Obesity and Diabetes

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The Arab world is said to be experiencing an epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. You may have also heard about all the tag-along diseases or conditions that come with it. To worsen the situation, here comes the all-new virus strain that has been in news for a while - Adenovirus 36.

So what exactly is Adenovirus 36? How is it related to obesity and diabetes? Let’s read more and know all about the current situation that this trio is building in the Arab population and the world.

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Obesity and Diabetes in Arab Countries

Obesity and diabetes are significant health concerns worldwide, and the Arab population is not immune to them either. The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is particularly high in the Arab world. To take the example of the UAE, estimates suggest that up to 1/5th of adults have diabetes, with around 40% of these people being obese as well.

While lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity levels are known to contribute to these conditions, recent research has suggested that viral infections may also play a role. In particular, adenovirus 36 (Ad36) infection has been linked to obesity and diabetes in some populations.

Disclaimer - The information in the article is for reference purposes only. For specific queries or medical issues, connect with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional.

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Adenovirus 36 - What is it and How is it Transmitted?

Adenovirus 36 is a common viral pathogen that can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, and ocular infections in humans. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the possible role of Ad36 infection in the development of obesity and diabetes. 

Although the epidemiological characteristics of the Adenovirus serotype can change, its transmission primarily takes place by:

  • Direct contact
  • Fecal/oral transmission
  • Environment transmission (through contaminated water)

Explained - Linkage with Obesity!

Studies have suggested that Ad36 may be able to stimulate the accumulation of fat cells and promote insulin resistance, which are two key features of obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, it is also said that Ad36 infection may be more common in obese and diabetic individuals, particularly in certain populations such as Arabs.

As per the findings of one study conducted in the UAE, individuals who were infected with Ad36 had significantly higher body mass indexes (BMIs) compared to uninfected individuals.

While these findings suggest a possible link between Ad36 infection and obesity and diabetes in Arabs, it is important to note that not all studies have found a significant association. For instance, a study conducted in Kuwait found no significant difference in Ad36 infection rates between obese and non-obese individuals. Furthermore, the exact mechanisms by which Ad36 infection may contribute to obesity and diabetes are still not fully understood, with research needed for the clarification of these relationships.

So Where Does This Leave Us?

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the link between Ad36 infection and obesity and diabetes in the Arab population, it is clear that these conditions pose a significant health burden in this population. Thus, prevention and management strategies are needed to address these issues. Lifestyle interventions such as healthy eating and regular physical activity remain important for reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes, but more targeted approaches may also be necessary.

One potential strategy for addressing Ad36 infection in the context of obesity and diabetes is vaccination. While there is currently no vaccine available for Ad36, researchers are exploring the development of such a vaccine as a potential tool for preventing or treating obesity and diabetes in individuals who are infected with the virus. Other potential strategies for preventing or managing Ad36 infection in Arabs include improved hygiene practices and targeted screening and treatment programs.

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Tips to Control Obesity in Diabetic Patients

While we are at it, let’s have a look at some easy-to-follow tips to control obesity for diabetic patients -

1. Shedding Some Pounds

The typical solution, but certainly an effective one. While losing weight can be difficult for people with such conditions, the key idea is to find something that works for them on an individual level. Sporting, swimming, gymming, or yoga, whatever works for you is a good starting point!

The American Diabetes Association recommends losing at least 7% to 10% of body weight to prevent diabetes progression in prediabetic people.

2. Staying Active

More than just rigorous physical activity or losing weight, staying active is all about regulating your body’s functions on a daily basis. Apart from lowering your blood sugar, it can boost your sensitivity to insulin and keep your blood sugar regulated.

Some goals for most adults to stay active include:

  • Resistance Exercise - Resistance exercise for 2 to 3 times a week helps in increasing strength and balance. This includes activities like yoga, weight lifting, and callisthenics.
  • Aerobic Exercise - A 30-minute routine of moderate intensity consisting of activities like walking, brisk walking, running, swimming, or biking, every day can help keep your body functions in check.
  • Limit Inactivity - Break long hours of inactivity by taking regular breaks, even if it is just to stand for a while or walk!

3. Include Plant Food in your Diet

Eating right can benefit you more than not eating at all. Fibre-rich foods, for instance, may help lower the risk of diabetes and promote weight loss. Try including plant-based food in your diet that is naturally rich in minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, and fibre such as -

  • Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and other leafy greens
  • Legumes - this can include chickpeas, legumes, and lentils 
  • Fruits, peppers, tomatoes, and more
  • Whole grains and dishes like rice, oats, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, and so on 

The benefits of fibre include:

  • Lowering blood pressure and speed of absorption of sugars 
  • Absorption of cholesterol and dietary fat
  • Managing risk factors such as blood pressure, heart health, and inflammation.
  • Helping you eat less as they fill up the belly faster!

Note: Besides including fibres, you need to avoid ‘bad carbohydrates’ as well. These are carbs with high sugar and little to no fibre or nutrients. The list of such foods includes fruit juices, processed foods, bread (white), pastries, and so forth.

4. Add Good Fats

While fats are usually deemed ‘bad’, eating them in moderation and including the ‘good’ ones can help you manage and lose weight. 

Unsaturated fats, often called ‘good fats’ — both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated — promote healthy blood cholesterol levels. These, in turn, promote good heart and vascular health. Some sources of good fats include - 

  • Canola oil, olive oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil
  • Nuts and seeds such as peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed
  • Fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines, and cod

P.S. - You can include dairy products and meats as a small part of your diet too. However, it must be noted that they are often underlined as saturated fats. Stick to low-fat dairy products, lean chicken, and more.

5. Plan for the Long Term Over ‘Diets’

Not saying that diets like keto, paleo, and glycemic index are a hoax, but little to no research has been done to claim their long-term benefits, let alone their benefit in preventing diabetes.

Your dietary goal should be to maintain a healthier weight for a longer period instead of just losing it quickly for only for the time being. For this reason, you should make healthy decisions that you can maintain as a lifelong habit. This includes making a strategy that involves healthy eating (that reflects some of your own food preferences), an active routine that benefits you, and more.

An easy strategy to start with is to divide your meals into appropriate portion sizes for all categories (fats, carbs, fibre, proteins, and so on) and eat them at specific intervals throughout the day.

The divisions can look like this -

  • One-half: non-starchy vegetables and fruits
  • One-quarter: protein-rich foods, like lean meats, legumes, and more
  • One-quarter: whole grains

What Does the Future Entail?

As we saw above, obesity and diabetes are major health concerns in the Arab population, and Ad36 infection may play a significant role in the development of these conditions. While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between Ad36 infection and obesity and diabetes, it is clear that prevention and management strategies are needed to address these issues.

Strategies such as healthy lifestyle interventions and targeted screening and treatment programs may be effective in reducing the burden of obesity and diabetes in this population. Furthermore, the development of an Ad36 vaccine may offer a promising approach for preventing and minimising these conditions. For the time being, however, we can focus on adopting a healthy lifestyle and regular health screenings.

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