plan is not appropriate for the prevention or control of diabetes as the people affected by diabetes and prediabetes have different cultural backgrounds, personal preferences, comorbidities, and socioeconomic settings.
General healthful eating tips for managing diabetes
- Limit food and drink that is high in added sugar
- Eat smaller portions, spread out over the day
- Make your carbs count by choosing whole grains and fruit and vegetables to limit refined carbohydrates
- Enjoy a variety of whole-grain food, fruit, vegetables, lean sources of protein, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products every day
- Eat less saturated fat and focusing on healthy fat sources such as avocados, olive and canola oil, and nuts and seeds
- Limit consumption of alcohol. If you choose to drink, be sure to discuss this with your health care provider
- Use less salt
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, a registered or licensed dietitian can help create a healthy eating plan that will consider your medications, lifestyle, and any other health issues, while ensuring you get the nutrients your body needs.
Happy Diabetes Awareness Month!
Dima El-Halabi, MSc, RDN
College of Health Sciences
Abu Dhabi University