I remember my childhood years of celebrating Diwali, my grandmother would pour oil and light the earthen lamps, and we would run and keep them in various corners of the house and terrace. We would celebrate by invoking the Gods and singing prayers, and at end of prayer we would enjoy a piece of sweet. Today, the earthen lamps have been replaced by Chinese lights and wax diyas, and the festivities usually start a week ago with a plethora of sweets.

I often wonder when and how did we mix up celebration with sweets? Western cultures have influenced us over the last few decades where we started cutting cakes for occasions like birthdays or anniversary. We were bombarded with advertising which subconsciously make us believe that sweets and celebration go together.

Who is the villain?

We should enjoy sugar in limited quantities. However, we must also realise that sugar is the most addictive substance in the world, and we must not link sugar with celebration or reward. Sugar can give us instant gratification, but is harmful if consumed in large quantities.

Sugar industry has engaged in decades of deceptive marketing and research manipulation to portray sugar as a harmless source of pleasure. Industries showcased sugar with positive emotional effects from sources such as desserts, birthday parties, and festivals. Many people take sugary foods to lift their negative moods and feel better. We often binge and celebrate with eating and gifting sugary foods during festival time. But, did we ever stop and contemplate whether these widespread sugary celebratory practices are harmful for us?

Insulin, leptin resistance and obesity

Insulin works with other appetite hormones such as leptin. Leptin is created in fat cells and provides information to the brain about energy availability. When leptin levels rise, this signals satiety to the brain and increases energy expenditure.

When we eat sweets our insulin levels spike and repeated high levels of insulin can lead to insulin resistance. This can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. High levels of insulin also decrease brain sensitivity to leptin. This is called leptin resistance. This means that the brain detects low levels of leptin even when leptin levels are in high. Leptin resistance causes a person to feel hungry and eat more even though body has enough fat stores, which can lead to obesity. Obesity can cause more insulin resistance. Obesity, leptin resistance and insulin resistance are interrelated, and a person can fall and be trapped in this vicious circle.

I have been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the last 14 years, I count carbohydrates before each meal to figure out amount of insulin I will need for that meal. This is important as not only sugars but even carbohydrates can spike blood glucose. So we must consume carbs as well in moderation.

Diwali has been a festival of togetherness, lights and must be celebrated with lights and togetherness. Consuming too many sweets is not our tradition and must be avoided. One should also be aware of carbohydrates in meal, and remember that carbs can also spike blood glucose levels.

Lastly, wishing you all a happy and healthy Diwali! Celebrate the festival of lights with lights!

Rohan Arora is living with Type 1 Diabetes since 14 years. He works as a researcher and is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Delhi chapter lead for Blue circle diabetes foundation.

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