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Millets and Diabetes

Over the past few years, I have met many people in my quest to spread awareness about Millets. I have received many testimonies as to how changing to a millet diet has helped in controlling diabetes. I often wondered how this was happening and why. To understand the causes of diabetes and its relationship with the food we eat, I caught up with Dr.Adithya Pradyumna, a doctor keenly interested in food systems and public health.

Testing blood sugar is necessary to understanding diabetes

Studies show that prevalence rates of diabetes are as high as 20% in some Indian cities


Me: Hi Dr.Adithya, thanks for agreeing to answer my questions! So I’ll start with this: what is the root cause of diabetes?

Ad: That’s a hard question to answer. From a bio-medical perspective, there are several risk factors for diabetes. These are classified as non-modifiable and modifiable. The non-modifiable factors are related to age and genetics, whereas the modifiable factors include diet, physical activity, lifestyle and other environmental stressors.

Me: How strongly do the genetic predisposition and other non-modifiable factors affect us? Is it even worth it for people to try to prevent diabetes through controlling the modifiable factors?

Ad: Definitely! The Genetic predisposition is a major factor with both Juvenile (Type 1) and Adult onset (Type 2) diabetes. However, the risk of diabetes definitely increases if people are living lifestyles which are unsuitable. Meaning that if people are doing the right kind of physical activity and eating the right kind of food, even if they have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, the risk is much lesser. With the right lifestyle, the occurrence of diabetes can either be prevented or at least delayed - and both of these are worth aspiring to.

Me: Very interesting! What is the right physical activity, you would say, one has to do to decrease the risk of diabetes?

Ad: Researchers have associated diabetes with the lifestyles which people live, on average, in cities. For example, even children sitting in front of the TV instead of playing outdoors, increases the risk of obesity and diabetes later on. But for adults, it is related to work which primarily involves them sitting for many hours a day. And since people cannot really change how they work, what they have to do is keep aside some time, every week, for doing physical activity; maybe jogging, cycling, walking or swimming or something else.

Ad: There are many, multiple versions of what is best. But, keeping aside at least three half-hours in one week for physical activity is a minimum. Of course, those who are over 65 years of age shouldn’t overdo it.

Me: Now about the food — what is the right kind of food which people need to be eating to tilt things in their favour?

Ad: This is a slightly more complicated question to answer. But there are some general principles to follow; one is that a person should eat just as much as needed, not more. There is a tendency nowadays for people to eat more and do less physical activity. So, overeating and eating till one is completely full, that kind of thing should be avoided. Try and control how much you eat.

Ad: Another principle is regarding the quality of food. There is a classification of food based on glycemic index. Some of the food has been classified as being high in glycemic index. Those kinds of food should be avoided as much as possible. Some foods have a low glycemic index and those foods are preferable to be consumed for diabetes and prevention of diabetes. Whole grains, such as millet, whole grain wheat, pulses, nuts, most fruits and vegetable fall under the list of low glycemic index. White rice, potatoes, watermelon and processed food, such as chocolates, chips, etc fall under the moderate or high glycemic index classification respectively.

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Kaulige Foods conducts regular workshops teaching people about millets & millet cooking. Get all the updates regarding workshops from our facebook page: facebook.com/kaulige