Insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and obesity (diabesity) are global epidemics that continue to rise and come with major health consequences. Type 2 diabetes is commonly associated with poor diet and inactivity. However, there is now evidence of autoimmunity in Type 2 diabetes.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now medically classified as overweight or obese. What’s crazy is that 30 percent of overweight individuals believe they’re at a healthy weight, and 70 percent of obese individuals feel they’re simply overweight. This excess weight costs our nation $93 billion in annual medical bills, and that number is expected to rise.
Those who are overweight feast on junk food or are sedentary and are not the only ones at risk of diabetes and insulin resistance. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 15 percent of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are not overweight — they’re skinny on the outside, but fat on the inside, commonly known as “skinny-fat.” On the inside these folks have excessive visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat around organs), which increases their risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Just because someone is thin, does not mean they’re healthy — a common misconception in our society.
A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that by 2020 close to 75 percent of the American population will be overweight or obese. What does this mean? In less than nine years, more than half of all Americans will be pre-diabetic or suffer with Type 2 diabetes.
What exactly is insulin resistance? What leads to Type 2 diabetes?
Insulin resistance is when the cell loses its responsiveness on the insulin receptor site (particularly liver, muscle and fat cells, with the liver losing sensitivity first, followed by muscle, then fat cells). Your body adds more and more insulin to store fat. Overtime, the pancreas give up, leading to Type 2 diabetes.
In Type 2 diabetes, your body isn’t making enough insulin and/or the cells are resistant to insulin causing too much sugar to remain in the blood. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. Although insulin is necessary for your body’s use of sugar, higher insulin levels accelerate the aging process, increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and leads to diabetes.
You want to create an environment in which you’re sensitive to insulin. Insulin sensitivity is your body’s ability to use insulin properly to regulate the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Optimal serum glucose fasting blood levels are 70-80, according to Dr. Harry Eidenier, Jr. Fasting blood sugars in the 70s are the most protective for preventive CVD and neurological decline. Abnormal is 100. Levels 70-100 are an opportunity to restore back to an optimal range. Fasting serum insulin levels should be 10. Longevity studies of all creatures, from worms and yeasts to humans, shows that the lower the levels of insulin are over the course of a life, the longer the life will be.
High levels of insulin can cause major damage to your body. The most recognized of these is diabetes, but that is far from the only disease. As Dr. Ron Rosedale said, “It doesn’t matter what disease you are talking about, whether you are talking about a common cold or cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis or cancer, the root is always going to be at the molecular and cellular level, and I will tell you that insulin is going to have its hand in it, if not totally control it.”
Symptoms and conditions of insulin resistance include: brain fog, fatigue, elevated triglycerides, blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C and low HDL levels, hypertension, excess belly fat, extreme thirst, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and inflammation.
When glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause:
• An increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (diabetes of the brain, aka Type 3 diabetes). Hyperinsulinemia doubles your risk for Alzheimer’s compared to people without diabetes, and inflammation increases risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s. In Americans over 65, 1 in 8 has Alzheimer’s and nearly half of those over 85 have it.
• Damage to your eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
All hormones work in synergy with one another. The hormone you have the most control over is insulin. This is regulated by your diet and what you choose to eat.
What causes insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes?
• A sedentary lifestyle.
• Calorie restriction, skipping meals, diet pills.
• Processed foods, fast foods, boxed foods, canned or microwaved foods. Unbalanced meals high in processed carbohydrates, grains, sugar, HFCS, excess omega-6 fats and vegetable oils, and a low intake of healthy fats and protein.
• Fast food. Consuming fast food two or more times a week results, on average, in an extra weight gain of 10 pounds and doubles the risk of prediabetes over a 15-year period.
• Drinking soft drinks and fruit juices.
• Elevated lypogenic (fat storing) enzymes and decreased lypolytic (fat burning) enzymes.
• Lack of quality sleep.
• Stress, adrenal fatigue, altered hormonal levels and inflammation. Years of high adrenaline and/or elevated cortisol (which elevates blood sugar) from chronic stress, poor nutrition, overtraining/excessive exercise, and/or unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Conventional methods for diabetics usually consists of a diet high in grains and low in protein, along with prescription medications to manage blood sugar and insulin. These meds come with a laundry list of side effects, including stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, loss of limbs and eyesight.
Tips to balance blood sugar, boost diabetes protection
1. Sweeten with Stevia, a herb, instead of artificial sweeteners or sugar. Stevia will not elevate blood sugars and has zero calories. Avoid all artificial sweeteners and any product with NutraSweet or Aspartame. Especially avoid any product with high-fructose corn syrup and agave syrup, both which create an aggressive insulin response and increased visceral fat.
2. Eliminate all boxed, canned, microwavable foods and fast foods. Consuming fast food two or more times a week results, on average, in an extra weight gain of 10 pounds and doubles the risk of prediabetes over a 15-year period.
3. Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates, gluten and grains (white rice is associated with a 10 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes). Especially important for those who are insulin resistant or already have diabetes: Eliminate all soda including diet soda, pasteurized dairy products, sugar, fruit juices, high glycemic fruits, starchy vegetables, hydrogenated fats, vegetable oils, alcohol and tobacco.
4. Enjoy green tea, white tea, and coffee. Ditch all soda. Consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes. Just one sweetened drink a day raises your risk of diabetes by 25 percent.
5. Coffee can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that the components that could be responsible for this protection include magnesium, phenolic compounds, and quinides, which have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Other compounds in coffee have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties.
6. Fruits: Type 2 diabetics should avoid most fruits except for tomatoes, berries, apples, avocados, grapefruit, lemons and limes. Blueberry and apple lovers have a 23 percent lower risk of developing diabetes. They’re chock full of flavonoids, which have been linked to protection against heart disease and cancer.
7. Hydrate. Drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Stay away from plastic bottles due to BPA exposure, which has been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
8. Increase protein intake from organic sources. An article published in the Nutrition Journal concluded that a low-carb, high-protein diet is superior to a low-fat diet to reduce insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
9. Your meals and snacks should consist of protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fiber from veggies and leafy greens to help stabilize blood sugar. Fiber helps lower glucose.
10. Cinnamon helps control post-meal insulin spikes. Cinnamon can be used to reduce the glycemic index of a meal up to 29 percent. One United States Department of Agriculture study showed that just a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon/day lowered the blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
11. Mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or the juice from a lemon or lime (flavonoids) in water and drink before your meals. This helps reduce the insulin index of the meal.
12. Eat a protein-rich breakfast. Skipping breakfast increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
1. Get to bed by 10 p.m. Sleep for seven to nine hours every night. Lack of sleep disturbs lipid profiles, glucose metabolism, androgen production, body fat levels, blood pressure, immune function and memory.
2. Heal your gut. Research into diabetes has found a link between diabetes, intestinal permeability, and gut bacteria. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it is always a good idea to strengthen digestive function.
3. Manage your stressors. Stress is the No. 2 cause of Type 2 diabetes. Diet is the No. 1 cause.
4. Minimize BPA exposure (plastic water bottles, dental sealants, plastic wraps, canned foods, etc.)
5. Diabetics should monitor blood glucose levels at least two times day before eating meals. If you are exercising you will need to test your glucose levels more frequently. Glucose levels are influenced by carbohydrate intake, stress, glandular and liver function. When a fasting glucose level is 100, diabetes is imminent. Know your lab values, including fasting insulin levels and Hemoglobin A1C.
6. Rule out food intolerances and sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, Candida, parasites, pesticide overload, other xenobiotics and inoculations, which can be locus to pancreatic dysfunction resulting in diabetes or hypoglycemia.
7. Take care of your eyes. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness. It can lead to retinopathy and other eye problems such as cataracts.
Exercise and movement is also important. The power of movement and activity should never be underestimated — from a brisk five-minute power walk to a 40-minute strength training session, it all counts towards reducing and eliminating the pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) syndrome and controlling diabetes.
Begin some form of exercise and be consistent. Walking is excellent form of activity to adopt for those who have been sedentary for many years. A daily 3 mph brisk walk decreases diabetes risk by 58 percent.
Strength training is far superior to steady state aerobic exercise to prevent obesity, increase insulin sensitivity and manage blood sugar because steady-state aerobic exercise increases cortisol levels which elevate insulin levels.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of, “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” She is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience, and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and fat-loss program. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.