Originally published in the Victoria Advocate, Feb. 8th, 2012:
Though you might be at a normal weight, you can have an accumulation of what is called visceral fat. Fat in the body is stored in two ways, as visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.
Visceral fat is found within the abdominal cavity hugging vital organs. It can interfere with your liver, pancreas and insulin sensitivity. Visceral fat puts you at risk for diabetes.
Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is found just below the skin and doesn't interfere with organ function.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 15 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are not overweight.
Here are some things you can do to decrease your risk for diabetes:
Eat regularly and don't skip meals. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar drops. To counteract this, the liver will release glucose to provide you with energy and raise your blood sugar. These constant spikes of blood sugar can potentially set you up for diabetes later on in life.
Exercise. Don't depend on diet alone to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise helps lower your blood sugar level. Not only will exercise help shed visceral fat, but it helps muscles absorb glucose 20 times better than normal. Weightlifting builds muscle, which helps with blood sugar control and burns visceral fat.
Control your intake of high carbohydrate and sugary foods. Constantly eating foods, such as muffins, donuts, cookies and other high fat and sugar foods, can keep your blood sugar elevated. Your pancreas has to work hard to release insulin to transport that sugar into the cells. Eventually, your cells don't respond to the insulin properly, and your pancreas gets worn out from trying to pump out more and more insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Limit your intake of sugary beverages, such as flavored coffees, soda and juices. Be wary of added sugar in low-fat salad dressings, some cereals, flavored milks, condiments, sports and energy drinks and packaged food. Look at the ingredients and avoid items containing high fructose corn syrup. Some research has shown that the body converts it into visceral fat.
Get your shuteye. New research is showing the risks between sleep deprivation and developing diabetes. When you don't get enough sleep, your body requires more insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Your body's response to stress and hormones is affected, which also affects your blood sugar level. Prioritize and hit the hay early for a good night's rest of eight hours.
Learn how to de-stress. Cortisol is released from the body in response of stress. Continuous excess stress keeps Cortisol levels high, which can decrease metabolism of glucose. Try exercise, yoga, breathing exercises, hobbies, massages or whatever it takes to keep your stress level down.
Since you don't always know how much fat is sticking to your organs, it is important to make healthy choices in order to decrease your risk of disease.
Mona Khalil is a dietetic intern.