“It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
– Adapted from A Tale of Two Cities authored by Charles Dickens
With the advent of coronavirus vaccines, the winter of despair could well be followed by the spring of hope, to paraphrase Dickens. The past months have brought out several vaccines, which would soon be given to people worldwide. This is especially an important moment for people with Diabetes, because they are vulnerable to more severe COVID-19 when compared to people without Diabetes. Hopefully, some priority for vaccination would be given to people with Diabetes. As featured in this issue of Diabetes Health, two specific types of vaccines, i.e. the mRNA and adenovirus vaccines, seem to hold the greatest promise. Will vaccination need to be given more frequently? Will newer mutants overcome the vaccine’s protection? When will life go back to the “old normal”? Only time will tell. What we know is this: communicable diseases caused by viruses such as coronavirus can be overcome by vaccination. But at present, there is no vaccination for non-communicable diseases like Diabetes. Or, is there one?
What is a vaccine? Dictionaries define vaccine as a biological preparation that protects from developing a (communicable) disease. Is there a biological preparation that can protect against a non-communicable disease too? Yes! Though we cannot strictly call it a vaccine, the food that we take, or nutrition, is a biological product which can protect against developing non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes (the most common form of Diabetes worldwide). Several years ago, the ambitious Diabetes Prevention Program was conducted in the United States, and this was followed by the Indian Diabetes Prevention Program in our country. The studies were conducted on people with prediabetes, who have high glucose levels, yet not high enough to be classified as Diabetes. These studies showed that a healthy diet, which is low in carbs and calories, and high in fibre content, accompanied by good physical activity, could prevent progression of prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes. Indeed, lifestyle changes scored over medications as far as Type 2 Diabetes prevention was concerned in these studies. In that sense, lifestyle works like a vaccine. Diet and exercise do not just prevent Type 2 Diabetes, but also help to treat Diabetes, often helping to minimise medication dosages too. In very simple terms, health is affected by two groups of diseases – the communicable and the non-communicable. In this tale of two diseases, the power of choice (to overcome both diseases) is in your hands – whether you would choose to take the coronavirus vaccine or not and whether you would like to partake of the “vaccine” of a healthy lifestyle or not!
It is an important choice. However, you are our reader, and we know you will make the correct choice.
Wishing you the best of times, always.
Dr Unnikrishnan AG