Being diagnosed with diabetes is a life changing event, as I discovered in 2012. I immediately decided to make major lifestyle changes in order to beat this disease. As with other sufferers of serious, life-long conditions I have struggled over the last six years to find a sustainable way to not only survive but thrive with this chronic disease.
Being a Member of the European Parliament, and travelling internationally weekly, has not helped.
Finding solutions to this complex condition is not just a challenge for individuals, but also for public health organisations and governments. Diabetes is currently the fastest growing health crisis of our time with the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK more than doubling in the last twenty years.
Latest data shows that in the UK almost 3.7 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes and 12.3 million people are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Further afield there are around 33 million people in the European Union who suffer with diabetes and according to the latest WHO statistics, around 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, with predictions that this number will double in the next twenty years.
Diabetes is becoming more prevalent and is therefore a public health crisis due to unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and increases in obesity levels. If those affected by diabetes do not correctly manage their condition, they are likely to become progressively ill and debilitated, and over time diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
Despite this pessimistic outlook, there are some simple solutions sufferers can take in order to help reduce both the amount of medicines needed to treat the illness and the long-term problems associated with this condition.
In the UK, current government advice recommends that people put starchy carbohydrates at the base of their diet. These guidelines are absolutely wrong and have been a major contributor to the increase in obesity-related illnesses in the UK over the past three decades.
In 1977, government dietary guidelines in the USA changed (followed by the UK in 1983 ), replacing a foundation of satiating and nutritious full fat whole foods for starchy carbohydrates, resulting in a thirty five year diet fad with disastrous consequences for public health.
When I was first diagnosed, I decided to ignore current government dietary guidelines, in particular advice on how much sugar and how many carbs I was allowed to consume. Reducing my intake of both sugar and carbohydrates immediately after diagnosis I was able to completely erase the need to take Metformin and I didn’t need insulin injections for well over a year.
After reading The Pioppi Diet, written by British Consultant Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, I felt that this was a lifestyle plan that could not only get me back on track with my health goals, but could also be a lifelong solution.
The “21-Day Lifestyle Plan”, notably reduces sugar intake to ten times lower than recommended by the government. Dr Malhotra has been on a mission to not only reduce the growing levels of diabetes and obesity in the UK and Europe, but in some cases reverse the effects of diabetes. I have joined Dr Malhotra in this important operation to change current government guidelines and I have hosted two events at the European Parliament in the last two years highlighting not only the problem, but some solutions.
The history of tobacco control should have taught us that legislation to reduce the availability, affordability and acceptability of smoking had the biggest impact in reducing the consumption of cigarettes, and had this occurred decades earlier, when the first scientific studies linking smoking and lung cancer were published, millions of premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease could have been prevented.
I am a big believer in education before taxation and in individual liberties over government regulation, but these are extenuating circumstances. We have an opportunity to save millions of lives by not only changing existing guidelines, but helping the misinformed public make better choices.
A campaign of more effective education combined with efficient legislation, will also save national health services and public health organisations hundreds of millions, in a time where hard decisions are being made with the public purse. We have the opportunity to do something. Education at the point of diagnosis, is crucial as that is when the shock level is highest, and people are more likely to make dramatic changes to lifestyle.
I wish that my GP had given me a book or video extolling the correct direction I should take; empowering me to take responsibility and control of my disease, instead of my disease taking control of me and my life.
We need to act, and we need to act now.
This article was originally published here.