University of Vermont

Food & Nutrition Programs

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects more than 55,000 Vermonters. As the population ages and experiences the effects from overweight, obesity, and lack of exercise, type 2 diabetes is expected to rise in Vermont and nationally. It is now affecting younger people, including children and adolescents.

Research shows that the risk for complications from diabetes can be decreased when blood glucose levels are maintained within a range that mimics "normal" levels. To achieve this level of control, lifestyle changes usually prescribed for people to manage diabetes include diet modifications. These changes are neither simple to understand nor easy to master. Individuals and families affected by diabetes regularly struggle with understanding complicated diet recommendations and separating them from myths and outdated advice.

Are you at risk?

Visit the Vermont Department of Health website for more information.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes means that your blood sugar is too high. Your body changes much of the food you eat into sugar, also called glucose. Your blood carries this sugar to the cell in your body. Glucose is the major source of energy for your body. Your body needs insulin to help change glucose into energy.

Diabetes is a disease that can stop your body from making insulin or prevent it from using insulin properly. When you have diabetes, your body can't change glucose into energy. Some parts of your body cannot get enough glucose for energy. Other parts can be harmed when exposed to too much glucose. Diabetes affects all parts of the body.

Diabetes is a serious disease. When the body is exposed to high blood sugar over a long period of time there can be serious damage to blood vessels and nerves. People who have poorly controlled diabetes have a greater risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and loss of feeling in their feet and legs.

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. People with type 1 diabetes don't make insulin and must take insulin shots. Type 1 diabetes is usually seen in children, but sometimes appears in adults. People with type 2 diabetes either don't make enough insulin or cannot properly use the insulin that they do make. Most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and inactive. Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their blood sugar by eating healthy foods and being physically active every day. Others may need pills or insulin or both.

Signs and symptoms

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  • Being very thirsty
  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Feeling tired
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Having cuts or sores that heal slowly
  • Having dry, itchy skin
  • Loss of feeling or tingling in the feet or toes
  • Having blurry vision

Factsheets (PDF):

Learning to Live Well with Diabetes Web Videos

These four short videos provide basic diabetic nutrition information about carbohydrates (4:01), sodium (3:49), snacking (3:34) and the glycemic index (3:55).