Health/Wellness

How to Prevent or Reverse Diabetes Mellitus

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Diabetes Mellitus is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 10 American adults has diabetes. If trends continue, that figure is expected to double or triple by 2050. 

 

Diabetes is a group of diseases that involve high blood sugar (glucose) levels. Every cell in our body needs energy to function and that energy comes in the form of glucose. When we eat, our body breaks down foods that have carbohydrates and converts them into sugar. The pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin acts as a “key,” allowing the sugar to be removed from the blood and enter the cells. Insulin  helps to store energy for later use and is a vital part of metabolism. Without it, our body is not able to function or perform properly. Uncontrolled diabetes is the leading cause of heart disease and can lead to a variety of other serious complications, including stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye disease.

 

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There are several types of Diabetes: Type I, Type II and Gestational.  Each form is dependent upon  the amount of insulin that is produced by our body.  Diabetes Type I is an autoimmune disorder in which the pancreas is unable to produce insulin.  It was formally referred to as Juvenile Diabetes or Insulin-dependent Diabetes.  There is no cure for  Diabetes Type I; in order to survive, insulin must be taken.  This form of Diabetes affects up to 10% of the population with the majority being children.  Diabetes Type II, representing 90 – 95% of all cases of diabetes,  is a disorder in which the pancreas does not make enough insulin or our body cannot effectively use it.  This type is also known as  Insulin Resistant Diabetes.  Gestational Diabetes is another form of diabetes that occurs in about 2 – 10% of pregnant women. It is known that women with gestational diabetes have up to a 60% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes in 20 years. 

 

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The good news is that Diabetes Type 2, the most prevalent form of diabetes in the United States, can be prevented or reversed by reducing or eliminating modifiable risk factors.  These include an unhealthy diet, being overweight/obese, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.  Non-modifiable risk factors for diabetes are factors we are unable to change and include increasing age and a family history of diabetes. 

A plant based diet with no or very limited meat, fish, poultry or animal based products including eggs and dairy has been proven to prevent or reverse Diabetes Type 2.  Research has shown that fish consumption can increase our chances of Diabetes Mellitus  by 5% per serving, or up to 35% per week if eaten once daily. Fish intake and Omega 3 fatty acid consumption may increase the risk of Diabetes Type 2  by increasing circulating concentrations of glucose. Other studies have shown that fasting glucose increased significantly after consumption of fish. In addition, red meat and processed meats are both linked to Type 2 Diabetes. One 3-ounce serving of red meat, which is about the size of a deck of cards, eaten once per day increases the likelihood of developing diabetes by 19%  per week.  An even smaller consumption of processed  meat (i.e. bacon, hot dogs, sausages and deli meats),  increases the likelihood of developing  Type 2 Diabetes by 51%. (nutritionfacts.org).

 

Animal products such as eggs are also known to increase the risk of developing Diabetes Type 2. Studies have shown  a stepwise increase in the risk of diabetes  with the number of  eggs consumed. A single egg eaten per week  increases the odds of developing diabetes by 76%, while two eggs per week doubles the odds, and one egg per day triples the odds. Multiple research studies have shown the link between eggs and Diabetes Type 2 (e.g. Harvard study 2009, Asia study 2011, and European study, 2012). Additionally, another study showed that eating one egg per day for one year is equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes per day for 15 years. Furthermore, the American Heart Association warns against eating eggs due to the amount of cholesterol. One egg contains about 212 milligrams of dietary cholesterol with the daily recommended amount of cholesterol being 300 milligrams. If just two eggs are consumed, all animal products should be  avoided for the entire day in order to avoid exceeding the recommended daily allowance of cholesterol. 

 

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In conclusion, Diabetes Type 2 is not only preventable, but fully reversible by adhering to the following recommendations:

1)     Maintain a healthy body weight (Body Mass Index 18 – 24)

2)     Get more physical activity (at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise per day or 150 minutes/ week)

3)     Adopt a completely or predominately plant based diet which includes plenty of green vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Avoid refined sugar, dairy products, eggs, alcohol and all genetically modified organisms (GMO) and processed foods.

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