Diabetes is the current leader as the fastest growing disease in the US. The Center for Disease Control reports that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled since 1980, with an estimated 26 million people in this country that have diabetes and 79 million that are pre-diabetic. This disease not only condemns its victims to taking medication and/or insulin injections, it is the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and non-traumatic amputations. Seventy percent of diabetics suffer from mild to severe nerve damage. Even more disturbing is that the occurrence of “adult onset” diabetes is affecting increasingly younger members of our population, sometimes hitting children as young as four years old.
Diabetes was at one time referred to as “Sugar Diabetes” - but what exactly is this disease? The short version is that there is too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. The predominant types of diabetes are type 1, “juvenile diabetes”, and type 2, “adult onset”. Type 1 affects people whose pancreas is unable to produce the hormone insulin, which helps to usher glucose from the blood stream into the cells when the cells need energy. In type 2, the most prevalent, plenty of insulin is produced by the pancreas, but the body doesn’t respond to it – a phenomenon referred to as insulin resistance. The pancreas tries to put out more insulin until the beta cells in the pancreas which serve that function are effectively exhausted. The exact mechanism of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes is not well understood, however patients are often prescribed insulin injections to compensate for it.
The correlation between type 2 diabetes and obesity is quite strong. What was erroneously called a sugar disease would have been much better called a fat disease. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a board-certified family physician and best-selling author who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods states, “…giving overweight, diabetic people even more insulin makes them sicker by promoting weight gain. They become even more diabetic.” Hence, one of the most common therapies for diabetes actually forces the progression of the disease.
Current medical practices require the patient to pierce their skin to check glucose, stick themselves with needles to administer insulin, take medications to reduce insulin resistance and succumb to the inevitable ravages of a disease that gets progressively worse. Current medical practices do nothing to cure the disease. It’s only a matter of time for the patient to watch their own steady decline as nerve damage occurs, accompanied by loss of vision, amputation of extremities and kidney failure. To make matters worse, a recent study showed that intensive measures to lower blood sugar actually increase the risk of death. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute halted part of the study due to these safety concerns.
The repeated drumbeat from medical professionals for diabetics has been to avoid starchy foods in order to reduce blood glucose. This advice ignores the real culprit - dietary fat. At Dr. John McDougall’s clinic in Santa Rosa, California, most participants in his ten day program are taken off medications from day one and put on a whole food, plant based diet where carbs are king and there are no added fats or oils. Dr. McDougall explains how unrefined foods, high in carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, corn, whole wheat) provide a slow, steady burn, essential for keeping blood glucose levels stable. By eliminating animal products (beef, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs) and all free fats and oils (animal and vegetable), factors contributing to insulin resistance are removed.
Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, was awarded a grant from the NlH to study the effects of a low-fat plant-based diet on diabetes. The study results showed that the diet yielded significantly better results than those guidelines provided by the American Diabetes Association. Lastly, don’t neglect exercise! The more exercise you do, the more energy that is required to fuel cells, which takes glucose out of the blood stream.
As Dr. Barnard explains eloquently in his book, “Program for Reversing Diabetes”, Genes Are Not Destiny. Their expression can be turned on and off simply by making conscientious decisions about diet and lifestyle.
You can choose your own course. Adopt a whole food, plant-based, high carb, low fat diet to reverse the symptoms of diabetes and avoid other degenerative diseases; you can enjoy fresh, tasty meals that will lead to improved general health, or you can continue with the standard American diet to further the symptoms of diabetes, nerve damage, vision impairment and kidney disease. The solution is easy. The results are dramatic. A higher quality of life is almost guaranteed.
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