“The number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.” – World Health Organization
Diabetes Type 2 is Prevalent, But Mostly Preventable
As of 2015, over 30 million or 9.4 percent of Americans have diabetes. Another 84 million have prediabetes, which left untreated can lead to type 2 diabetes within five years.
Those statistics continue to steadily rise. The number of Americans with diabetes increased more than threefold between 1990 and 2010. Over the past 50 years, diabetes has increased seven- to 10-fold.
That made diabetes the seventh leading cause of death in America in 2015. Equally alarming, about one in four adults with diabetes don’t know they have it.
Most cases of diabetes are entirely preventable. With some diet and lifestyle modifications, you can dramatically lower your risk for this disease.
Getting to and maintaining your ideal weight is one of the biggest things you can do to reverse or prevent diabetes. About nine out of 10 people diagnosed with diabetes are overweight or obese.
Why do obesity rates — and the risk for diabetes and other diseases — continue to rise? Experts have ideas, such as increased portion sizes and lack of healthy food availability are the causes.
We Eat Way Too Much Sugar!
Like any disease, more than one factor contributes to obesity and diabetes. But a big one is that we eat way too much sugar.
In fact, the average person eats 152 pounds of sugar every year. That’s about half a pound of sugar a day. Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, juice boxes, and sports drinks, are a leading cause of this high sugar intake, but about 74 percent of packaged foods also contain added sugar.
To manage your weight and reduce your risk of diabetes, a good place to begin is by minimizing sugar intake, especially added sugars in processed foods.
Carbs Turn into Sugar
When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks down this sugar into glucose, which goes into your bloodstream. Some amino acids from dietary protein also break down to glucose. Here, we’ll focus on carbohydrates.
When your blood sugar goes up after you eat something sweet, your pancreas releases insulin. This hormone helps get sugar into your body’s cells. Your body uses sugar or glucose, as energy.
At least that’s what should happen: Your cells either use that glucose for energy or your body stores glucose to use later as glycogen.
When you eat too much sugar or glucose, insulin tries to deliver that sugar to your cells. However, those cells can’t always receive that message. Your pancreas releases more insulin to help deliver that sugar, but your cells refuse to accept it.
That’s a problem because too much sugar in your bloodstream can be deadly, increasing your risk for heart disease, cancer, and more.
Your pancreas also becomes burned out because it has been overworked from producing insulin. This overworked organ can’t keep producing the amount of insulin needed to keep your blood sugar at normal levels.
Eventually, your cells stop responding to insulin. This is called “insulin resistance” because they are no longer responding to insulin the way they are supposed to by absorbing the glucose and using it for energy.
Insulin resistance makes blood sugar and insulin levels stay high long after you eat. As a result, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. High blood sugar can lead to many problems including kidney, eye, or heart diseases as well as nerve damage or stroke.
How Conventional Diabetes Management Creates More Problems
Why not inject insulin to help manage those blood sugar levels and give your overworked pancreas a break? Insulin therapy might be something to discuss with your healthcare practitioner, but for some people, it may cause more harm than good.
The real problem with insulin therapy is that using it doesn’t address why your pancreas over-produces insulin and your cells resist this hormone. And one of those problems — perhaps the main problem — is overeating sugar, especially as added sugar.
Stop Eating Sugar = Stop Insulin Resistance = Reverse Diabetes
After all, if you cut down on your sugar intake, you don’t raise your glucose levels as much and your pancreas doesn’t have to struggle to produce insulin. Your cells are less likely to become resistant to insulin.
Once you develop insulin resistance, a slippery slope results. You increase your risk of developing prediabetes and later, type 2 diabetes. Many people are unaware they are insulin resistant until diabetes symptoms appear.
If you have insulin resistance, talk with your healthcare practitioner about strategies to reverse this condition before it becomes worse. If you aren’t insulin resistant, do everything you can to prevent it.
You have control over many risk factors for insulin resistance. The biggest one how you eat.
A diet low in carbohydrates — especially processed carbs — with healthy amounts of protein and healthy fats is your best strategy to balance blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Other factors that can help manage diabetes include:
- Maintain a healthy weight (by eating healthy, this will be easy)
- Perform enough exercise
- Don’t smoke
- Get 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep nightly
- Keep healthy blood pressure levels
Once a person has diabetes, eating sugar can keep insulin levels elevated. That can create even more damage and complications such as liver damage.
In one study, researchers looked at people over 175 different countries. The more sugar they ate, the higher their rate of diabetes. In fact, for every additional 150 calories of sugar people in that country ate a day, diabetes levels increased one percent.
Tests for Diabetes
If you suspect you have insulin resistance or risk of diabetes, your healthcare practitioner may do one or more of these tests:
- A1C test: Measures your average blood sugar level over the previous 2–3 months.
- Fasting blood glucose test: You healthcare practitioner measures glucose levels after you fast for 8 or more hours.
- Random glucose test: Your healthcare practitioner checks blood glucose levels at some point during the day.
To be fair, obesity and diabetes are complex conditions and other factors besides sugar. But it certainly is one big factor for both.
The Health Problems Associated with Diabetes
Addressing these problems early can help reverse and manage your condition. Diabetes type 2 is usually coupled or follows several other health conditions, such as:
- Premature death
- Vision loss
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- Amputation of toes, feet, or legs
While researchers debate how much of a role sugar plays in diabetes, for other conditions, we are more certain about sugar’s damage.
Too much sugar can also contribute to liver disease, heart disease, cancer, hormone imbalances, inflammation, a weakened immune system, tooth decay, and more.
For example, one study found that people who ate more than 25 percent of their daily calories from sugar were over twice as likely to die from heart disease as people who ate 10 percent or fewer of their calories from sugar.
8 Strategies to Manage or Prevent Obesity and Diabetes
Diabetes and obesity are mostly preventable.
Whether you have insulin resistance, you’re overweight, or you have diabetes, you have plenty of control over your situation. These eight strategies will help you minimize symptoms of diabetes, self-manage diabetes, lose weight, and achieve better health.
- Manage your weight. Reaching your ideal weight can help your body better utilize insulin. Even lowering your weight 10 percent can reverse or prevent diabetes. Losing weight will also protect you from diabetes-related complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and damage to your kidneys, liver, nerves, and eyes.
- Eat a low-glycemic diet. The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar. Lower-GI foods increase glucose and insulin levels more slowly, whereas higher-GI foods have the opposite effect. As a general rule, anything white — including potatoes, rice, and bread — will raise blood sugar levels more quickly. Our Core and Advanced Nutrition Plans contain plenty of nutrient-rich, low-glycemic foods to help balance your blood sugar.
- Watch for hidden and high sugar foods and stop eating them. You know the usual suspects like candy, cookies, and chips. But sugar can come in places you might not suspect, such as green juices, yogurt, dried fruit, and whole wheat bread. Read labels carefully and be aware of the many disguises that sugar can take. Better yet, minimize any processed food and stick with real whole food that doesn’t have barcodes.
- Get the right amount of exercise. Regular exercise can help regulate blood sugar and make your body more sensitive to insulin, both of which can help people with diabetes or anyone at risk for diabetes. Exercise can also help you lose weight, especially fat rather than lean muscle.
- Sleep soundly. Just one partial night’s sleep can increase the risk of insulin resistance in otherwise-healthy people and set the stage for obesity and diabetes. Getting good sleep nightly requires preparation. Turn off electronics, take a hot bath, and use a sleep supplement if you need it. Try MaxLiving Sleep + Mood Formula for a good night’s sleep.
- Minimize environmental toxins. Some experts argue toxins might pose a greater risk of diabetes than factors like diet or lack of exercise. In fact, they’ve even coined a term — diabetogens — to describe how toxins can increase your diabetes risk. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has some excellent guides to help you identify these toxins in your environment, and take the actions to avoid them:
- Manage stress levels. Chronic stress can:
- Increase insulin resistance
- Raise your risk for diabetes
- Create imbalances with the hormones that manage your weight.
Stress management depends on what works for you. That might include yoga, meditation, deep breathing, active relaxation, or laughing with friends over a funny movie.
- Take the right nutrients. Talk with your healthcare practitioner about supplements that may help you manage blood sugar levels. These may be helpful:include:
- N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), which can support levels of your master antioxidant glutathione to help minimize your toxic load.
- Vitamin D, which can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce your risk of insulin resistance.
- Magnesium. This mineral helps manage insulin levels. Some people with diabetes are low in magnesium. Optimal amounts can reduce fasting blood sugar levels.
- Probiotics, which can help decrease fasting blood sugar and inflammation.
MaxLiving has these and other nutrients to help manage your blood sugar levels. Look for these products:
Discuss including these and/or any other additional supplements with your healthcare practitioner. Never modify any medications or other medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.
Work with your healthcare practitioner team to manage blood sugar levels, prevent or reverse diabetes, and maintain a healthy weight. Always be clear if any specific symptoms start or get worse.
Likewise, alert your healthcare practitioner about any new food modifications, exercise changes, medications you use, and any new illnesses you experience. You have the power to manage or prevent diabetes and obesity.