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NMU 52 – Compelling Data About Diabetes and Lifestyle Management

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No.52 (April 25, 2017)

with Dr. James Meschino


Research Topic: Compelling Data About Diabetes and Lifestyle Management

Source: National Diabetes Fact Sheet (U.S.)

In this edition, I want to cite some statistics regarding diabetes and prediabetes that I think are very compelling. Let’s remember that 90% of diabetics have type2 diabetes and that 80% of individuals with type 2 diabetes are overweight at the time of diagnosis. We know that being overweight and out of shape causes insulin resistance to occur, which is the underlying dysfunction in type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance means that your cells, particularly your muscle cells and fat cells which comprise 2/3 of your body mass, have a hard time absorbing glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream and thus, the pancreas is forced to pump out higher amounts of insulin for those cells to extract glucose from the bloodstream.  Aerobic exercise and losing body fat (shrinking your fat cells) produce insulin sensitivity, which enables your muscle and fat cells to extract glucose from the bloodstream in the presence of much less insulin. So, when you are more aerobically fit and leaner, your pancreas does not have to pump out high amounts of insulin.
This is very beneficial as high insulin levels convert carbohydrates into fat, which in turn causes your liver to synthesize more cholesterol to transport the fat to the fat cells. The extra cholesterol you produce often gets lodged in your arteries causing narrowing and leading to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness from macular degeneration of the eye. The higher blood sugar levels that are seen in diabetes also produces blood vessel inflammation, which further increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, cataracts and blindness from macular degeneration.

The truth is that in the case of type 2 diabetes, most diabetics have the power to get their blood sugar, cholesterol, body fat, blood pressure and triglycerides under control through meaningful dietary and exercise practices. Here are few important strategies to make that happen:

  • Eat less refined sugars and use beans and peas as a substitute for other starchy vegetables (like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes).
  • Avoiding high-fat meat and dairy products as well as deep fried foods and foods with a lot of trans-fats.
  • Do a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5x per week.

So, much of the fate of diabetes lies in the hands of the diabetic. Relying exclusively on drugs to manage the condition with little attention to lifestyle change has created some serious consequences. Here is what the data shows us:

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and accounted for 44% of all new cases of kidney failure in 2008. With kidney failure comes a need for dialysis three times per week and/or the necessity of a kidney transplant to stay alive.
  • Diabetes remains the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults 20-74 yrs. of age.
  • Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2-4 times higher than adults without diabetes.
  • Risk of stroke is also 2-4 times greater in diabetics than in non-diabetics
  • 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage from high sugar and cholesterol levels, with symptoms that can include impaired sensation or pain in the feet and hands, carpal tunnel and syndrome, erectile dysfunction.
  • Almost 30% of diabetics age 40 yrs. and older have impaired sensation in the feet.
  • More than 60% of non-traumatic lower limb amputations occur in diabetes.
  • If diabetics get to work on their lifestyle plan and simply lower their hemoglobin A1c from 8% to 7% they reduce their complications from eye, kidney, and nerve disease by 40%. Lowering your Hemoglobin A1c happens when you eat less refined sugars and starchy foods and exercise more.
  • Better blood pressure control reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by 33-50% in diabetics.
  • Improved LDL-cholesterol can reduce the risk of heart and vascular complications by 20-50%.

In the management of type 2 diabetes medication is important, but changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle are proven to reverse many aspects of the disease and significantly reduce the risk of kidney failure, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, blindness, nerve damage and lower limb amputation.

In the U.S. type 2 diabetes affects 8% of the population (28 million people) and more than another 70 million people are pre-diabetic. In Canada, 9 million of 35 million people have diabetes or pre-diabetes. It is a modern-day epidemic that is driven largely by faulty dietary and lifestyle habits in the case of type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of all diabetic conditions. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of proper diet, exercise and weight control in preventing type 2 diabetes and in reversing many features of the disease and preventing its complications.

Type 2 diabetes is primarily a lifestyle disease and you have the power to prevent it, reverse many aspects of the disease, and reduce its complications.

I have listed the main reference for this data in the text below

Main Reference:

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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