Fast-Food Habits Contribute to Super-Sized Medical Problems

The old adage “You are what you eat” has never been truer than it is today. Americans’ eating habits are the stuff of gastronomical legend, running the gamut from hard-boiled vegans and no-carb/low-carb disciples to the super-size me crowd.

Our passion for fast food in larger portions has certainly attracted the media spotlight, but what isn’t as widely broadcast is that this habit is one of several contributing factors in a super-sized medical problem: pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance—a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin—combined with relative insulin deficiency. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes.

Before people develop Type 2 diabetes, they almost always have pre-diabetes, meaning their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. There are 41 million people in the United States, ages 40 to 74, who have pre-diabetes. Currently, there are 18.2 million people in the United States with diabetes. In that group, there are approximately 206,000 people younger than 20 years old with diabetes.

Considering these figures, it’s likely your small business or corporation employs someone whose life is touched by pre-diabetes or diabetes either directly or indirectly through a family member or friend.

While diabetes and pre-diabetes occur in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk for developing the disease. Diabetes is more common in African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, as well as the older population. This means people in these groups are also at increased risk for developing pre-diabetes.

Pre-diabetes research

Recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, can already be occurring during pre-diabetes.

Research also has shown that, if individuals with pre-diabetes can be diagnosed and begin to manage their blood glucose levels, it’s possible to delay or even prevent Type 2 diabetes from ever developing.

The recently completed Diabetes Prevention Program study by the American Diabetes Association conclusively shows that people with pre-diabetes can prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diet and increasing their level of physical activity. They may even be able to return their blood glucose levels to the normal range.

While this study also indicated that some medications might delay the development of diabetes, diet and exercise worked better. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 10 percent reduction in body weight, produced a 58 percent reduction in the number of people who developed diabetes.

Testing and condition management

A healthy workforce equals a healthy bottom line for businesses. Physicians Health Plan of Mid-Michigan recognizes the serious threat to your employees’ health posed by undiagnosed and untreated pre-diabetes or diabetes. That’s why PHPMM is the only insurance provider in the region to cover the costs of pre-diabetes testing and education programs.

Through our Healthy Focus Living With Diabetes program, we help our members learn about their risks for pre-diabetes and diabetes as well as how to take action to prevent diabetes if they have, or are at risk for, pre-diabetes. The main goal of PHPMM’s Living With Diabetes program is for members to live well with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The program helps people become aware of their condition and familiar with its management by promoting a dilated eye exam, HbA1c testing two times a year, cholesterol testing, urine testing for microalbuminuria and a foot examination with each doctor’s visit.

Local education resources

A division of Sparrow Health System, PHPMM works hand-in-hand with each member’s primary care physician and the Sparrow Diabetes Center, providing a wealth of resources for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Although people with pre-diabetes and diabetes can benefit from much of the same advice for good nutrition and physical activity, the Sparrow Diabetes Center also offers pre-diabetes classes, targeting issues that are specific to individuals who have, or are at risk for developing, pre-diabetes.

Through health maintenance programs like PHPMM’s Living With Diabetes and the Sparrow Diabetes Center, your workers with pre-diabetes and diabetes can learn how to establish a healthy meal plan that can help with condition management and reduce complications resulting from their condition, such as stroke and heart disease.

The Sparrow Diabetes Center regularly hosts a supermarket tour in conjunction with L&L Food Centers to assist people with pre-diabetes and diabetes in making healthy food choices. During the tour, participants learn to read packaged food labels. This information about serving size, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and fiber is vital to managing blood glucose levels and maintaining a healthy diet.

Pre-diabetes is a serious medical condition that can be treated. The American Diabetes Association and healthcare and insurance providers across the United States are working together to help people understand their risks for pre-diabetes and what they can do to halt the progression to diabetes.

To learn more, visit the American Diabetes Association online at To learn more about PHPMM’s Living With Diabetes program, call 877-803-2551 select option 1, or call 517-364-8480. For more information about the Sparrow Diabetes Center, call 517-364-5955.

Howard J. Burgess II, MD, is medical director of Care Coordination, Physicians Health Plan of Mid-Michigan and family practice physician with Sparrow Family Medical Services-North.








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