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Fact File - Type-2 Diabetes

Type-2 diabetes is a condition that causes the person's blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high, due to a lack of insulin or insulin resistance (this means the body does not react to insulin efficiently).

When blood sugar levels are too high, glucose will spill out into the urine rather than being used for energy. As a consequence, the following symptoms occur:


  • feeling thirsty
  • urinating more than usual, particularly at night
  • feeling tired all the time


One of the main risk factors of type-2 diabetes is being overweight or obese. Due to the rise in obesity in the UK, type-2 diabetes is also on the increase.

Diabetes UK, estimate that more than 1 in 16 people in the UK has diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed).

There are currently 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK, with 90% of those affected having type-2 diabetes.

It is therefore important to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle to help reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. If a person who already has type 2 diabetes is overweight, weight loss can not only help control blood sugar levels by allowing insulin to be more effective, but it can also help with improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However it is important to lose weight sensibly and under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, especially if you are on medication, as this may need adjusting.


Healthy Eating

Healthy eating for people with type-2 diabetes is the same as for people who do not have the condition. Weight management is also key to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes as it is for controlling blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes.

In the UK, the Eatwell Guide is a pictorial guide to help understand the main food groups, to get the balance right. The key points of each food group is discussed in more detail below.



Fruit and Vegetables

  • Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre all needed for health. Fibre can help control blood sugar levels and vegetables should be the largest part of your diet. Aim for whole fruit and vegetables rather than juices and smoothies, this is because the process releases the natural sugars and too much will make your blood sugar levels rise.
  • Include at least five portions of different types and colours of fruit and vegetables a day and aim for seasonal, fresh or frozen when possible. Including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will provide a diverse source of nutrients.
  • One portion is around 80g. In practical terms this is the equivalent of a medium sized fruit, such as an apple, a ‘cereal’ bowl of salad or 3 tablespoons of vegetables.


Starchy Foods

  • A rich source of carbohydrate needed for energy. However too much refined starchy foods can increase blood sugar levels as these foods are broken down to glucose eventually. Therefore opt for slower release whole grain varieties which are also richer in fibre, minerals and vitamins than their refined counterparts.
  • Some examples of whole grains include quinoa, rye, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, corn and spelt.


Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils)

  • Rich source of protein which is essential for growth and repair. Also good source of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc and B vitamins.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry without the visible fat. Meat should be the smallest portion on your plate at main meals. Vegetables should be the main part of your meal.
  • Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, at least one should be oily which is rich in omega-3, known for the benefits associated with the heart. Oily fish includes salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and fresh tuna.
  • Aim for one vegetarian day per week. Pulses are a great alternative to meat, plus they are high in fibre, like vegetables and whole grains, which can help control blood glucose levels and one portion can count as one of your 5-A-Day.
  • Nuts and seeds are also high in fibre and contain a variety of minerals and vitamins. In moderation they are a great snack option, but limit these if you are intending to lose weight as they are high in energy.


Milk and dairy foods (yoghurt, cheese and dairy alternatives)

  • This group is a good source of protein and calcium which plays an important role in bone health.
  • Choose plain low-fat and low-sugar varieties and include a couple of portions of calcium rich foods a day to help meet your calcium requirements. If you choose dairy alternatives, check that they are enriched with calcium.
  • Foods such as fish, pulses, seeds and green leafy vegetables are also good sources of calcium and fibre.


Oils and Spreads

  • Choose unsaturated oils and use in small amounts
  • If you add fat to your food, choose those that are rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) such as olive and rapeseed oil and some polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) such as walnut and seed oils. These fats, particularly MUFA are heart friendly. If you intend to lose weight, limit the amount of added fats as they are high in energy.


‚ÄčProcessed Foods and Drinks

  • Aim to limit or avoid these.
  • Sugary foods and drinks can be high in empty calories, with little other nutrient value. They will also raise blood sugar levels.



It is important to keep hydrated by drinking enough water. We need about 1.6 - 2 litres of fluid a day to stop us getting dehydrated. Water is the best choice, but you can also count other non-alcoholic drinks if in moderation. Avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories which will raise blood glucose levels. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary.

If you drink alcohol, keep within the recommended limits - no more than 14 units a week for both men and women over at least a 3 day period if 14 units is consumed, with at least 2 consecutive alcohol free days a week. Drinking too much, especially on an empty stomach can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure and have an effect on blood glucose levels, even many hours after.


Physical Activity

Regular exercise and being a healthy weight by eating healthily will help control blood glucose levels. Physical activity also plays an important role, not only for weight control, but for your health by helping to reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. The recommended minimum levels of physical activity is at least 150 minutes a week (2 ½ hours) of moderate intensity, for example brisk walking and cycling or half this amount as vigorous intensity, for example, running, circuit training. Also undertake weight-bearing exercises twice a week.


This factsheet is intended for adults as a general guide only and not a substitute for professional advice or a diagnosis. If you are on certain medication or suffer from a medical condition, seek individual advice from your health care professional. Date produced October 2015. Date edited April 2016.


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