Home African Caribbean The rise of Type 2 diabetes is a threat to us all
Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Health news. Another week and yet another food related health scare, or so it would seem if you are sceptical about being told what to eat.

The latest UK food scare, if you pay attention to  the news media, concerns the rise of type 2 diabetes. According to National Health Service data since 1996 cases of diabetes have risen from 1.4 million to 2.9 million but more interestingly cases of type two diabetes are predicted to rise by 2015 to 5 million people.

In case you’re wondering whether there’s a relationship between food and type 2 diabetes the NHS, while acknowledging that an increasingly ageing population plays a part the rapidly rising numbers of overweight and obese people play their part in pushing up the numbers.

Sadly the type 2 numbers growth is not just an issue in the UK: the International Diabetes Federation reports that world wide the number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing in every country. The statement from the IDF in itself should start the alarm bells ringing but if you’re a member of the African diaspora and have any doubts that the issue has anything to do with you then this explanation from the NHS should make things abundantly clear:

“People of South Asian, African, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The condition is up to six times more common in South Asian communities than in the general UK population, and it is three times more common among people of African and African-Caribbean origin. People of South Asian and African-Caribbean origin also have an increased risk of developing complications of diabetes, such as heart disease, at a younger age than the rest of the population.”

While the evidence for genetic predisposition is clear the explanation for why the disposition exists is a little less clear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is very American focused, there is a belief among some researchers that some African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans have a ‘Thrifty Gene’ which allowed there bodies to store food at times of shortage. The ‘Thrifty Gene’ theory goes on to suggest that while historically the gene was once an asset it is now a liability in today’s world where food is plentiful.

While the ‘Thrifty Gene’ idea is just a theory what it does however point to the fact that type 2 diabetes is partly about the way that the our bodies deals with the food we eat. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that when it comes to sugar what the body doesn’t burn in energy gets stored as fat. Diabetes is about the way the body manages its sugar levels using a hormone called insulin. In the case of type 2 diabetes this is triggered when the body either isn’t able to produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin that it produces.

While genetics plays a part in whether you have a body that develops problems with the way it deals with insulin production it is clear that obesity has a role to play. Scientific research has led us to believe that there are three theories for obesity playing a part in the development of  type 2 diabetes:

  1. Fat molecules in the blood stream disrupts the production of insulin.
  2. Additional fat layers around the stomach causes the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals that disrupt how insulin responsive cells behave.
  3. Excessive body can lead to a condition called ‘prediabetes’ which means that the body has higher than normal glucose levels. Though the higher glucose levels can go undetected the condition can cause the body’s cells to stop working properly.

The obesity factor tells us that by taking control of our diet we can either fend off or control how we are affected by type 2 diabetes. According to the Diabetes UK website:

“It’s fine to have a treat every now and again but the foods you choose are an important part of your diabetes treatment, along with medication, testing and being active.”

To add more illumination to their statement about the importance of a good diet Diabetes UK go on to say,

“No food is out of bounds but food choices are an important part of your diabetes management. Eating a balanced diet – that is fruit and vegetables, starchy foods, non-dairy sources of protein and dairy – is something we should all try to do.”

Now given that peoples of the African diaspora are more likely to be affected by type 2 diabetes I will obviously want to translate Diabetes UK list into some caribbean cooking recipes.

Jamaican Fruit Salad (Matrimony)

I’ve always been a sucker for those food videos presented by Caribbean elder: for me this type of video has the feel of being in the kitchen with your mother or grandmother as well as having secrets pass on from generation to generation.

Sentiment aside this video has simplicity running through it not only in the presentation style but in the food preparation. There’s nothing in the ingredients that would offer a challenge in terms of being able to buy it but you might want to limit or use an alternative to the condensed milk being used in the video. The recipe also contains sherry which again you might want to think about if you are counting calories and decide to go with the condensed milk.

Caribbean Root Vegetables

I’ve included this video as it is not so much about cooking but a treasure trove of information on the different types of vegetables that you are likely to come across in the Caribbean. I particularly like the fact that the video not only shows the rich variety of vegetables to be found in the Caribbean but clarifies the confusion caused by the some  vegetables having different names on different islands.

To really benefit from the knowledge in the root vegetable video you’ll have to click onto the suggested videos that feature at the end of this video.

How to Cook Dasheen or Taro.

For those of you who don’t want to work through the videos at the end of the previous recommendation then here’s a video from Chris aka Mr Caribbean pot.Com.

The video doesn’t just tell you how to cook prepare and cook dasheen it provides quite a few shopping tips for those of you who have seen it in the shops but wasn’t sure how to test the vegetable for quality.

From my own eating experience I would say that dasheen isn’t something that you’d want to eat alone, it is far better cooked with something else as Chris does here.

I will not say too much about the quality of the video and the presentation as caribbean.com now have a well established brand so the production values standards are always consistent.

Banana Fritters Recipe – Gluten Free, Soy Free, Wheat Free.

The title of this video just screams healthy eating and I’m sure this recipe would suit many who are on a controlled diet and not just diabetics. I’ve included it as it meets the type 2 diabetic require of a non-diary protein source.

I really don’t need to say to much about sourcing the ingredients and preparation since it  essentially concerns mashing a banana and adding soya milk and flour. What’s more I think I’d be right in saying that the wheat free pancake mix would be easily sourced, if that can’t be found then wheat free flour is readily available from most major supermarkets.

One piece of criticism for this healthy eating recipe is that pancake is cooked in quite a lot of oil, which is just not necessary if you have a non stick or cast iron pan. If a cast iron pan is cleaned by heating a handful of salt in it then wiping it down with a light layer of oil then it should retain its non stick qualities.


The Best Diet For Type 2 Diabetes

This video isn’t a straight up Caribbean cookery video, its purpose in this feature is a little more subtle than that. The reason why I’ve included this video is that it takes a good look at the food that anyone with type 2 diabetes should eat.

The film makes quite a few claims about the benefits of the diets it champions, which I’ll leave you to make your own mind up about. However it does support its theory with apparent research and benefits from the credibility of common sense.



We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.


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