Beware of Holiday Diabetes

This is the time of year when many of my patients struggle with keeping their weight and blood sugar under control. It starts with Halloween, when we buy those delectable treat-size candy bars to pass out to trick-or-treaters – and eat many of them ourselves. It continues throughout Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day with the sugar-laden treats and leftovers from holiday meals contributing to our already flourishing spare tires.

The resulting insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar has been linked to an increased risk of developing Type II diabetes.

Medical guidelines don’t start labeling blood sugar a problem until it reaches at least 100 to 124 mg/dL, the current cutoff for pre-diabetes. But a study conducted within the Kaiser Permanente Health System and published in the American Journal of Medicine has determined that even lower levels are cause for worry.

Patients were sorted according to blood sugar levels of <85, 85-89, 90-94, or 95-99 mg/dL. Each one-point increase in blood glucose (BG) was paired with a 6 percent increase in the risk of developing diabetes. Those with BG levels from 90 to 94 mg/dL increased their risk by 49 percent, and those with levels from 95 to 99 mg/dL were 2.33 times more likely to develop the disease.

The results of this study don’t surprise to me. For years, I have been preaching that once your blood sugar starts climbing, unless you do something about it, you are going to become diabetic. But I’m happy to have a study that now quantifies that risk and backs up what I’ve observed clinically.

If you haven’t already done so, develop a strategy for limiting your intake of high-carb, high-sugar foods in the coming weeks. For instance, before going to a party, curb your appetite with a higher-protein snack, a bowl of soup, or a cup of hot tea. Whenever possible, opt for higher-volume, lower-calorie foods, such as vegetables with bean dip and lower-sugar fruits and vegetables. Go ahead and enjoy your favorite dessert – but take a small piece and share it with your spouse or friend. Better yet, volunteer to bring a healthy holiday dish to the party so you know you’ll have at least one healthy choice. Meanwhile, try to increase your exercise to rev up your insulin receptors and help your body better deal with the excess sugar you’re almost certainly going to be eating.

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