Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance on the Rise in Tanzania


In Africa, a disease called Type 2 Diabetes caused about 416,000 deaths in 2021. In Tanzania, 11.6% of deaths among people under 60 were because of this disease.

Type 2 Diabetes mostly happens in adults when their bodies become resistant to insulin. It’s a big health issue increasing worldwide and can lead to nerve problems, heart diseases, strokes, and issues with blood vessels. Genetics, age, bad eating habits, and not being active are main reasons why people get Type 2 Diabetes.

It starts with being resistant to insulin. What is insulin’s role in our body?

Insulin plays a crucial role in managing how our bodies use the food we eat. When we eat, our blood sugar levels rise, prompting our pancreas to release insulin. This insulin helps our body’s cells take in and use the sugars for energy. Normally, it helps store sugars in places like fat cells and muscles for future use. But, with today’s lifestyle of too much food and not enough activity, this system can malfunction. It can lead to health issues like metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart problems. Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are interconnected, but distinct conditions within the spectrum of metabolic disorders, involving the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance refers to a condition where cells in the body become less responsive to the effects of insulin. Normally, insulin helps cells take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream to use it as energy. In insulin resistance, cells don’t respond as effectively to insulin, leading to higher levels of glucose circulating in the blood.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops when insulin resistance becomes more severe and the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to compensate for the body’s increased resistance. As a result, blood sugar levels remain consistently elevated, leading to a diagnosis of diabetes.

The Connection of Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

Insulin resistance is considered a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Not everyone with insulin resistance will develop diabetes, but prolonged insulin resistance significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over time. Addressing insulin resistance early through lifestyle changes can often delay or prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes.

How Do You Know If You Have Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance can manifest through various symptoms, although it’s important to note that some individuals may not exhibit any noticeable signs initially. However, as insulin resistance progresses, several symptoms may become apparent, indicating potential underlying issues with blood sugar regulation and metabolism.

Symptoms of Insulin Resistance:

1. Increased Hunger and Cravings:

Insulin resistance can disrupt the body’s ability to effectively use glucose for energy. As a result, individuals may experience frequent hunger pangs and strong cravings, particularly for sugary or high-carbohydrate foods.

2. Weight Gain, Especially Around the Abdomen:

Difficulty in regulating blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance can contribute to weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area. This is often referred to as central or visceral obesity.

3. Fatigue and Energy Fluctuations:

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can lead to feelings of fatigue and energy crashes throughout the day. Individuals might experience a lack of sustained energy despite consuming regular meals.

4. Frequent Urination and Increased Thirst:

High blood sugar levels can cause increased urination as the body tries to eliminate excess glucose. This can lead to increased thirst as the body tries to maintain hydration levels.

5. Brain Fog and Cognitive Issues:

Some individuals may experience difficulties in concentration, memory issues, or “brain fog.” This can be linked to unstable blood sugar levels affecting cognitive function.

6. Skin Changes:

Insulin resistance may contribute to skin issues such as dark patches on the neck or in skin folds, known as acanthosis nigricans. Additionally, skin tags may develop due to hormonal imbalances.

7. High Blood Pressure:

Insulin resistance can be associated with higher blood pressure levels, potentially increasing the risk of cardiovascular issues.

8. Irregular Menstrual Cycles:

Women with insulin resistance might experience irregular menstrual cycles or conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) due to hormonal imbalances.

9. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels:

While not a symptom one can feel, high fasting blood sugar levels or elevated HbA1c levels (indicative of average blood sugar levels over time) might indicate insulin resistance or prediabetes.

Recognizing the symptoms of insulin resistance is crucial for early intervention and prevention of further health complications. It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary among individuals, and not everyone with insulin resistance will experience all of these signs. There are a few tests to determine if you are, in fact, experiencing insulin resistance.

Four Tests Functional Medicine Providers Use to Identify if You Have Insulin Resistance

  1. Homeostasis Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance
  2. Fasting Insulin
  3. Hemoglobin A1c
  4. Oral Glucose Tolerance

Prevention is the best medicine. We’ve discussed health span before. As a functional nutritionist serving the people of Tanzania, I aim to help increase the quality of life, not just the quantity of years. This will be reached when I can help more people prevent the disease before it occurs. 

Preventive Measures through Functional Medicine

Here are 4 ways I’d work with clients in Tanzania to prevent insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.

1. Nutrition and Diet

– Embrace a Plant-Centric Diet

A diet rich in whole foods, particularly plant-based sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These foods provide essential nutrients and fiber that help stabilize blood sugar levels.

– Limit Processed Foods and Sugars

Reduce the consumption of processed foods, sugary beverages, and refined carbohydrates. These items can spike blood sugar levels and contribute to insulin resistance.

2. Physical Activity

– Regular Exercise Routine

Simple activities like walking, cycling, or engaging in sports for at least 30 minutes a day can improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar levels.

3. Stress Management

– Stress Reduction Techniques

Chronic stress can impact blood sugar levels. Incorporating stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature will promote overall well-being.

4. Sleep Quality

– Prioritize Restful Sleep

Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Poor sleep can affect insulin sensitivity, so creating a sleep-friendly environment and establishing a consistent bedtime routine is crucial. More on restful sleep on this blog.

If you feel you may have symptoms pointing to insulin resistance or you’ve had it in your family and want to get ahead of it, schedule a consultation with me to discuss your options. As a functional nutritionist serving the people of Tanzania and Europe, I will help you discover the root of your struggles and not just mask symptoms, but address the cause.








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Meet Linda

The older Linda gets, the longer she applies holistic strategies of diet and lifestyle and the better she feels! Learn more about her story.

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