Karen Chapman-Novakofski, associate professor and nutritionist at
the University of Illinois, explains that type 2 diabetes is often
developed when people are in their 40s, 50s and 60s -- a time in
life when they may be adding a few pounds. Staying within a healthy
weight range may prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
"Because there has been a rise in the number of obese teens,
we're seeing more cases of type 2 diabetes, and we're seeing more of
these problems with people earlier -- in their 40s as opposed to
their 60s," says Chapman-Novakofski. "We're also seeing what's
referred to as 'mature onset' in youth younger than teens."
There's also a condition known as pre-diabetes, which means that
the blood glucose levels are between normal and a diagnosis of the
disease. "A person's physician may tell them that they have found
'some sugar' in the urine or blood. If people are at this stage of
pre-diabetes, it's the time to make some lifestyle and diet changes
before the condition develops into full-blown diabetes -- decrease
calories, lose weight and increase exercise."
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness and
amputation in adults. It is a disorder in which the body's cells
fail to take up glucose from the blood. Tissues waste away as
glucose-starved cells are forced to consume their own proteins.
"Almost all of the increased cases in the last decade have been
in the 85 percent of diabetics who suffer from type 2, or
'adult-onset' diabetes," says Chapman-Novakofski. "These individuals
lack the ability to use the hormone insulin effectively."
Chapman-Novakofski says there have been major breakthroughs in
genetic research concerning the familial clustering of both type 1
and type 2 diabetes, although much more research is needed to
understand how insulin "signals" to a cell and how the insulin
receptor works at the molecular level.
Chapman-Novakofski says she's in the business of helping people
change their lifestyles in order to improve their health,
particularly with respect to diabetes. She has adapted and modified
the content for a program called "Dining with Diabetes." It's a
statewide program that was first developed at the University of West
Virginia. "So far about 3,000 people in Illinois have participated
in the three-day-long sessions," she says. "It focuses on teaching
people how to cook meals that are healthy. And, they get to taste
the meals and verify that they actually taste good too."
Participants in the program are given a pretest and a post-test
in order to evaluate their understanding and commitment to change
"Some people don't know much at all about how what they eat
affects their diabetes, so they need to be made more aware,"
Chapman-Novakofski says. "Some are at the I-need-to-do-something
stage but don't know where to start. Some may have already purchased
a cookbook for diabetics, and some may have already attempted to
make changes in their lifestyle."
People tend to make changes in life based on how bad they think
it is -- how susceptible they are to disease, she says. "Teens
believe they are invincible, and going blind in 40 years, which can
happen if their diabetes is not controlled, is hard for them to
imagine happening. Adults tend to think of the barriers to change --
money, time or energy, so we try to show them ways to overcome those
"It's especially important for people with diabetes to be able to
identify which foods are high in carbohydrates and which foods are
high in calories," she says. Carbohydrates have a greater effect on
blood glucose than protein or fat alone. It's important for people
to know which foods those are. It is also important to maintain
calories at a constant level so that weight isn't going up. Too many
calories also will cause blood glucose to rise.
The symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst and urination,
sometimes a sudden change in weight, and blurred vision.
For more information about diabetes, visit
Over 3,000 people in Illinois have participated in the
three-day-long Illinois Extension program called "Dining with
Diabetes." Participants take the pretest below in order to evaluate
their understanding and commitment to change their diet. Try taking
the test yourself to see how much you know. Answers are below the