Diabetes: Truth Cause and Prevention.
Over the past twenty years or so there has been a dramatic rise in diabetes in the western world. The percentage of people being diagnosed is still increasing and shows no sign of slowing. What is causing this dramatic increase to epidemic numbers?
Some theories have been put forward including over eating, fatty foods, and lack of exercise and a combination of all three, I'm sure most of us have heard them all. These reasons however, just do not add up, in fact the evidence shows that the above reasons cannot be the cause although they can contribute to an earlier onset of diabetes. Listed below are what I believe the real reasons for the diabetes epidemic are and to offer some ways of hopefully preventing it.
First of all let's take the three assumed causes for diabetes and examine if they really are a cause.
Many “experts” claim that today we are eating much more than we did say thirty years ago, but the evidence simply does not show this. We are consuming roughly the same amounts of food on average as in previous decades. What has changed is not how much we eat but what we eat. In fact a large proportion of people these days are on some kind of diet to limit their intake which did not happen so much in the past and yet we are still getting fatter. Why is that?
Since the seventies, fat has been seen as the devil in our foods and many companies have made fortunes providing low fat everything. Once more however the evidence does not support this, in fact our bodies need fat, both unsaturated and, yes, saturated. Saturated fats are essential to our bodies for producing some hormones and the absorption of other nutrients.
Lack of exercise:
This distresses me somewhat as many people point a finger, especially at our children and brand them as lazy and sedentary. A recent study though again shows that on average our children are as physically active as they were thirty years ago and yet still they gain weight and more and more are being diagnosed with diabetes. What's more is that the children of the seventies, myself included, who were supposedly more active, are the ones who are now, in adulthood coming down with diabetes also. How can this be?
So what are the real causes?
For me the answer lies deep inside our food. Even foods we consider fresh are being altered and manipulated to increase shelf life and lower production costs. Below are listed what I believe are the true causes of the current diabetes epidemic.
Alloxan is a compound that seems to specifically target and destroy the cells inside the pancreas that produce insulin. It is so specific in fact, that researchers into diabetes use it to induce diabetes in animals that they use in their research.
So where does it come from? Well it's in our food and more specifically in grains, flours, breads rice etc. It is the result of bleaching our food to increase it's shelf life. Almost all grains and flours, including corn are now bleached before use.
The bleach used is chlorine dioxide, a harmful gas that also destroys any goodness in the grains. It also has another unfortunate and deadly effect. Chlorine dioxide reacts with and breaks down proteins in the grains to form Alloxan. The grains and flours are now carrying a pancreas killer and no washing or cooking can remove it.
Glucose fructose syrup:
Or high fructose corn syrup, is an artificial sugar invented in a laboratory. As the name suggests it is made from corn and is added to food because of it's intense sweetness. Confectionery and soda manufacturers know from years of study that the sweeter they can make things, the more that we will buy. Why is it so bad? Well, we have to look at how our bodies deal with it. For years diabetics have been told that sugar is the enemy, but sugar i.e. glucose is what our cells use for energy. Once you are diabetic controlling sugar becomes problematic but eating normal sugar in a normal diet is unlikely to cause diabetes.
When we eat glucose for example it does not need digesting and can pass into our bloodstream where it is detected by the body and the pancreas then produces insulin to ferry the glucose into our cells. This produces what is known as an insulin spike and the glucose is used up. It does not last long and in many cases, such as exercising, it is beneficial. When we eat high fructose corn syrup however, it needs digesting but compared to something like starch, it is digested relatively quickly with a glucose molecule being “unzipped” each time. Large amounts of glucose are then released into the blood and again the pancreas fires up to produce insulin. The trouble is though that our enzymes are still unzipping glucose into the blood and they keep doing it, on and on. This produces not an insulin spike but an insulin high plateau, as the pancreas desperately tries to get all of this glucose out of the blood and into the cells. Eating this syrup regularly, simply causes the pancreas to burn out and shut down.
This syrup also contains fructose (fruit sugar) groups. In humans, fructose is metabolised almost entirely in the liver. Evidence shows that flooding the liver with fructose can make it a liver toxin and since our body's cells do not directly use fructose, it tends to be stored as fat. Fatty livers and pancreas have been linked to the formation of diabetes.
Margarine or spreads as they are now called are a real bugbear for me as they are actually marketed as being good for us when all the evidence says they are not. The problem with them is their manufacture which produces trans fatty acids or transfats. Not only have transfats been linked with heart disease and cancer, there is also evidence to show that they can cause diabetes. Our bodies over millions of years have evolved to utilise natural foods.
Unsaturated fats and oils in nature are cis fatty acids and this is what our body expects. Along come trans fatty acids in margarine, which have only been around for some hundred years and our bodies simply don't know how to deal with them. Put very simply, what scientists think happens is that transfats “coat” our cell walls and then prevent the mechanism by which glucose enters the cell from working and so the glucose remains in the bloodstream causing diabetes.
(Simopolous (1994) called for clinical investigations to the effect of dietary trans fats on insulin resistance )
So what can we do about it?
To protect your body, the first thing to do is to identify any kinds of foods that you eat that could be damaging it and then stop eating it.
Below is a list of kinds of foods that I recommend should be avoided:
Anything containing bleached flour or grains. Avoid that Alloxan! The list is exhaustive but includes white bread, any processed pastries, flour, cornflour, white rice, cakes and as a good rule of thumb look for the words “fortified” or “modified”. One of the tricks manufacturers use is to back add some nutrients that were destroyed during bleaching, this they call “fortified”. Breakfast cereals are usually bleached and even some brown breads still have bleached flour in them. There are some brands out there using unbleached products so read your labels!
Most processed sweets, cakes and pastries. Sodas, Cordials and ice creams. Too sweet to be wholesome! They are loaded with Glucose fructose syrup. Even some processed meats and tinned foods have sugars added. Once more reading your labels is key again there are some that are OK. Just as a side, I recommend avoiding anything with aspartame in also (usually drinks) it's nasty and makes you fat.
Anything that claims to be “low fat”. Low fat – high carb. Low fat usually means that the fat has been replaced with artificial or processed carbs such as sugars, gums and starch. All those carbs mean more insulin and higher blood sugar! There are some exceptions like yoghurts made from skimmed milk but personally I don't see the point, a pure natural unprocessed yoghurt seems best to me.
What can help:
Next is a short list of foods that have been shown to give some benefit in preventing pancreatic damage and/or lowering blood sugar levels. Most of these I take myself.
Wheat germ oil. Protect your pancreas! Wheat germ oil is a great natural source of vitamin E. This vitamin has been shown to protect the pancreatic cells against damage from Alloxan and in some cases even allows the body to repair them. It is one of life’s great ironies that the same wheat that contains a pancreatic “protector” is the very same thing that causes the damage when it is defiled by bleaching! Another good source of vitamin E are Almonds!
Cinnamon. Tasty and good for you. There is evidence to show that cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity allowing sugar to leave the blood and enter cells. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20515642)
Bitter Melon. Or Bitter Gourd helps to counter diabetes in more than one way. Not only does it increase insulin sensitivity, it also acts as a hunger suppressant and activates the AMPK protein which controls glucose uptake by cells. In some parts of the world, Bitter Melon extract is sold as a diabetic medicine.
Basically then it is best to eat foods that have not been processed, added to or treated in any way as much as possible. I have only touched on the subject here and I implore everyone to research this subject themselves. There is much misleading information about diabetes so only believe what is backed up by evidence. We must send a message to the food suppliers that we are not going to carry on consuming what are ultimately chronic poisons. We have the power as consumers because we have the money that they want. So vote with your pocket and keep choosing the right foods, like organic and non-GM and encourage others to do so and eventually, things will have to change.
So, stay healthy, keep fit and look after yourselves and please keep an eye out for my other articles!