The month of November is American Diabetes Month. Unfortunately, Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled.
One in 10 Americans have diabetes — that’s more than 30 million people. And, it’s on the rise – another 84 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
There’s good news, though. If you’re someone at high risk for type 2 diabetes, you can lower your risk by more than half by making some healthy changes. In general, these changes include: eating healthy, getting more physical activity, and losing weight.
You may have heard these suggestions above often, but what does that really mean? In this post, I’d like to dive deeper into the premise of “fasting” and if this approach is truly beneficial for the prevention and/or treatment of diabetes.
First, let’s discuss the cause of diabetes.
In essence, Type 1 diabetes is moreso due to genetics – an issue wherein one’s own body attacks the cells that should make insulin. Therefore, your body does not make enough insulin (which is the product that should break down the sugar in your body). In many cases, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.
Type 2 diabetes, however, is a very different situation. Type 2 is caused by excess carbs and/or sugar-heavy diets in addition to a sedentary lifestyle. This ends up causing one’s body to become resistant to insulin.
Because of this, we see that injecting someone with insulin is very effective for type 1 diabetes, due to that individual being insulin-deficient.
In type 2 diabetes, however, the issue is actually moreso too muchinsulin, as opposed to too little. So providing a type 2 diabetic with insulin is not the first “go-to” treatment. In fact, there’s evidence to show that insulin shots (especially in excess) actually increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes and heart attacks if you have type 2 diabetes.
Weight gain after puberty is the most significant risk factor in increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Putting on 44-77 lbs of weight, for example, means that we’re an astounding 11,300% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes!
Unfortunately, there’s a huge misconception that consuming fewer calories will treat diabetes. This is not the case. This actually just reduces our metabolic rate (which we need to keep our heart pumping and brain functioning).
Ultimately, our sense of hunger and calorie intake depends on our hormones. More specifically, it’s our insulin levels that are responsible. That means losing weight is all about reducing our insulin levels.
In order to do that, we really need to avoid specific types of food.
Studies have shown that we can develop insulin resistance in as little as three weeks just by eating 1000 calories of sugary snacks a day!
The issue with insulin resistance is that it’s a vicious cycle. The more insulin there is in our bodies, the less our liver reacts to it.
We create a product called glycogen in order to store carbs and sugar in our body. When we eat an excess of carbs/sugar and our body has no current need for it, our body ends up using the glycogen to create fatty deposits in the liver, leading to insulin resistance.
One of the biggest culprits of this is a form of sugar called fructose. There are many forms of sugar that we expose our bodies to. The one we’re most familiar with is glucose. Almost every cell in our body can use glucose for energy. Only the cells in the liver can break down fructose. When our liver cells are overwhelmed, the fructose is broken down to triglycerides (a type of “fats” in the blood) and free radicals. This eventually leads to a fatty liver, and eventually diabetes.
Yes, fructose is in fruit…but there are way too many other forms now than there have ever been before. This is leading to the staggering numbers of diabetes we now see today.
For example, in the nineteenth century, people ate around 15-20 grams of fructose a day, mostly in the form of fresh fruits containing relatively small amounts of the sugar.
But people’s diets started changing after the Second World War. This was largely a result of increased sugar cane and sugar beet production. By the 1970s, daily fructose consumption per person had increased to 37 grams.
The most devastating development, however, was the development of high fructose corn syrup. It was a cheap source of the sugar, and soon enough was being added to all sorts of processed foods. Now, it can be found in everything from sauces to microwave meals, breads and sweets. The average American is now consuming 55-78 g/day of fructose.
I’ve tried to simplify this process tremendously, but want the point to get across that due to this complicated process – insulin is just not the “silver bullet” for curing type 2 diabetes.
After gaining this information, the question remains: “so, now what do I do?” I have three very helpful suggestions for you:
1. Avoid fructose. Banish it from your kitchen and dining table, at least – this includes sucrose, and the largest offender – high fructose corn syrup. Look at the ingredient list of the foods you purchase – even sauces, condiments, and meats. Try to be mindful about this also when eating out.
2. Avoid refined carbs. You can switch to unrefined carbs. Change from white pasta to whole wheat pasta. Change from white rice to brown rice. You wont miss it! You can fill these empty spots of hunger with nourishing fatty foods like high-quality oils, fish, avocados and nuts.
3. As discussed above, lowering your daily calorie intake will not only slow down your metabolic rate but also increase your feeling of hunger. A proven and much better approach is intermittent fasting. It works! Fasting causes a dip in the body’s insulin production, so it stays insulin-sensitive rather than developing a resistance to the hormone.
If you are ready to make these changes, especially intermittent fasting, please keep in mind that the human body is sensitive. Even if you’re making a change for the better, you may experience some changes or “side effects”. Keep your doctor or medical provider in the loop so they can monitor these changes and your progress along the way.
Best of wishes in your continued journey to the healthier you…until next time!