How Much of Type 2 Diabetes & Obesity is Genetic and/or Behavioural?
How Much of Type 2 Diabetes & Obesity is Genetic and/or Behavioral?
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Encountering Diabetes & Obesity: A Global Perspective
According to a 2014 World Health Organization report, more than 422 million people around the world (accounting for one in every eleven individuals in the year stated) were patient-sufferers of the Diabetes Mellitus and Obesity Syndrome.
This statistic pointed towards a sharp increase in the observed incidence-rate of this debilitating disease condition against similar data collected in the year 1980 when only 108 million people were identified to be struggling with its signs and symptoms. The overwhelming number of these study-subjects were seen to be suffering from Type-2 Diabetes (also referred to as the ‘Adult/Late Onset’ variety of the said illness within the medical community).
In the post-War era, the rapid rate of industrialization (fueled by a blind, unethical and zealously profit-oriented capitalist impulse, and egged-on further by the shrewd demands of its virulent new-age market venture called ‘globalization’) resulted in supermarkets everywhere being flooded with a huge assortment of high-sugar (high in carbohydrate content) and chemically-preserved manufactured foodstuffs – the main ingestible culprits behind late onset diabetes.
Poor lifestyle and dietary choices on the patient’s part do, of course, also play a significant role in making the patient readily acquire this ailment – thus making these largely controllable health factors the proverbial ‘other side of the coin’ in the context of attaining the illness.
Diabetes, and the Role of Insulin
Diabetes is generally classified by medical researchers into three main categories: Type-1 (Juvenile or Early-Onset), Type-2 (Adult or Late Onset), and Gestational Diabetes (associated with pregnancy). As has already been alluded to, it is the Type-2 variant that is estimated by epidemiologists to be the most demographically significant form of the disease (making for over 95% of all diagnosed diabetes cases). Type-1 Diabetes (as its alternative nomenclature suggests) is acquired during the very early stages of an individual’s life, and is characterized by a complete cessation, or a particularly diminished output, of normal pancreatic insulin production.
Insulin is an important bodily hormone that plays a crucial role in glucose and lipid (fat) metabolism. Its function hinges on its ability to make the host animal’s vast and complex cellular network receptive to incoming glucose molecules, and it works by literally ‘opening’ these cells to allow for the passage of this vital nutrient that thereafter sparks the entire respiratory (ATP producing – energy yielding) process.
Without insulin, there would be no way for the glucose reserves in the blood to come into contact with the cellular machinery inherent in every cell – and in prolonged instances of deprivation, may inevitably lead to cell starvation and death.
Type-1 Diabetes (the Genetic Connection)
In Type-1 Diabetes, the pancreatic cells (due to an autoimmune condition in which the body’s own immune cells start ruthlessly attacking native tissues; due to genetic anomalies and/or some other birth defects) cease proper insulin production, for which reason the patients contending with this malady need to be treated with regular insulin injections – in the form of timely synthetic substitutes (for a natural bioactive substance that isn’t there). This class of diabetics remain at a chronically high risk for catching various kinds of debilitating heart, eye, nerve and kidney diseases. This is because high levels of circulating blood glucose (that remains unassimilated/unutilized by the body tissues) starts getting deposited at these organ sights, and significantly impairs their proper functioning.
Type-2 Diabetes (More of a Behavioral Concern)
More popularly described as the ‘Late Onset’ variant, Type-2 Diabetes does not arise as a biologically innate health condition, but is acquired as a result of certain poor (and reversible) lifestyle choices and habits. Sugary and high-glycemic foods, when they happen to be consumed on a regular basis (something which happens to be the de facto predicament of much of the contemporary western world), evoke a systemic state of insulin-resistance in the body.
What this means is that even in the presence of high concentrations of blood insulin (since in type-2 Diabetes the pancreas do not stop secreting the said hormone), the body’s cells (specifically their surface insulin receptors) gradually start to lose their sensitivity – and delay their response to the same incumbent insulin dosages they had been catering efficiently to earlier.
In this condition, when the patient is said to have become ‘insulin resistant’, his/her pancreas has to work overtime in order to deliver increasingly larger volumes of insulin to make the same cells more malleable to glucose entry. Type-2 diabetes manifests itself with the same signs and symptoms linked to its Type-1 counterpart, but exhibits them with a less discernible severity. The patient’s quality-of-life (and overall mortality rate), however, is severely impacted – and many Type-2 diabetics have to resort to lifelong drug regimens to keep their body systems working properly (albeit at a noticeably sub-standard level than in their normal, healthy condition).
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And the Verdict is…
Both Type-2 Diabetes and Obesity are largely behavioral issues, which can be guarded against & managed through healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition.