Insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and obesity (diabesity) are global epidemics with major health consequences. Type 2 diabetes is commonly associated with poor diet and inactivity. However, there is now evidence of autoimmunity in Type 2 diabetes.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now medically classified as overweight or obese. And, we’re somewhat delusional as 30 percent of overweight individuals believe they’re at a healthy weight, and 70 percent of obese individuals feel they’re simply overweight. This excess weight costs our nation $93 billion in annual medical bills.
And, if you think diabetes and insulin resistance affects only those who are overweight, feast on junk food and are sedentary, listen up. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 15 percent of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are not overweight. However, on the inside these folks have excessive visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat around organs) which predisposes and increases risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Just because someone is thin, that does not equate to a healthy person.
Insulin resistance is when the cell loses its responsiveness on the insulin receptor site (particularly liver, muscle and fat cells, with the liver losing sensitivity first, followed by muscle, then fat cells). Your body adds more and more insulin to store fat. Overtime, the pancreas gives up, leading to Type 2 diabetes.
In Type 2 diabetes, your body isn’t making enough insulin and/or the cells are resistant to insulin causing too much sugar to remain in the blood. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. Although insulin is necessary for your body’s use of sugar, higher insulin levels accelerate the aging process and lead to diabetes.
You want to create an environment in which you’re sensitive to insulin. Insulin sensitivity is your body’s ability to use insulin properly to regulate the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.
Conventional methods for managing diabetes usually consist of a diet high in grains and low in protein, along with medications to manage blood sugar and insulin. These drugs come with a laundry list of side effects including stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, loss of limbs and eyesight.
Follows are tips to balance your blood sugar and boost diabetes protection.
Diet and nutrition
1. Sweeten with stevia, an herb, instead of artificial sweeteners or sugar. Stevia will not elevate blood sugars and has zero calories. Avoid artificial sweeteners and any product with NutraSweet or Aspartame. Especially avoid any product with high fructose corn syrup and agave syrup, both which create an aggressive insulin response and increased visceral fat.
2. Eliminate all boxed, canned, microwavable foods and fast foods. Consuming fast food two or more times a week results, on average, in an extra weight gain of 10 pounds and doubles the risk of prediabetes over a 15-year period.
3. Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates, gluten and grains. Eliminate all soda including diet soda, pasteurized dairy products, fast-acting sugars (fruit juices and high glycemic fruits), vegetable oils, starchy vegetables, hydrogenated fats, alcohol and tobacco. Enjoy green tea, white tea, and coffee. Consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes. Just one sweetened drink a day raises your risk of diabetes by 25 percent.
4. Coffee can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that the components that could be responsible for this protection include magnesium, phenolic compounds and quinides, which have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Other compounds in coffee have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. Coffee beans are one of the most sprayed crops in the world — sprayed with fungicides and pesticides. Make sure your coffee is organic.
5. Type 2 diabetics should avoid most fruits except for tomatoes, berries, apples, avocados, grapefruit, lemons and limes. Blueberry and apple lovers have a 23 percent lower risk of developing diabetes. They’re chock full of flavonoids, which have been linked to protection against heart disease and cancer.
6. Hydrate. Drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Stay away from plastic bottles due to BPA exposure, which has been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
7. Increase protein from organic sources. An article published in the Nutrition Journal concluded that a low-carb, high-protein diet is far superior to a low fat diet to reduce insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
8. Your meals and snacks should consist of protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fiber from veggies and leafy greens to help stabilize blood sugar. Fiber helps lower glucose.
9. Cinnamon helps control post-meal insulin spikes. Cinnamon can be used to reduce the glycemic index of a meal up to 29 percent. One USDA study showed that just a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered the blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
1. Get to bed by 10 p.m. and get up no earlier than 6 a.m. Lack of sleep disturbs lipid profiles, glucose metabolism, androgen production, body fat levels, blood pressure, immune function and memory.
2. Manage your stressors. Stress is the No. 2 cause of Type 2 diabetes. Diet is the No. 1 cause.
3. Minimize BPA exposure (plastic water bottles, dental sealants, plastic wraps, canned foods, etc.) A study published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found BPA is linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and liver problems in adults.
4. Diabetics should monitor blood glucose levels at least twice a day before eating meals. If you are exercising you will need to test your glucose levels more frequently.
5. Rule out food sensitivities and food intolerances, heavy metal toxicity, Candida, parasites, pesticide overload, other xenobiotics, and inoculations which can be locus to pancreatic dysfunction resulting in diabetes or hypoglycemia.
Exercise and movement
The power of movement and activity should never be underestimated: from a short 5-minute power walk to a 40-minute strength training session, it all counts towards reducing and eliminating the pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) syndrome and controlling diabetes.
1. Begin some form of exercise and be consistent. Walking is excellent for those with diabetes. A daily 3 mph brisk walk decreases diabetes risk by 58 percent.
2. Strength training is far superior to steady state aerobic exercise to prevent obesity and increase insulin sensitivity. Lifting weights is far superior over cardio for better blood sugar control. Steady state aerobic exercise increases cortisol levels which increase insulin levels.
Although we are each unique in our biochemistry, there are nutritional supplements that offer support to manage blood sugar: Vitamin D, GlucoBalance, Essential Fatty Acids, Magnesium, Probiotics, Digestive support, Meriva Curcumin, Chromium GTF and Lipoic Acid.
The obesity epidemic and the number of individuals diagnosed with diabetes and/or insulin resistance will continue to increase due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that by the year 2020 nearly 75 percent of the American population will be overweight or obese. A shocking prediction: in less than nine years, half of all Americans will be either pre-diabetic or suffer full-blown Type 2 diabetes.
Now is the time to take control and responsibility. Health is a choice.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at www.PaulaOwens.com.