Avid foodie Nathan Fong got the shock of his life when he was diagnosed recently with adult-onset Type 2 diabetes.
The Vancouver-based food and props stylist for culinary print and film advertising had been feeling uncharacteristically lethargic so he went to his physician.
“I live a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly,” says the trim Fong. And he is a busy man.
He is regularly featured on CBC Radio, has a weekly television show, Saturday Chef, airing on Global BCTV, writes a regular newspaper column on food and contributes culinary articles to various international magazines.
“But growing up in an Asian family, we are very susceptible to Type 2 diabetes because of all the rice and noodles we eat.”
Those foods are high in carbohydrates, which convert to sugar in the body, and consuming too much can lead some people to develop the disease.
“I used to be a three-bowl-of-rice person at mealtime,” Fong says, “because I thought rice would make me healthy and strong.”
Another passion was snacking on wonton noodles and dining at some of Vancouver’s famous dim sum restaurants.
“Both are high in carbs and dim sum is also huge in fats,” he says.
As a connoisseur of fine wines, Fong has found he can no longer drink them because “they too are pure sugar, but I can have the occasional alcohol drinks like gin and tonic or rum and coke although the mix is sugar-free.”
Several other ethnic groups are also prone to Type 2 diabetes, he says.
“Latinos and Hispanics are really susceptible because their diet, like corn tamales and tortillas, are all high-carb and east Indians and Canada’s Aboriginals are so inclined.”
Canadians need to find out if they are at risk of developing adult onset Type 2 diabetes and change their eating habits, or he predicts there will be many more than the two million who already have the condition.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or when the body doesn’t use the insulin that is produced effectively. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Scientists believe that lifestyle changes can help prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. A healthy meal plan, weight control and physical activity are important prevention steps, the diabetes association says on its website.
Changing eating habits can start with breakfast. “Many busy people don’t prepare it, opting to stand in line at Tim Hortons or Starbucks,” Fong notes.
“They order sweet drinks, cappuccinos and flavoured coffees, as well as a Danish pastries or muffins, all of which are full of sugar and carbs.” These can cause blood glucose levels to spike; those with diabetes need to keep under the levels under control.
Fong now makes his own breakfast, which he says can be done in a few minutes.
“I go for low-sugar and fat-free yogurt with granola and fresh fruit or eggs,” he says.
“It takes me less than five minutes to make a fruit smoothie from frozen fruit I have in the freezer.”
Fong says when he was first diagnosed with the disease, he attended the diabetes clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“I asked for a nutritional analysis chart and I learned a lot about which foods contained high carbs and fats,” he says. “Now I read food labels constantly.”
He has signed on to promote a competition being held during Diabetes Awareness Month in November.
Dubbed the One Touch Diabetes Breakfast Challenge, it is designed to help Canadians understand the importance of a healthy diabetes-friendly breakfast.
For more information on the campaign, visit www.onetouchbreakfastchallenge.ca
Canadian Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.ca