Prediabetes, a state of elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes as time goes on, is most obviously associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. However, there are a number of other conditions that prediabetic patients are at an elevated risk of developing, including colon cancer. Given the health consequences of prediabetes, it is important to carefully manage prediabetes.
Prediabetes is a state in which blood sugar is consistently elevated, but not enough to be classified as diabetes. Prediabetes is sometimes referred to as insulin resistance, which means that the body is becoming less receptive to insulin, which keeps blood sugar in check in healthy individuals. The condition is also known as metabolic syndrome, syndrome X, and borderline diabetes.
Prediabetes is closely related to obesity. Although not all obese people develop metabolic syndrome, they are much more likely to do so than people with a healthy body weight.
Obesity, Prediabetes, and Diabetes in Louisiana
Louisiana faces higher than average rates of being overweight, obesity, and diabetes. According to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, Louisiana has the 6th highest rate of overweight and obese individuals in the nation. About one-third of Louisiana adults are obese, a rate which has risen dramatically in recent years.
Louisiana also ranks 6th highest in the rate of diabetes, with over 11 percent of Louisiana adults living with diabetes. Cases of heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and other obesity-related conditions are expected to rise along with the rate of obesity.
Lifestyle is the single biggest factor in maintaining a healthy weight and preventing the development of prediabetes and diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in fat, refined grains, and sugar contribute to obesity and prediabetes.
The Link Between Prediabetes and Colon Cancer
A recent review of 16 studies found that prediabetes is strongly linked with colon cancer. The study looked at nearly 900,000 individuals and found that people with prediabetes were twice as likely to develop colon cancer as healthy individuals.
In people with prediabetes, the overall risk of cancer is 15 percent higher. When the results were adjusted for body mass index (BMI), prediabetes was associated with a 22 percent higher risk of cancer.
There are several possible reasons for the link. One strong theory is that people with prediabetes have insulin resistance, which causes the body to produce higher amounts of insulin-like proteins, which promote the growth of cancer.
Controlling Prediabetes and Preventing Colon Cancer
By preventing or controlling prediabetes, it is possible to reduce one’s risk of developing colon cancer. Blood sugar-reducing medications such as metformin are sometimes used to control diabetes.
Although medication is a valuable part of treatment, it is usually possible to reverse prediabetes using only lifestyle changes. With lifestyle changes, many prediabetic patients become more sensitive to insulin and can come off medication. This is preferable because it addresses the whole problem, and prevents medication side effects like diarrhea.
Important lifestyle changes for managing prediabetes include:
- Weight loss – even losing as little at 10% of one’s body weight can have a huge impact
- Exercise – promotes weight loss and lowers blood sugar. Exercise makes the muscles take up more glucose and reduce blood sugar, thus making them more “sensitive” to insulin, hence this is the opposite of insulin “resistance”
- Diet high in fiber, low in sugar, and low in refined grains can prevent blood sugar spikes and promote weight loss