Sweet, Sweet Death: Minority Health Series Pt 2

Sweet, Sweet Death: Minority Health Series Pt 2

In the second part of the series Minority Health, a look will be taken at diabetes and its’ impact on minority communities.

Sweet Death: Diabetes and Minority Communities



Despite the discovery of insulin the 1800s, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes continues to spiral upward.

Death by Chocolate

apricot-with-whipped-creamThe growing number of cases of Type 2 (insulin dependent) diabetes in the UK – and worldwide – along with rising obesity levels are prompting governments to re-think their policies and strategies with regard to reducing sugar intake and obesity (obesity and diabetes have been linked in a number of studies).

But what we eat isn’t the only factor at play – who we are, and perhaps how we feel about the world in general may also be contributing to the epidemic.

The Heredity Factor: Genes at Play

The level of Type 2 diabetes in the Black and Asian communities is particularly high, when compared to the general British population.  According to government data (HSE 2004) all minority groups, (with the exception of the Irish) have a higher risk of doctor-diagnosed diabetes, in comparison with the rest of the population.  In particular, women of Pakistani origin are 5 times more likely to develop diabetes, while women of Bangladeshi or Afro-Caribbean background are 3 times more likely to be affected.  For men, there are similar statistics: Bangladeshi and Pakistani/Indian men are, respectively 4 and 3 times more likely to develop diabetes than the general population.

Studies suggest that a mixture of the environment and genetic susceptibility are factors in the higher rates of incidence of the disease; it is suggested that in the UK, minority adults aged 40-69 years are 2-4 times more likely to have diabetes that white adults in the same age group.

Sugar Cravings: Is the Sweetness of Life Missing?

Another way of looking at diabetes is perhaps on a more emotional level – it’s been my experience that many of the people I have encountered who have been diagnosed with diabetes also have very difficult emotional lives, for one reason or another.

Could it be our craving for sugar is an unconscious and physical way of adding “sweetness” to our lives?  Mind and body are linked and humans more often than not are motivated by unconscious thoughts and feelings locked within – perhaps diabetes should also be looked at as a silent cry for love and sweetness in our lives.  Is bitterness in your life making you crave sugar?

Balancing Food Energy:  Diet Factors

There may be some link between meat (particularly red meat) consumption and sugar consumption.  According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, meat which contains yang (or “masculine”) energy needs to be balanced by something yin (or “feminine”), i.e. something sweet.  The two energies act to balance one another.  I know personally that as a strict vegetarian, I ate no meat at all and I never craved sweets during that time (and I’m a serious chocoholic!).  This may not be true for everyone, but it’s certainly something worth considering.  Perhaps just reducing meat consumption to a couple of times a week can help reduce cravings for sugar as well.  You have nothing to lose – and will even save some money in the process!

Lifestyle and Diabetes: Move it or Lose It!

There is good evidence showing that regular exercise and dietary changes can help reduce (and even eliminate) dependence on insulin.  Local councils in Britain are making efforts to get people exercising by installing outdoor exercise equipment in local parks.  That’s great and it’s free– but are you getting out there to use them?

woman-in-bike-raceWith so many people living sedentary lives indoors – even changing your normal habits to include a daily walk through your local park can help burn calories and help reduce blood sugar levels.

You may want to try and find local fitness groups, particularly for diabetics – try looking online.  If there isn’t a support group in your area – get some friends together and create one!

Taking charge of your health will not only feel good – it will do you good!