The facts about diabetes in Australia are alarming.
280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one new person with diabetes, every five minutes.
It is estimated there are up to 500,000 Australians living, undiagnosed, with diabetes. Around 1.7 million are living with the disease.
Every year, diabetes racks up a financial toll of around $14.6 billion.
Of the two types of diabetes, Type 2 is the most prevalent and can come in unexpected sizes, at unexpected ages and with unexpected consequences. Across the country, young, old, thin, obese, male, female, Caucasian, Indigenous, and migrant Australians are crippled by this disease.
Science journalist Michael Mosley, whose work on health includes numerous investigations into weight loss, and popularising the 5:2 diet, will be joining the show to discuss his shock at being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and his thoughts on how it can be prevented.
Because that’s the good news: it is thought diabetes can be delayed or prevented in 58 percent of Type 2 cases.
But how do we do this? What are the best methods for preventing and treating, even reversing, Type 2 diabetes? Which diets work, which foods raise our blood sugar, and who is most at risk?
Insight investigates the increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and its growing, but largely silent, impact on the Australian population.
- Are you at risk? Take the questionnaire from Diabetes Australia
- Where is diabetes most widespread across Australia?
- OnDemand – Michael Mosley: Eat, Fast and Live Longer
- Australian Diabetes Society
What does 800 calories look like?
Insight guests Professor Roy Taylor and Michael Mosley advocate an 8-week diet of roughly 800 calories a day for newly-diagnosed T2 diabetics. They cite research showing that such a diet can help diabetics lose weight quickly and start to reverse the effects of the disease.
But what exactly does 800 calories a day look like, in food?
There is ongoing debate about the best way to treat, manage and prevent T2 diabetes, and a significant player in this discussion is low-fat food products.
On their “What should I eat?” web page, Diabetes Australia recommends that in order to help manage diabetes, people should “eat a diet lower in fat, particularly saturated fat.”
This includes choosing reduced or low-fat milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream and custard.
On the other hand, these products are often high in sugar – as seen in this Choice investigation - and some believe this makes them worse than full-fat products in treating diabetes.
Insight guest Michael Mosley points to a Swedish study which found eating more dairy products was associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
In particular, of the 27,000 middle-aged Swedes involved in the study, those who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 23 per cent lower risk of developing Type 2, when compared with those who ate the least amount of fat.
So are things like low-fat yoghurt and milk – two of the most common low-fat food products available – actually good for us? How much sugar do they contain?
Comparing the labels between full-fat milk and skim milk, there is a minimal difference in sugar content.
This breakdown of nutritional information from Dairy Farmers shows there is only 0.4g difference between their full-fat milk and their low-fat range.
Yoghurt, however, can vary widely in sugar and fat content.
On Insight’s 'Beating Diabetes' episode, Jenny Brockie and Michael Mosley compared full-fat, natural, Greek yoghurt with berries, to a berry-flavoured, low-fat yoghurt.
The full-fat yoghurt contained only 4.8g of sugar per 100g compared to almost triple the amount in the low-fat variety: 13.8g of sugar per 100g. On the other hand, the full-fat yoghurt had about five times as much fat as the low-fat option - 10g of fat per 100g and 1.9g, respectively.
More information about low-fat dairy in general can be found in this article, but if you’re ever confused about what to eat, flip over the product and read the label.
Not all low-fat food products should be excluded from our diets. However, the more processed the product, the more likely it is to contain larger amounts of additional sugar and ingredients.
If you have T2 diabetes, consult your GP before making significant changes to your diet.