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Body Mass Index (BMI) and the Risk of Impaired Glucose Tolerance & Diabetes

Sedentary lifestyles, excess body weight, and poor diet have all been linked to the development of impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes. Anyone with a BMI (body mass index) of over 27 is considered to be at increased risk for health problems. A BMI of over 30 indicates obesity and an even greater risk of developing diabetes and other health problems.

Body mass index is not only a concern of adults, however. The "obesity epidemic" has affected children, too. Childhood obesity contributes to the early development of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and has a powerfully negative effect on self-esteem.

Some factors are out of our control: genetics and family history, for instance. But the good news is that we can make changes to our eating habits, activity levels and body weight. Even a loss of ten pounds is enough to significantly lower the risk of diabetes.

Childhood Obesity
High blood sugar levels, type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance were once though to be health problems of middle-aged adults. It was unusual to find people under forty who suffered from any of these conditions. A rapid increase in childhood obesity, however, has changed that perception. Fueled by "junk food" and a lack of exercise, the increase in childhood obesity and the early development of "adult" diseases underscore the importance of establishing healthy eating and exercise habits early in life.

The Big Three: Exercise, Weight Loss, and Diet
Lifestyle changes are imperative if you have high blood sugar, insulin resistance, or any of the other syndrome X conditions. Clinical study has repeatedly established the links among poor diet, obesity and diabetes. Of course, changing a lifetime of eating habits doesn't happen overnight. Learning how to develop healthy eating habits takes time, and weight loss often happens so slowly that it's tempting to give up entirely.

However, even a loss of ten pounds can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Taking weight loss slowly works much better than jumping from one fad diet to another, which can also cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate dangerously.

Exercise is an important aspect of weight loss and control. However, you don't need to kill yourself at the local gym: Raising your activity level may be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a walk after lunch.

The Low Carbohydrate Diet
A low carbohydrate diet is important for controlling glucose intolerance. But this doesn't mean avoiding carbohydrates altogether. Rather it means replacing simple carbohydrates, such as refined flour products and white rice, with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber, an important component in blood sugar control.

Don't confuse the low carbohydrate diet designed for the control of blood sugar levels with diets that completely restrict carbohydrates. More than one "low carbohydrate diet" on the market offers high fat, high protein servings with few carbohydrates. Such diets ignore long-term health in favor of quick weight loss, and should be avoided.
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Last modified 18 September 2006
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