The Causes of diabetes are still not fully understood. Neither are medical scientists able to explain why some people develop diabetes and others don’t. Certain factors have, however, been clearly identified which contribute to the development of diabetes.
Is Diabetes Inherited?
Heredity is a major factor. That diabetes can be inherited has been known for centuries. However, the pattern of inheritance is not fully understood. Statistic indicates that those with a family history of the disease have a higher risk of developing diabetes than those without such a background. The risk factor is 25 to 33 percent more.
Children are most likely to develop diabetes if either or both parents are diabetes, or if the expectant mother became diabetic, or if the mother was a confirmed diabetic prior to conception. This may not always be true. It is possible for parents who were, or are diabetic and the other remains free from the disease.
It is, however, essential that the blood sugar level of an expectant mother who is diabetic be maintained within the normal range, so that diabetes is not passed on to her child. It the blood sugar level is kept under control, the infant may not have nay symptoms of inherited diabetes, but a risk factor cannot be ruled out.
One reason why diabetes, especially type-2 diabetes runs in the family is because of the diabetes gene. But even it is caused by genetic factors beyond your control; there is no reason to suffer from it. Diabetes mellitus cannot be cured in full sense of the term, but it can be effectively controlled so that you would not know the difference.
Intensive genetic research is currently underway to identify genes associated with both type-1 and type-2 diabetes. In a study sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of USA the relatives at risk of type-1 diabetes are being treated with low doses of either insulin or an oral medication to determine if drugs may prevent the disease.
Surveys show that in India diabetes is more prevalent among males than females. In this population, family history of diabetes mellitus was present in 5.5 to 11.6 per cent. Amongst diabetics, 18.3 per cent urban and 6.4 percent of rural population had a direct relative with diabetes. Therefore, genetic predisposition in India is comparable to that observed in other parts of the world.
Diet: A Self inflicted Causes
Diabetes has been described by most medical scientists as a prosperity’ disease, primarily caused by systematic overeating. Not only is eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates harmful, but proteins and fats, which are transformed into sugar, may also result in diabetes if taken in excess.
Too much food taxes the pancreas and ultimately its normal activity of producing insulin gets paralyzed. It is interesting to note that diabetes is almost unknown in countries where people are poor and cannot afford to overeat.
The incidence of diabetes is directly linked with the consumption of processed foods rich in refined carbohydrates, like biscuits, bread, cakes chocolates, pudding and ice creams. In Britain, during the war when only whole wheat bread was available the incidence of diabetes dropped by 55 percent.
Parents should take great care to develop correct dietary habits in their children. Children should be prevented from becoming addicts to harmful foods like ice cream, cakes, jam, jelly, peppermint, chocolates and other sweets. The amount of food given to children should be such as would allow growth but not obesity. Children should be convinced about the importance of exercise and games and sports should be encouraged. Ideal body weight and a proportionate body is an almost certain guarantee against diabetes.
The Obesity Trigger
Obesity is one of the main causes of diabetes. Studies show that 60 to 85 % of diabetics tend to be overweight. In the United States of America, about 80 percent of type –2 non-insulin dependent diabetics are reported to be overweight. During the Second World War, when there was a decrease in the average weight of the people, the incidence of diabetes came down dramatically. The greater the obesity, the greater is the mortality rate due to complications of diabetes.
Excess fat prevents insulin from working properly. The more fatty tissue in the body, the more resistant the muscle and tissue cells become to body insulin. Insulin allows the sugar in the blood to enter the cells by acting on the receptor sites on the surface of the cells. In obesity, where a person is overweight by 20 percent of the ideal weight or has high uric acid, or some syndromes, receptors are sparse and functionally idle. This is observed in patients developing diabetes around the age of 40 years, and having type-2 non-insulin dependent diabetes. It is estimated that the incidence of diabetes is four times higher in persons of moderate’s obesity and 3 times higher in persons of severe obesity. It has been rightly said; Heredity is like a cannon and obesity pulls and trigger.
Older people often tend to gain weight, and the same time, many of them develop and mild form of diabetes because who are over weight can often improve their blood sugar simply by losing weight. In some cases, it is all that is required to bring blood sugar back into the normal range. Even small weight loss can have beneficial effects, reducing blood sugar levels, or allowing medicines to work better. However, sudden gain in weight may cause diabetes to return. It is therefore important for older people to keep their weight down to normal. Among those detected to be diabetic, almost one third are overweight.
Pancreatic infections with Coxsackie’s B virus can result in beta cell damage, development of autoantibodies and, consequently, type-1 insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Some of these can be diagnosed by a viral antibody test and islet cell antibody test. Screening for antibodies can indicate potentially juvenile diabetes in a family on the basis of auto-immunity.
The Lifestyle Risk
A sedentary lifestyle, resulting from lack of physical work and exercise, plays an improvement role in the development of diabetes. The less active a person, the greater the risk of developing diabetes. Modern conveniences have made work easier. Physical activity and exercise helps control weight, uses up a lot of glucose (sugar) present in the blood as energy and makes cells more sensitive to insulin. Consequently, the workload on the pancreas is reduced.
Exercise also adds to the muscles mass. Normally, between 70 percent to 90 percent of the blood sugar is absorbed into the muscles. A reduction in muscle mass-either due to age of physical inactivity—reduces the storage space for blood sugar, and it remains in the blood stream.
Smoking: An Important Risk Factor
Smoking is another important risk factor. Among men who smoke, the risk of developing diabetes is doubled. In women who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day, the risk of developing diabetes is increased by 40 percent. Smoking also reduces retinal blood flow and increases the risk of developing retinopathy. It also decreases insulin absorption and limits joints mobility. Smoking, in combination with diabetes, greatly enhances the likelihood of premature mortality. It also depends upon the number of cigarettes a day a person smokes and the number of years he has been smoking.
A risk of type-2 diabetes increases, as one grows older, especially above the age of 45 years. Part of the reason is that is people grow older, they tend to become less physically active, lose muscle mass and gain weight. With life styles becoming more sedentary, there has been an increase of diabetes among people in there 30s and 40s.
Stress and Tension
Stress can be emotional or physical, such as a surgery or a serious infection, an accident or an emotional shock. Another very urban trait, the high stress lifestyle, not just amongst the young unwardly mobile, but increasingly in all walks of life, is a relatively new phenomenon in India. Since there is a known connection between stress and diabetes mellitus, those who are under stress and/or lead an irregular lifestyle, need to take adequate precautions and make necessary lifestyle adjustments.
Pancreatic insufficiency caused by stress, can lead to diabetes. Grief, worry and anxiety resulting from examinations, death of a close relative, loss of a joy, business failure and strained marital relationship, all a deep influence on the metabolism and may cause sugar to appear in the urine.
Diabetes may be associated with some grave organic disorders like cancer, tuberculosis and cerebral diseases. Diabetes may also be caused by a variety of other factors. These include certain metabolic and genetic disorders, inadequate secretion of insulin by the pancreas, malfunctioning of other endocrine glands like thyroid, pituitary and adrenal, excessive consumption of alcohol and the use of the certain drugs.
Although the reasons are unclear, people of certain races are more likely to develop diabetes than others.