Diabesity is the disturbance of metabolic health that results from having a problem with blood sugar balance and an excess percentage of body fat. It can range from mild to severe, depending on the stage of the disease. Mild forms of this result from having slight or no apparent blood sugar problems and being “a little” overweight. Severe forms result in full blown diabetes and obesity. The term diabesity was coined due the close relationship between diabetes and obesity.(1) We are talking here about type 2 diabetes, as opposed to type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease and affects people from an early age, usually childhood. Being overweight significantly increases your risk for developing diabetes and diabetics are almost always overweight (except in type 1 diabetes). Nearly all people that are overweight (over 70% of adult Americans) already have pre-diabetes and have significant risks of disease and death simply from being overweight.(2)
Diabesity affects over 1.7 billion people worldwide. It is the single biggest global health epidemic of our time. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in America has tripled since the 1980s. In 2010, there were 27 million Americans with diabetes (25% of whom were not diagnosed) and 67 million with pre-diabetes (90% of whom were not diagnosed). By 2015, researchers estimate 2.3 billion people worldwide will be overweight and 700 million will be obese. Researchers estimate pre-diabetes will affect 1 in 2 Americans by 2020, 90% of whom will not be diagnosed. The number of diabetics will increase from 1 in 10 Americans today to 1 in 3 by 2050!(2) Our current approach to prevention and treatment is obviously not working because millions more are affected every year. Not too long ago, this health condition was extremely rare. How does this condition affect our overall health?
Diabesity is the leading cause of most chronic disease we are now seeing in the 21st century. (3) Those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease (4)(5), stroke, dementia (6), cancer (7), high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney failure. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure. Damage to the peripheral nervous system (peripheral neuropathy) affects 60 to 70% of people with diabetes and can lead to permanent nerve damage of the hands and feet, poor digestion, carpal tunnel syndrome, erectile dysfunction, and other peripheral nerve problems. So this is a very serious disease which leads to other very serious conditions.
Given all of this, you would think everyone would be asking the questions: Why is this happening? What has caused this diabesity epidemic? Why are our current approaches to treating the problem failing so miserably? And what new approaches can we take that would more effectively treat the problem?(1)
These are the questions that everyone needs to know the answers to. Unfortunately, most conventional doctors today are not asking these questions. Whether you are suffering from a little extra weight around the middle or you have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome or even type 2 diabetes, the fundamental underlying mechanism of all of these conditions is the same: insulin resistance.
You may be one among the millions of Americans who are suffering from this health condition that is now epidemic in our country. Your doctor might have diagnosed you with one of many seemingly different disorders, such as:
What he or she likely didn’t tell you is that all of these conditions are due to the same mechanism of disease–just with varying degrees of severity. The underlying cause of all these conditions is the same: insulin resistance. And because this condition results from the body’s inability to respond to insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar), the treatment for all of them is also the same (and it’s not a drug). But first, let’s look at how people develop this condition.
Insulin resistance occurs when your diet is full of empty calories and processed carbohydrates (which get broken down to glucose rapidly), sugar-sweetened beverages (sodas), and excess starches (like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes), especially in the absence of protein. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas in response to elevations of glucose in the blood, which directs the cells to absorb the excess glucose removing it from the blood. This has the effect of lowering glucose in the blood (blood glucose). Remember, the blood stream is the circulatory system which permeates and supplies every organ, tissue and cell of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.
The proper regulation of blood sugar in the body is critical. Since every cell relies on adequate levels of glucose in the blood to function normally. If they fluctuate often or if they are high or low, this affects cellular metabolism and can have tremendous influence over human physiology and pathology (the development of disease).
When you frequently eat carbohydrates that are rapidly broken down into glucose in the digestive tract and absorbed into the bloodstream, this causes elevations in insulin on a regular basis. When this happens, your cells slowly become resistant to the effects of insulin, sort of like how your kids become when you are constantly yelling at them to clean up their room. They start tuning you out and paying less attention to your calls. Sound familiar? The cells of the body respond similarly to insulin when it is constantly in the blood trying to get the cells to uptake the glucose and lower blood glucose levels. Over time, your pancreas needs to produce more and more insulin to do the same job of keeping your blood sugar within a certain range. This is how you develop insulin resistance.(8)
High insulin levels are the first sign of a problem. The higher your insulin levels are, the worse your insulin resistance. Excess insulin in the body causes chronic inflammation and as a result, your body ages and deteriorates more rapidly. Chronic hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin in the blood), accelerates biological aging. In fact, insulin resistance is the single most common health problem that leads to rapid and premature aging and all its resultant diseases including heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer.(9),(10) It is also leads to the #1 cause of infertility, called PCOS.
As your insulin levels increase it leads to symptoms such as:
More importantly, in the body, it leads to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, and myriad downstream effects including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides (11), thickening of the blood, and increased rates of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Excess insulin also causes major hormonal shifts and can increase risk of developing many chronic diseases that are related to hormonal imbalances. These are all direct results of insulin resistance and too much insulin in the blood. Elevated blood sugar alone is not the main problem. But elevated blood sugar will cause additional damage to the organs, such as the kidneys, eyes and peripheral nerves.
Currently there are no national screening recommendations, no treatment guidelines, no approved medications and no reimbursement to healthcare providers for diagnosing and treating the cause of all these health conditions. Doctors are not expected, trained or paid to diagnose and treat the single biggest cause of chronic disease in America which causes most of the health problems of the 21st century, including heart disease, stroke, dementia and even cancer.(12) But it can be easily diagnosed by simple routine lab testing, if you know what to look for. This is very important to have your doctor do. If he or she is not capable of doing this, see someone else who is.
(2) Mark Hyman. The Blood Sugar Solution; Little, Brown and Company. 2012
(3) http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DDTSTRS/FactSheet.aspx (National Diabetes Fact Sheet 2007)
(5) Lakka HM, Laaksonen DE, Lakka TA, Niskanen LK, Kumpusalo E, Tuomilehto J, Salonen JT. The metabolic syndrome and total and cardiovascular disease mortality in middle-aged men. JAMA. 2002 Dec 4;288(21):2709-16.
(6) Ott A, Stolk RP, van Harskamp F, Pols HA, Hofman A, Breteler MM. Diabetes mellitus and the risk of dementia: The Rotterdam Study. Neurology. 1999 Dec 10;53(9):1937-42.
(7) Key TJ, Spencer EA, Reeves GK. Symposium 1: Overnutrition: consequences and solutions Obesity and cancer risk. Proc Nutr Soc. 2009 Dec 3:1-5.
(9) Bhashyam S, Parikh P, Bolukoglu H, Shannon AH, Porter JH, Shen YT, Shannon RP. Aging is associated with myocardial insulin resistance and mitochondrial dysfunction. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007 Nov;293(5):H3063-71.
(10) Ryan AS. Insulin resistance with aging: effects of diet and exercise. Sports Med. 2000 Nov;30(5):327-46. Review.
(11) Gaziano JM, Hennekens CH, O’Donnell CJ, Breslow JL, Buring JE. Fasting triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation. 1997 Oct 21;96(8):2520-5.
(12) Chen L, Appel LJ, Loria C, Lin PH, Champagne CM, Elmer PJ, Ard JD, Mitchell D, Batch BC, Svetkey LP, Caballero B. Reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1299-306.
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