By Dr Mercola
The United States has seen a rapid rise in pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes over the last decade. Nearly 80 million people—about one in four—now has diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Diabetes among children and teens is also growing at a rapid rate. The most recent data reveals that, between 2001 and 2009, type 2 diabetes among children aged 10-19 rose by 30 percent.
Overwhelmingly, the evidence points to a faulty diet—indeed the entire culture of inappropriate, health-harming food—which is the topic of the fast-paced documentary, Carb-Loaded: A Culture Dying to Eat, produced by Lathe Poland and Eric Carlsen.
Poland was himself diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, which led to the creation of this revealing film. In a press release, Poland notes:
“I wasn’t overweight… To be honest, I was completely blown away when my doctor gave me the diagnosis. Why would a seemingly healthy 30 something man like myself get a disease like this?
— Lathe Poland
My misconception like most people was that there were two scenarios where you get diabetes…Either it’s hereditary and it’s not your fault, or you eat junk food like it’s going out of style and end up diabetic.”
His doctor wanted him to take three different medications, and what alarmed Poland was what he calls “the rubber stamp approach.” So he decided to look deeper, to find out what really causes diabetes, and whether the drug approach was really the only remedy.
For the last 50 years, Americans have been told to eat a high complex carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet. Even diabetics have been told to eat 50-60 percent of their daily calories in the form of processed carbs.
As the filmmakers note, “refined and processed foods, especially processed carbohydrates have become a staple of our culture, and we are reaping the consequences.” Conventional wisdom states that whole grains are part of a heart-healthy diet, and cereal commercials abound making that same claim…
But make no mistake about it. This nutritional advice is exactly why diabetes rates are shooting skyward. (Even athletes would be well advised to reconsider carb-loading, as a high fat diet tends to improve performance to a greater degree. This too is briefly discussed in the film.)
Conventional advice also states that diabetics can safely use table sugar, as long as you readjust your medications to compensate appropriately (i.e. take more drugs to increase your fat cell storage capacity). Using toxic artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar also gets the green light.
The sad truth is that these recommendations are not based on nutritional science. They’re based on industry lobbying – just like the USDA’s Food Pyramid, which is fraught with massive industry conflicts of interest.
As discussed in the film, there was NO science to back up these nutritional recommendations. In essence, it was an experiment, and we are now able to say the experiment was a horrible abject failure that has resulted in needless pain and suffering and the premature deaths of tens of millions.
We simply cannot follow the conventional food pyramid (or the updated version called MyPlate), and maintain optimal health. Why? Because grains turn into sugar in your body, which leads to insulin resistance and promotes chronic inflammation in your body—all of which is explained in the featured film.
The film also discusses the pernicious influence and sheer power of the processed food industry, and how they shape our food culture—and much of the “conventional wisdom” about food—through junk food advertising.
Conventional Medicine Has it All Wrong…
Conventional medicine has type 2 diabetes pegged as a problem rooted in “dysregulation of blood sugar control,” which is typically explained as “an inability of your body to produce enough insulin.”
With that view, it seems reasonable to conclude that in order to control diabetes, you need a prescription for insulin, or drugs that raise insulin to counteract the elevated blood sugar.
In reality, however, the underlying problem is improper insulin and leptin signaling. In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is still producing some insulin—in fact, usually too much insulin is being produced on a chronic basis—but your pancreas is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly.
This is an advanced stage of insulin resistance, which is typically caused by a diet that is too high in sugars and sugar-forming foods such as grains. Type 2 diabetes also involves malfunction of leptin signaling, which is caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels—again due to a diet that is too high in sugar.
This is why drug treatment isn’t getting us anywhere. Treating type 2 diabetes with insulin is actually one of the worst things you can do, as it will actually worsen your insulin and leptin resistance over time. You do not need more insulin. You need to restore the sensitivity of your insulin and leptin receptors, and the way to do this is by keeping your insulin and leptin levels low.
As Dr. Ron Rosedale wrote in 2005, doctors cause diabetics to D.I.E from their flawed prescriptions, which stem from a basic lack of insight into this root cause of diabetes. D.I.E., here, is a clever acronym for “Doctor Induced Exacerbation,” which does indeed include early death.
It’s important to understand what really happens when you simply add insulin without addressing the underlying insulin/leptin resistance. When your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released to direct the extra energy (sugar) into storage. A small amount is stored as a starch called glycogen, but the majority is stored as fat.
Insulin’s primary role is not to lower your blood sugar, but rather to store this extra energy as fat for future needs when food may not be available. The fact that insulin lowers your blood sugar is merely a “side effect” of this energy storage process. So taking more insulin just makes you fatter!
As Dr Rosedale has previously stated; “Type 2 diabetes is brought on by constantly having too much insulin and leptin circulating secondary to the same diet that has been recommended to treat diabetes and heart disease, a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Then giving these diabetics more insulin is adding gasoline to the fire. Doctors couldn’t be doing more harm if they tried.”
Type 2 Diabetes Is Preventable and Treatable Without Drugs
Since type 2 diabetes involves loss of insulin and leptin sensitivity, it’s easily preventable and nearly 100 percent reversible without drugs. One of the primary driving forces behind type 2 diabetes is eating excessive amounts of grains, refined sugar, and processed fructose in particular—the latter of which has adverse effects on all of metabolic hormones, including insulin and leptin.
According to statistics in the film, after World War II, Americans consumed an estimated 16-24 grams of fructose per day. By the mid-70s, that average had risen to 37 grams per day, and 20 years later, Americans were averaging nearly 55 grams of fructose per day. Other statistics found in Dr. Richard Johnson’s book, The Sugar Fix,5 suggest about 50 percent of Americans consume as much as half a pound, more than 225 grams, per day!
There is really no question in my mind that regularly consuming more than 25 grams of fructose per day will dramatically increase your risk of insulin/leptin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. It’s important to realize that even though fructose is relatively “low glycemic” on the front end, it actually reduces the receptor’s affinity for insulin, leading to chronic insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar on the back end.
So, while you may not notice a steep increase in blood sugar immediately following fructose consumption, it is likely changing your entire endocrine system’s ability to function properly behind the scenes. A quick note on testing: Be sure to monitor your fasting insulin level in addition to monitoring your fasting blood sugar. You’ll want your fasting insulin level to be between 2 and 4. The higher your level, the greater your insulin resistance and the more aggressive you need to be in your treatment plan, especially when it comes to altering your diet.
Foundational Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes
So how do you reverse diabetes? The following nutrition and lifestyle modifications are foundational for any diabetes prevention and treatment plan.
• Swap out processed foods, all forms of sugar—particularly fructose—as well as all grains, for REAL FOOD (whole, fresh food). A primary reason for the failure of conventional diabetes treatment has to do with seriously flawed dietary recommendations. Fructose, grains, and other sugar forming starchy carbohydrates are largely responsible for your body’s adverse insulin reactions, and all sugars and grains—even “healthy” grains such as whole, organic ones—need to be drastically reduced.
If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. This includes the majority of Americans. For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less, to maintain optimal health.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by swapping processed foods for whole, ideally organic foods. This means cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Processed foods are the main source of all the primary culprits, including high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, processed grains, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and other synthetic additives that may aggravate metabolic dysfunction.
Besides fructose, trans fat (NOT saturated fat) increases your risk for diabetes by interfering with your insulin receptors. Healthy saturated fats do not do this. Since you’re cutting out a lot of energy (carbs) from your diet when you reduce sugars and grains, you need to replace them with something. The ideal replacement is a combination of:
Low-to-moderate amount of high quality protein. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. When selecting animal-based protein, be sure to opt for organically raised, grass-fed or pastured meats, eggs, and dairy, to avoid potential health complications caused by genetically engineered animal feed and pesticides.
Most Americans eat far too much protein, so be mindful of the amount! I believe it is the rare person who really needs more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women should have about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.
To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. To determine whether you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you’re eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources.
Again, you’re aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you’re currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in the food.
1. Red meat, pork, poultry and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.
2. Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup
3. Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup
4. Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg.
5. Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup
6. Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce
• As much high quality healthy fat as you want (saturated and monounsaturated). For optimal health, most people need upwards of 50-85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. (Remember, fat is high in calories while being small in terms of volume. So when you look at your plate, the largest portion would be vegetables.)
• As many non-starchy vegetables as you want
• Exercise regularly and intensely. Studies have shown that exercise, even without weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity. High intensity interval training (HIIT), has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 24 percent in just four weeks.
• Improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Today’s Western diet has far too many processed and damaged omega-6 fats, and has far too little omega-3 fats. The main sources of omega-6 fats are corn, soy, canola, safflower, peanut, and sunflower oil (the first two of which are typically genetically engineered as well, which further complicates matters). Our bodies evolved for an optimal 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. However, our ratio has deteriorated to between 20:1 and 50:1 in favor of omega-6. This lopsided ratio has seriously adverse health consequences.
To remedy this, reduce your consumption of vegetable oils (this means not cooking with them, and avoiding processed foods), and increase your intake of animal-based omega-3, such as krill oil. Vegetable-based omega-3 is also found in flaxseed oil and walnut oil, and it’s good to include these in your diet as well. Just know they cannot take the place of animal-based omega-3s.
• Beyond Vitamin D: Sunlight Exposure Reduces Weight Gain and Helps Stop Diabetes
• Vitamin D Combined With Exercise Is Crucial for Reversing Insulin Resistance in Type 2 Diabetics, Study Shows
o Maintain optimal vitamin D levels year-round. Evidence strongly supports the notion that vitamin D is highly beneficial not only for type 1 diabetes as mentioned before, but also in type 2 diabetes. The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D level is by getting regular sun exposure, or by using a tanning bed. As a last resort, consider oral supplementation with regular vitamin D monitoring, to confirm that you are taking enough vitamin D to get your blood levels into the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. Also please note that if you take supplemental vitamin D, you create an increased demand for vitamin K2 and magnesium.
o Get enough high-quality sleep every night, usually 8 hours. Insufficient sleep appears to raise stress and blood sugar, encouraging insulin and leptin resistance and weight gain. In one 10-year long study of 70,000 diabetes-free women, researchers found that women who slept less than five hours or more than nine hours each night were 34 percent more likely to develop diabetes symptoms than women who slept seven to eight hours each night.
o Maintain a healthy body weight. If you incorporate the diet and lifestyle changes suggested above you will greatly improve your insulin and leptin sensitivity, and a healthy body weight will follow in time. Determining your ideal body weight depends on a variety of factors, including frame size, age, general activity level, and genetics. As a general guideline, you might find a hip-to-waist size index chart helpful. This is far better than BMI for evaluating whether or not you may have a weight problem, as BMI fails to factor in both how muscular you are, and your intra-abdominal fat mass (the dangerous visceral fat that accumulates around your inner organs), which is a potent indicator of leptin sensitivity and associated health problems.
o Incorporate intermittent fasting. If you have carefully followed the diet and exercise guidelines and still aren’t making sufficient progress with your weight or overall health, I strongly recommend incorporating intermittent fasting. This effectively mimics the eating habits of our ancestors, who would cycle through periods of feast and famine. Modern research shows this cycling produces a number of biochemical benefits, including improved insulin/leptin sensitivity, lowered triglycerides and other biomarkers for health, and weight loss.
Intermittent fasting is by far the most effective way I know of to shed unwanted fat and eliminate your sugar cravings. Keep up your intermittent fasting schedule until your insulin/leptin resistance improves (or your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, or diabetes normalizes). After that, you only need to do it “as needed” to maintain your healthy state.
• Optimize your gut health. Your gut is a living ecosystem, full of both good bacteria and bad. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than lean people. Recent research also suggests your microbiome can influence your risk of diabetes. As a general rule, the more good bacteria you have, the stronger your immune system will be and the better your body will function overall. Fortunately, optimizing your gut flora is relatively easy. You can reseed your body with good bacteria by regularly eating fermented foods (like fermented vegetables, especially fermented with starter culture that has strains that produce vitamin K2, natto, raw organic cheese, and miso) or by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.