November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a campaign to raise awareness about the prevention and management of diabetes.


What are the facts?

According to a new 2017 report released from Diabetes Canada on Diabetes in BC, rates of newly diagnosed diabetes in British Columbia are increasing rapidly.

  • – During the past 10 years, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in B.C. has increased by 74%
  • – 485,000 people in British Columbia have been diagnosed with diabetes in 2017, 9.5% of the province’s population
  • – 1.4 million of British Columbians or 29% of the population are living with diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes combined
  • – 785,000 British Columbians have prediabetes, a precursor to type 2 diabetes


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body does not process glucose (sugar) from foods to use as a source of fuel for the body, this occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body does not utilize insulin properly. This results in a surplus of glucose in the bloodstream, over time causing inflammation which can lead to serious health complications such as heart and kidney disease, neuropathy (nerve damage) and retinopathy (impaired vision). Type 2 diabetes can be managed with lifestyle modifications but may also require medication and/or insulin.


What are the risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes?     


Non-Modifiable Modifiable
Ethnicity Diet
Poverty Physical Activity
Age Blood Pressure
Family History Smoking


How can I help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes?



  • – Achieve and maintain healthy body weight.
  • – Balance meals; consuming an appropriate portion of carbohydrates and pairing it with a source of protein and small amounts of healthy fats at each meal and snack can help manage blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates raise blood sugars while protein and fat have little to no effect on blood sugars, combining them helps slow down the digestion and absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are found in fruit and fruit juices, starchy vegetables, grain products, milk and alternatives, baked goods and desserts. Proteins are found in lean cuts of chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • – Portion control; avoid supersizing your servings by substituting a dinner plate for a side salad plate. Half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter of the plate with animal/plant-based protein and the other with high fibre, whole grains or starches with a low glycemic index, use the plate model as visual guide/tool. Of note, it is important to keep in mind the glycemic index of a food can change depending on the variety of the food, its ripeness, how it is prepared, how it is cooked, and how long it is stored. Also, the glycemic index of a food is different when eaten alone versus when combined with other foods.
  • – Meal spacing; consume a breakfast within 1-2 hours of waking followed by eating every 4-5 hours throughout the day, having meals and carbohydrates spaced evenly throughout the day helps the body control blood glucose levels.
  • – Skip the sugary drinks; drinking regular pop and fruit juice will raise blood glucose and add extra unnecessary calories making it difficult to manage weight, instead opt for water to quench your thirst.
  • – Limit added sugar; fruit and milk have naturally occurring sugars however there are many foods that have sugars added during the processing or preparation stage. Sugary drinks, baked goods, desserts are examples of foods with added sugars. Some less obvious foods that may have added sugars are bread, yogurt, canned items, condiments, and salad dressings. Also, many foods that are low in sodium and/or fat often have added sugars to boost flavour. To limit added sugar intake read the ingredient list and nutrition facts table. Ingredients are listed by weight, added sugars should be listed at the end of the list or hopefully not at all. The nutrition facts table provides a total amount of sugars found in the food item, it does not distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars, never the less this is still a useful tool to know how much sugar you may be consuming.
  • – Avoid tobacco use.

Activity and Exercise:

  • – Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity per week, you can break this down to about 30 minutes 5 days a week. Limit screen time, get out and play.


Making even small changes can have a large cumulative effect over time. Focus on the things that you can have instead of things you may be giving up. For more information on nutrition tips and recipes visit the resources listed below.


Available Resources:

Canada Diabetes

Dietitians of Canada

HealthLink BC

Eat Right Ontario



Suzie Cromwell is a Registered Dietitian now working part-time at Elaho Medical Clinic. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Health at UBC, and following her graduation she completed an extensive integrated internship with Fraser Health Authority at both Royal Columbian and Burnaby Hospitals. Suzie is registered with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia and is a member of Dietitians of Canada.
Her scope of expertise includes: healthy weight loss and maintenance, the prevention and management of various chronic diseases (including Diabetes, Kidney, and Cardiovascular disease), and the effective management of digestive issues (including IBS, IBD, and Celiac Disease); as well, she has a special interest in Sports Nutrition.


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