Nearly half of Americans now have type II diabetes or prediabetes, a condition caused by insulin resistance that can morph over time into full-blown diabetes. It is becoming the scourge of our generation.
Ignored, it can damage nerves in feet and other extremities and eventually damage kidneys, liver, pancreas and other organs. Full blown diabetics can ultimately be forced to undergo weekly kidney dialysis (to remove blood-borne toxins ordinarily filtered by healthy kidneys), as well as potentially suffer amputations, impaired vision and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. A Health Central blog estimates the added lifetime medical cost of diabetes can exceed $200,000. That pales, of course, in comparison to the cost of human suffering.
Why is this illness getting worse? The simple answer (although life is always more complex) is that we are surrounded by sugar, starches and heavily-processed foods in our diet that flood our bodies with insulin (the storage hormone). Insulin has an important job to do but, in excess, it can overwhelm one’s health. Such excess overtaxes the liver and stores unused “energy” (glucose) as fat.
Stored fat is a survival mechanism, to help us get through the lean periods experienced by our hunter-gather-evolved bodies. Unfortunately, for us lean periods are now rare. Three meals a day plus snacks and soft drinks are closer to the norm. Our resultant beer belly says it all.
But forget about appearance for now – a pair of coveralls can hide that aspect – the real problem is that our bodies are coping with a toxic sea of glucose, and our internal origins are being surrounded by and crushed by the extra, stored fat (what you don’t burn you store). The damaging effect is cumulative. We become more insulin resistant over time. Your marvelously smart body initially addresses this problem by producing more insulin to overcome the insulin resistance from glucose-engorged cells. Over time, it’s a losing battle.
What to do? Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist and obesity clinic doctor from Toronto, has treated and intensely analyzed this condition and has provided us with a clinic-tested solution, published in his most recent book, “The Diabetes Code.” He also shares information in his blog: www.dietdoctor.com.
Dr. Fung explains that part of the problem is many doctors are still preaching old med school myths: that type II diabetes (the adult onset variety) is “progressive and incurable.” Their treatment approach is thus to throw an escalating level of meds at it, and eventually to put their patients on insulin to handle the excess glucose in the blood stream. (By the way, that insulin can often cause weight gain – think fat storage). Dr. Fung says the old medicine is wrong. It’s treating a symptom: the presence of high blood sugar, not the root cause: excess insulin.
Food is the insulin trigger. So, deal with that. Dr. Fung teaches that diabetes is a dietary-caused illness, and needs to be treated by a change in diet/ fuel source, not by progressively increasing the patient’s medication.
“The Diabetes Code” is available in paperback. In it, Dr. Fung explains how intermittent fasting and diet change can help resolve diabetes. He recommends a diet which emphasizes healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, avocados, fish, etc.), modest protein intake, and limited, natural carb consumption (e.g., vegetables and fruit with fiber). The resultant weight loss will reduce the body’s insulin resistance. Read the book, talk to your doctor. It’s time to adjust our habits.
This book review is by not-a-doctor Nick Della Volpe.