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Healthy Cane Column

You know what I love? Chocolate. I also love ice cream, bread, potatoes, Sour Patch Kids and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Unfortunately, these foods all contain something that can be very unhealthy, especially for some with diabetes.

The sometimes unhealthy accompaniment to many of our favorite foods is glucose, which is the main source of fuel for the body. Most of the foods we eat are broken down into this sugar. For glucose to get into cells and be used for growth and energy, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is sometimes ineffective or nonexistent in people with diabetes.

There are three main types of diabetes. Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, is a condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin; Type 2 – the most common form of diabetes – is when the pancreas produces insulin, but for some reason the body cannot use the insulin effectively, resulting in an unhealthy buildup of glucose in the blood. The third type is gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy and usually disappears when the pregnancy is over.

There are a few factors in the development of diabetes. People who are overweight or of African American, Hispanic or Native American descent, as well as people with a family history of diabetes, are at a greater risk. Type 1 diabetes occurs equally among males and females, but is more common in whites than nonwhites. Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially women who are overweight.

Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision and extreme tiredness. If not diagnosed and treated a person can lapse into a life-threatening coma.

There is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, has a few easy preventative steps: Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat healthy foods such as vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and avoid foods such as saturated fats, alcohol, processed red meat, soft drinks, sugary foods and junk food.

Now it is quite possible that most of you are like me and love your sweets, but in the long run sucking down that Jamba Juice or Frappuccino may not seem like such a good idea when the doctor is telling you that you have to take insulin shots for the rest of your life.

Ashleyann Gosselin may be contacted at a.gosselin@umiami.edu.

February 28, 2008

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