Did you know the 14th of November is World Diabetes Day?
Updated: Nov 13
To mark World Diabetes Day, our corporate nutritional therapist Laura, rounds up the latest news for Type 2 Diabetes and how certain diets can help us manage the condition.
In February this year, Diabetes UK predicted that 5.3 million of us are expected to be living with the condition (both types) by 2025. There are two types of Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 and for this article, we are focusing on Type 2. For Type 2 Diabetes the symptoms can be managed often through diet and exercise but the real danger lies in the stealthy onset of complications, which is why Type 2 Diabetes, if poorly managed, has been linked to complications such as premature death. However, the good news is that making healthier food and lifestyle choices could prevent over 50% of Type 2 Diabetes cases.
The NHS recently announced it is exploring VLC diets to tackle Type 2 Diabetes, but this is a short-term intervention and not a sustainable diet long term. A long term option is the Mediterranean diet model, which offers a foundation for establishing healthy eating habits for life, based on eating in harmony with nature, a positive relationship with food, respect for ingredients, and conviviality. The Mediterranean diet has been proven to reduce the incidence of obesity (the greatest risk factor for) Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It can even boost your mood (brain function) - see future posts for more on this.
The key difference between a typical western diet and the Mediterranean diet is a higher intake of healthy or natural fats, fibre, whole grains and leafy vegetables plus higher levels of the sunshine vitamin - D. These components slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption and glucose release, amongst having numerous other health benefits. Soluble dietary fibre comes in many forms, one of these is beta-glucans, a branched polysaccharide, known for their effectiveness in lowering cholesterol. Having a high intake of beta-glucans may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity incidence if they are consumed alongside a balanced healthy diet and lifestyle.
Barley has the highest beta-glucan content of all foods, it slows postprandial glucose absorption, and influences the gut microbiota by increasing both Prevotella Copri, which aids regulation of blood glucose, and Bifidobacterium, which has been found to have a protective role in the development of Type 2 Diabetes. Research into diabetes and obesity has identified the gut microbiome as a major player but specifics are yet to be defined. A 2015 study by Lund University, published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that barley consumption improved metabolism for up to 14 hours, decreased blood sugar and insulin levels and improved appetite control via gut microflora and hormones. Please note, this was a short 3-day, intensive intervention, and future robust studies will need to be evaluated.
In 2018 an animal study into mushrooms and Type 2 Diabetes found the same prevotella (bacteria) increase which is interesting but as this study was performed on animals we cannot make any associations towards our own health just yet.
Did you know, mushrooms also contain beta-glucans, and cultivated varieties have lower levels than wild varieties with the greatest concentration in the stalk or stipe. Porcini or Cep contain the highest amounts, followed by Chanterelle, Shiitake, Oyster, White button and Chestnut. These yeast beta-glucans were primarily associated with innate immune modulation and anti-inflammatory action however, research has also highlighted they could play a role in blood glucose regulation, satiety and weight loss.
Type 2 Diabetes is a multifactorial condition, which means that there are lots of elements and factors as to why we get the condition. Aiming to include more beta-glucans in the diet could be helpful to anyone with blood glucose dysregulation (as long as this is part of a varied diet) *coeliacs, unfortunately, cannot consume barley.
If you are intrigued and want to have a go at adding some beta-glucans into your diet then please take a look at Laura's seasonal recipe for a delicious meaty mushroom and mellow leek risotto (below). This recipe has lots of satisfying umami flavours, and prebiotic ingredients* to feed your unique ‘gut garden’ (aka gut microbiome). Since this recipe uses barley rather than rice you don’t need to continuously stir! We hope you enjoy it!
MUSHROOM AND LEEK BARLEY ‘RISOTTO’ Serves 2
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic* clove
150g pearl barley or pot barley* - rinsed
625ml chicken stock or mushroom stock (1g dried porcini + 625ml boiling water)
200g mushrooms * a mix is nice
Pinch; dried oregano, fennel seeds, lemon zest
40g Parmesan (vegan alternative 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast and 1 tbsp. crushed cashews)
A handful of rocket leaves - washed
1. Make the chicken or mushroom stock. Finely slice the leek, garlic, and mushrooms.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the leeks, garlic and fennel seeds and cook low for 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, stirring continuously for around 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the barley, wait 1 minute, add ¾ of your chosen stock and turn down the heat to low for a gentle simmer. Add the oregano and lemon zest.
4. Check and stir every 10 minutes, adding stock to prevent the risotto drying out. It will be cooked (al dente) after 30 -35 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Serve with Parmesan shavings and rocket leaves. Add salt and pepper at the table.
Top tip! You can now find vitamin D enriched mushrooms for sale, these are definitely worth a try as our levels of vitamin D typically fall from October – April. Vitamin D is a significant, non-nutrient component of the Mediterranean Diet, and many studies have linked vitamin D and Type 2 Diabetes.
Laura is our corporate nutritionist and a BANT Registered nutritional therapist, a healthy trained chef and a member of BANT and CNHC. Having worked in fast-paced workplaces she understands the challenges of balancing healthy eating with busy schedules. Her interactive talks and workshops combine nutritional insights, recipes with practical tips. Please contact us to request Laura's expertise.
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Yuan Tian, Robert G. Nichols, Pratiti Roy, Wei Gui, Philip B. Smith, Jingtao Zhang, Yangding Lin, Veronika Weaver, Jingwei Cai, Andrew D. Patterson, Margherita T. Cantorna, Prebiotic effects of white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) feeding on succinate and intestinal gluconeogenesis in C57BL/6 mice, Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 45, 2018, Pages 223-232, ISSN 1756-4646,