Diabetes and Cycling

Why talk about diabetes on a cycling website? Two main reasons, firstly doctors suggest that cycling (along with swimming but we aren’t a swimming site hence ‘diabetes and cycling’ rather than ‘diabetes and swimming’) is a low impact (on joints) form of exercise that helps limit and treat the effects of diabetes. Secondly if just one newly diagnosed person searches the internet and ends up here and takes up cycling because of this article then I would consider it a resounding success and I will be a happy man.

Also even if you haven’t been diagnosed and are in no danger from diabetes some of the facts about sugar content in foods will surprise you.

When I first approached the editor of Veloballs with the idea for this article, I wondered if it would be a too heavy subject, but he replied that he thought it was a great idea and told me to go for it…. I then panicked as I realised I had to write a ‘proper’ article with facts and figures rather than my usual ramblings laden with sarcasm, attitude and (hopefully) witticisms, so here goes…..

There are two types of diabetes Type 1 and Type 2 they have similar symptoms but different causes, both result in increased blood-sugar levels that can cause if left untreated, eye, feet and heart problems, it also takes longer for cuts and grazes to heal. The cause of both is insufficient insulin  being produced by the pancreas which regulates the amount of  sugar in your system.

Type 1 is an autoimmune condition and is often inherited, diagnosed in childhood and not linked to lifestyle . It is usually the more serious condition of the two, as the pancreas normally produces no insulin whatsoever.

I’m going to concentrate on Type 2 though as Type 1 is controlled with insulin and monitoring needs to be carried out far more rigorously  and I would not presume to give any advice on Type 1 that is any different or better than a Doctors.

Type 2 is becoming an epidemic according to the N.H.S. A new term of pre-diabetic has been coined for people who are edging towards the Type 2 borderline, but could be pulled back from the brink if they improve their lifestyle. There is also a train of thought that suggests if you are type 2 and change your habits soon enough after diagnosis then the effects can be reversed. This may be true, but I believe you won’t be cured, the weight loss and healthy eating would in my opinion be the ‘medicine’ used to treat your diabetes, it would return if that medicine went away i.e. You put weight back on and started eating junk food again.  Type 2 is sometimes controlled by diet alone but more often tablets and in some cases, insulin.

Type 2 is often linked to lifestyle i.e. Poor diet and lack of exercise. It used to be known as ‘age related’ diabetes, but before anyone gets on their high horse and goes all defensive on me. I will add that I was diagnosed with type  2 in my late twenties whilst overweight and eating far too many kebabs.

There is some evidence however that says that some people may be susceptible to obesity and diabetes due to their genes. If that is true and it may well be, then the modern world certainly doesn’t help that group fight the susceptibility. i.e. Sugar laden food and lack of time for exercise. Lets take both points and discuss them.

Sugar Laden Food
The Guideline daily amount (G.D.A) for sugar for an adult is 90 grammes (gms)….. Lets say you had the following for your lunch….. (they are the market leaders standard products) the amount of sugar is in brackets
one tin of Tomato soup (20 gms)
one can of normal cola (35 gms)
one fruit yoghurt (18 gms)

Total 73 gms or 81% of the sugar G.D.A

If you add a few biscuits and two sugars in all your cups of coffee throughout the day then add a Korma or sweet and sour as your evening meal then you have probably at least doubled the G.D.A for sugar intake. Study the cola’s sugar content, it contains nearly twelve teaspoons of sugar would you put twelve spoons of sugar in your coffee? no of course not…. Its no wonder soft drinks are called hidden calories by dietitians on television programmes.
Of course low sugar options are available but you only think to look for them if you realise how high in sugar the normal products are.

Lack Of Exercise Time
I tried to find time for jogging and failed. Long hours at work and a young family made me feel guilty when I got home then went out for a run, leaving the wife who also works full time to bath Little-un, cook his tea, do ironing etc. She wants me fit and healthy but quite rightly she needs some help in the home as well. I’m sure other people have the same dilemma, bringing work home or staying late to finish something and generally fighting for family time…

I feel there is another reason we are in an obesity/Type 2 epidemic and that is, an affluent society. My generation, the kids born in the sixties and seventies were the first generation in history where two elements combined to create a time bomb…. the elements were….
・ Readily available sweets and chocolates in the shops… (pre-war, chocolates were a luxury and during the war and until 1953 they were heavily rationed.)
・ Parents with money to buy them (and the inclination to buy them because they themselves were deprived of them in the 40’s and 50’s) my parents if they had wished could have bought me dozens of chocolate bars a week…. and the problems getting worse whilst I’m not wealthy I could go out right now and spend thirty quid on sweets without causing the household budget any problem. Never before have people been able to spend so much on unhealthy food.

If I was ‘Ruler of the World’ (cue sinister laughter, Wha, ha, ha, ha…….) I would ban supermarkets from doing ‘Buy one get one free’ (Bogof) or half price offers on any product with over ten gms of sugar in the pack…. People will drink both of the ‘Bogof’  thick sugary milkshakes in quick succession just because they have them.

I once complained to a supermarket because they had ‘half priced’ the full sugar 6 packs of Cola but specifically excluded the diet alternative. I told them they were at best naive and at worst promoting obesity…. (I got a ten quid gift voucher for my trouble and the promise to look at their marketing procedures)

Okay lets now discuss cycling (hoo-rah finally)… Exercise is part of the treatment for type 2, walking and running will help but…. walking won’t get you very far in a hurry and running if grossly overweight can impact your joints and cause you other problems long-term. But cycling….. If you live within ten miles of work, you can easily cycle to work and if you live in a city it will probably be just as quick…. this is where the family time juggle comes in…. Its guilt free ‘you’ time, I cycle to work everyday if I drive to work twice a month I’d be surprised.

So If you are Type 2 or pre-diabetic then I will give you two pieces of advice (follow your doctors advice as well but hopefully it will be similar to mine)
・ Look at the sugar in all foods, 3 gms of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar if the amount of sugar looks high, it probably is…. a lasagne could have 4 spoons of sugar in it ……We know puddings have high sugar content but we know this and ‘budget’ for it, its the hidden sugar in soft drinks and savoury foods that ambush you.
・ Get your bike out of the shed and ride it (to work if possible) , if you haven’t got one, borrow one or buy one, even if its a supermarket special, but I guarantee in 6 months any bike you have or buy won’t be good enough and you will be hankering after a sexy road bike (old name = racer). You may even have lost enough weight to consider wearing lycra (stop laughing , you will honest!) if your mates laugh, tell ’em to piss off because at that point you will be healthier than them.
If you follow my (and your doctors of course) advice you will live as long as anyone else,  if you don’t follow it, (and even worse, you smoke as well) then you could well be blind and in a wheel chair with no legs by 65….. that’s not a fact just a distinct possibility…..
I’m a right bore round the supermarket because I check the sugar on everything and my wife does the same, not just for me but the rest of the family as well…..

I could go on and tell you to check carbohydrates  because these turn to sugar as well, but I don’t want to over complicate matters.

When I was first diagnosed I was distraught but it was the kick up the arse I needed to change my lifestyle, I haven’t reversed the condition myself but I’m close to my ideal weight and have the condition well under control…
If you have read this out of interest but are not Type 2 diabetic, then I will point out that it is estimated millions of people are walking around un-diagnosed with the condition, so if TWO or more of the following apply to you then stop reading and go and get a test at your Doctors or a local chemist NOW….
・ More than a stone (7 KG) overweight.
・ Thirsty a lot of the time.
・ Urine is dark yellow and smells. Diabetes  Mellitus (the conditions full name) is ancient Greek for sweet excessive urine (the literal translation is syphon honey-sweet.)
・ Go to the loo a lot for a wee in the night.
・ Get cramp in the night 2 or 3 times a week.
・ Vision is occasionally a bit blurry.

I’m sure people on other health and diabetes sites and forums could disagree with my opinions on the causes of Type 2, they may be right, I haven’t got even an ‘O’ level in Biology, but I cycle a lot and listen to my doctors therefore I would hope they would agree with my advice, So…..

For a final time RIDE YOUR BIKE and CHECK THE SUGAR CONTENT IN YOUR FOOD. Even if you don’t have diabetes that isn’t bad advice for anyone, is it?

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