The worldwide epidemic of diabetes is having devastating consequences for public health in both developed and developing countries. At least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, and this is expected to reach 366 million by 2030 according to the World Health Organization.
When so many of us are overweight, the risk of getting diabetes is real and immediate: A woman who is mildly obese – for example, weighing 190 at 5’6” tall – has a 55 percent chance of getting diabetes. A man who is mildly obese – for instance, who weighs 225 pounds and is 6’ tall – has a 57 percent chance of developing diabetes.
The alarming rise in obesity, poor dietary habits, and lack of exercise has created a diabetes epidemic that shocks medical experts.
The latest studies show the scope of the problem:
- There are 21 million diabetics and 41 million people at risk of becoming diabetic in the United States.
- From 1997 through 2004, new cases of diagnosed diabetes increased by 54 percent.
- One out of three American children born in the year 2000 is predicted to develop diabetes during his or her lifetime. For children of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent, the odds are closer to one in two.
- Diabetes is predicted to increase by 481 percent among Hispanics, 208 percent among blacks, and 113 percent among whites by mid century.
- The estimated total cost of diabetes rose from $23 billion in 1969 to $132 billion in 2002 and is expected to reach $192 billion by 2020.
However, it is in the human cost to the individual and that individual’s family where diabetes takes its terrible toll.
- Diabetes is the No.1 cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve disease in the United States.
- It causes damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
- A diagnosis of diabetes doubles your risk of dying over the next 10 years.
What makes this so unacceptable is that type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease responsible for this epidemic, is almost totally preventable. Staying fit and lean reduces your odds of developing diabetes by more than 90 percent.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells do not respond normally to insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas. This condition is called insulin resistance and it leads to high blood sugar, high blood levels of fat (triglycerides) and high blood pressure. Once it was a disease seen only in people over 40 and referred to as “adult-onset diabetes”. Today, type 2 diabetes occurs in young children. Almost half of the new cases of childhood diabetes are now type 2, reflecting the sharp increase in obesity and lack of physical fitness among our children.
Prevention of type 2 diabetes must become a national priority. We already have the knowledge necessary to reverse the diabetes epidemic. We need to take these steps:
- Increase physical activity. Just 30 minutes of moderate activity like walking, five days a week, can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes in half.
- Adopt a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, and seeds. In contrast, the typical American diet, high in soft drinks including diet soda, white flour, French fries, and processed meats like cold cuts and hot dogs, can increase your risk of developing diabetes by 300 percent.
- Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. It is estimated that more than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes could be avoided if excessive weight gain in adults could be prevented.
These steps prevent type 2 diabetes by preventing insulin resistance. When your diet is high in sucrose (table sugar), saturated fat (the kind of fat found in meat and butter), and white starchy foods like white bread and potatoes, you increase your chances of developing insulin resistance.
Eating a diet high in fiber, omega-3 fats (the kind found in flax seed and in fish) and carotenoids (the yellow, orange, and red colors in many fruits and vegetables) reduces your chances of developing insulin resistance. For many Americans, adopting a healthier diet is a radical change, with sacrifices such as swapping a salad and vegetable juice for a burger and a shake. But the positive results are equally radical in terms of weight loss, improved health, and reduction in diabetes risk.
We know this because of our experience in helping people make the switch to a healthy lifestyle with our book The Fat Resistance Diet. We are excited by the dramatic improvement diabetics are getting from the anti-inflammatory program in our book. People with diabetes have written to let us know the outstanding results they have achieved when they followed our program.
- Substantial weight loss, for example a loss of 100 pounds
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Reduction in blood sugar levels to normal
Our book provides a step-by-step meal plan and more than 100 recipes. More information on a proven program for weight reduction and prevention or reversal of type 2 diabetes is available online at www.fatresistancediet.com.
The following foods have been associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes in observational studies of people in different countries:
- Flaxseed. Flaxseed prevents insulin resistance in 4 ways, making it the king of antidiabetic foods. Flaxseed is loaded with fiber, omega-3 fats and carotenoids. It also contains a large quantity of lignans, natural compounds shown to reduce insulin resistance in experimental studies. The best way to eat flax is to grind organic flaxseed in a coffee grinder every day, to make sure it’s fresh.
- Salmon. Salmon is a concentrated source of omega-3 fats and carotenoids.
- Green tea. Green tea contains natural compounds called flavonoids that reduce inflammation, a leading cause of insulin resistance. “Slim Chai Tea,” a recipe found in our book, uses spices like chives, cardamom, and cinnamon to enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of green tea.
- Walnuts and almonds. Walnuts are a source of fiber and omega-3 fats. Almonds contain fiber, essential minerals, and monounsaturated fats. Not only is eating nuts associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, but almonds and walnuts also lower the level of cholesterol in people who already have diabetes.
- Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, spinach, and tomatoes. These vegetables are six highest in carotenoids. You’ll absorb more carotenoids from these by eating them in a meal that contains some healthy fat, like salmon or olive oil.
- Cinnamon. Brewing cinnamon in a tea produces an extract that directly increases the sensitivity of your body’s cells to insulin. Cinnamon extract was also shown to reduce the blood sugar of people who already had developed type 2 diabetes.
- Garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric. These foods reduce inflammation, one of the chief causes of insulin resistance. Each of these has been shown to reduce blood sugar in scientific experiments.
To prevent or control diabetes, you must take an active approach to your care and consult with your doctor. Further information about adopting a healthy lifestyle is available at www.fatresistancediet.com.
Copyright © Renaissance Workshops Ltd. Used by permission.
Dr. Leo Galland is a board-certified internist who received his education at Harvard University and the New York University School of Medicine. He has held faculty positions at New York University, Rockefeller University, the State University of New York, and the University of Connecticut. Interviews with Dr. Galland and articles about his work have been featured in Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, Self, Bazaar, Men’s Fitness, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other publications. He has written three highly acclaimed popular books, The Fat Resistance Diet, Power Healing, and Superimmunity for Kids.