Diabetes: Is It Really Caused By Sugar?
How Lifestyle and Diet are Causing Chronic Diseases Globally
425 million adults have diabetes and 1 in 2 remains undiagnosed
Before, we get to what Diabetes is here are few facts that would tell you as to why one should know about Diabetes?
Almost 12 % of global health expenditure ($727 billion) is spent on diabetes. Hence, contributes substantially to the mounting costs of health care.
Diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves, leading to disability and premature death.
Globally, a major cause of premature deaths and disability are Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes can eventually lead to various heart diseases.
Of an estimated 58 million deaths globally from all causes in 2005, cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounted for 30%, as per a report by WHO released in 2007.
Ohh yes, 30%. Almost one-third of the deaths were caused by Cardiovascular diseases in 2005 and the premise hasn’t changed much.
The cases and prevalence of diabetes have been increasing steadily for the past few decades.
In this blog, we would understand Diabetes, other cardiovascular diseases and how changes in lifestyle could help you fight them.
In this blog, we would also discuss how animal-based diet and other lifestyle-related issues are causing various cardiovascular diseases.
Infographics Related to Diabetes
Global Scenario At a Glance:
Global scenario for Diabetes is pathetic as almost 425 million people are suffering from Diabetes and half of them don’t even know about it.
Globally, 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980.
This implies that an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese.
Following is a detailed global map of Diabetes prevalence and it’s rise.
Indian and South East Asian Scenario:
The scenario in India and South East Asia is just as grim. The people suffering from Diabetes is likely to get doubled by 2050 if steps are not taken to control it. Please take a look to understand the depth of the issue.
There are almost 75 million people in India who are suffering from Diabetes.
As per the definition of WHO,
“Diabetes is a serious, chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose), or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.”
Diabetes is one of four priority noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) targeted for action and attention by global leaders.
Both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades.
Diabetes (Type 1): Caused when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin.
People with Type 1 diabetes require geneally require daily administration of insulin to regulate the amount of glucose in their blood. They need access to insulin for their survival.
Symptoms include excessive urination and thirst,constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue.
Causes: As per contemprary prevalent knowledge the causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown. And it can not cured, completely. It is generally said, type 1 diabetes is resulted from a complex interaction between genes and environmental factors.
The majority of type 1 diabetes occurs in children and adolescents.
Diabetes (Type 2): Caused when body is unable to use the insulin produced by pancrease effectively.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for the vast majority of diabetic patients around the world.
Symptoms are similar to those of type 1 diabetes but are lesser evident or marked. Hence, it goes undiagnosed for several years in many cases. By that time complications arise.
Earlier type 2 diabetes was seen only found in adults but it is now found to inflict children as well.
Cause: Excess body fat, fat intensive diet and little or no physical activity, are biggest cause of type 2 diabetes.
Higher waist circumference and higher body mass index (BMI) are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. We will talk about causes in detail in causes section.
(IGT& IFG): Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normal blood glucose levels and diabetes.
This transition is not inevitable and can be avoided.
But still people suffering with IGT or IFG have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Gestational diabetes (GDM): GDM is a temporary condition which occurs in pregnancy.
Although, it is temprory, it carries longterm risk of type 2 diabetes.
In GDM blood glucose values are higher than normal but are lower than the ones diagnostic of diabetes.
Women with GDM have increased risk of some complications during pregnancy and delivery.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than reported symptoms.
Complications That Diabetes May Lead To:
Diabetes might seem benign at least in the beginning but if uncontrolled it may lead to severe ramifications which might be fatal.
- Diabetes is an important cause of premature death and disability.
- Acute complications in Diabetes are a key contributor to mortality, costs and poor quality of life.
- Abnormally high blood glucose can trigger chronic and life threating conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in types 1 and 2, and hyperosmolar coma in type 2.
- Abnormally low blood glucose can occur in all types of diabetes and may result in seizures or loss of consciousness (Reasons could be skipping a meal or exercising more than usual, high dosage of anti-diabetic medication).
- Diabetes can damage the cardiovascular system, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Leading to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Cardiovascular damage can result in reduced blood flow. If combined with nerve damage in the feet, these complications can lead to foot ulcers, infection and the eventual amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is another complication of diabetes. It is a significant cause of blindness. It is caused by long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina.
- Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure.
- Uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy can have life threating effects on both mother and child. It increases the risk of fetal loss, stillbirth, perinatal death, and obstetric complications.
- Other than traditional complications, diabetes is also associated with increased rates of some particular types of cancers.
The diversified range of complications, scale and increased suffering due to diabetes indicates a need to better monitor the quality of life of people are living these days.
The way these diseases are increasing their base and also suffering caused by them, an alarm has been raised.
Anyone can get into its a trap if they don’t keep a track of their lifestyle.
Discussing, medications, diagnosis is out of the scope of this blog, we would discuss the lifestyle patterns and diet causing it.
Causes: Lifestyle And Diet
There is a myth that Diabetes is caused by eating sugar or high carbohydrate diet.
Neal Barnard is renowned, Diabetes Expert and known for spreading the concept of responsible medicine.
He is also, an MD, FACC, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
There are various doctors, physicians, dieticians and activists like Dr Neal Barnard who are working actively towards creating a more aware and healthier world.
They are working towards bursting the myths pertaining to Diabetes. Most of the myths are being propagated and fueled by big multinational corporations, such as pharmaceuticals, dairy, meat industry etc. Each for their own ulterior motive.
They work on manipulating the symptoms so that patients keep coming to them and their source of revenue remains alive.
Biochemistry of Glucose, Insulin and Fat
The following video gives a biochemical understanding of diabetes how a high-fat diet is causing it. I have discussed the process below in writing as well.
Carbohydrates or starch is taken by us for energy. The starch is broken into glucose which travels in blood as blood glucose.
This blood glucose is stored and burned inside the muscle cells for energy as and when required.
The blood sugar needs insulin to enter the muscles. The insulin attaches to glucose after a series of biochemical reactions that allow glucose to enter muscle cells.
When the glucose can’t enter the muscle cells due to the inefficiency of insulin, the level of glucose rises in the blood. This is called insulin resistant.
Fat inside the muscles called, intramyocellular lipid causes insulin resistant. The fat in the blood can reach the muscle cells and creates different byproducts of fatty breakdown, which create free radicals.
Free radicals block the signalling pathway product (glucose transporter). That’s how glucose transportation to the muscle cells is inhibited and it’s quantity in blood rises.
There are research and MRI techniques which have shown that elevation of fat in your blood can cause insulin resistant by inhibiting glucose transport to muscle cells.
This is the biochemical breakdown of the scenario of type 2 Diabetes.
Studies have shown that fat intake can initiate insulin resistance within 160 minutes. And similarly eating plant-based low fat but high carb diet brings insulin resistance down.
So, Diabetes is not caused by sugar or high carb diet. Diabetes is caused when you can’t make use of that sugar, either due to the inefficiency of insulin(Type 2) or its absence (Type 1). But if you have diabetes then consuming too much of sugar might be detrimental.
Type 1 is a little complicated than type 2 but having a healthier lifestyle, and diet can help control that also.
Other Unhealthy Practices and Lifestyle
Frequent consumption of alcohol, smoking, and being overweight and obese is also correlated with Diabetes and other health hazards.
Yes, one should be comfortable in their skin but the thing is being overweight is a major reason for various health problems.
One should keep their weight in a healthy limit not because they need to look good and get a sense of validation from others. But because it is important your overall well being.
Hence, to avoid these health hazardous now or even at later points in your life it is advised that you start taking actions from this moment itself.
Solution: Diet & Lifestyle
The research, empirical data suggests that over the years due to change in our dietary habits, physical activities and our lifestyle has caused a lot of damage to our health and happiness.
Our relentless quest for gratifying our taste buds, and not moving around a lot due to laziness has brought us here.
Plant-Based Diet: The Vegan Is the Solution
In a 2003 study funded by the NIH, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine determined that a plant-based diet controlled blood sugar three times more effectively than a traditional diabetes diet that limited calories and carbohydrates.
Just after a few weeks on a plant-based diet, participants saw dramatic health improvements. They lost weight, insulin sensitivity improved, and HbA1c levels dropped. In some cases, you would never know they’d had the disease, to begin with.
Other studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have also found a positive correlation between red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes.
There are studies that show a correlation with meat consumption in general and Type 2 diabetes.
There are journals and studies from across the world some hidden and some popular that reveal,
“Sugar tolerance is affected negatively on starvation and upon consuming high-fat diet (generally, meat, cheese, high-fat milk etc). Whereas consuming excess carbohydrates (Fruits, starchy vegetables, grains) diet increase sugar tolerance, unless you’re really overdoing it.
The only way to live a healthy and sustainable life is to go Vegan.
And these studies have been around for almost 100 years now. But still, they are not in public knowledge because they are deliberately hidden by the big companies working animal husbandry and pharmaceuticals.
Why Refrain from Animal-Based Diet?
Other being high in fat the animal-based food items also contain harmful chemicals like antibiotics, pesticides, fungicides, carcinogens, harmful bacteria and many more.
This is due to the horrific conditions these animals (Including cattle that product dairy) live in before slaughter and all kinds of chemicals are fed to them to keep them alive in those conditions. Diseases like Swine flu, have origin in these animal farms. Following would give you an idea as to how these animals are kept.
These companies have been lobbying the governments across the world, and have kept this information from coming out for over a century. Because Type 2 diabetes can be easily reversed and cured with a plant-based diet and hence the humongous revenue that pharmaceutical companies make by selling the medication would be lost.
But the documentary’s like What The Health, and Cowspriacy, a lot of activists and organisations are working towards bringing this awareness in the world. That half of our health issues due to diet and lifestyle.
Animal-based food items, especially meat, have found to have carcinogens (Like Heterocyclic Amines) also. Which means their consumption increase your odds of getting cancer, especially in case you have a family history. A more detailed blog on this would come later in this series.
There are studies which link exposure of dairy at a young age and type 1 diabetes.
As per a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector combined.
The following video will give you an idea as to how big a problem of factory farming is for the environment.
Yes, more than the entire transportation sector, including, road, aviation and ship, trains etc. Everything.
The livestock sector has become a major cause of land and water degradation, which eventually reflects in our diet, life and health.
One of the reason is the increase in meat consumption under this protein marketing campaign. People started eating meat, where it’s neither needed for survival nor good for their digestive system. They moved away from their standard diet in quest of protein.
Anyone who needs protein and is going to the gym needs to eat meat. There could not have been a better marketing campaign.
Because, if you see the animals with the strongest muscles are generally herbivore. Plants can provide with sufficient protein. And we don’t need as much protein as it is generally said.
More on protein, vegan athletes, vegan sources of protein etc in the next blog.
To quench this thirst (Demand) of meat the livestock industry kept on surging supply and this is where we have come:
- Raising animals for food is the leading cause of rainforest destruction,
- Species extinction,
- Ocean dead zones
- Freshwater consumption (Humans consume a small fraction of fresh water, most of it is consumed by agriculture and industry)
- The animal-based diet requires almost 10 times the land and more energy than the plant-based diet in the production process
The problem of fresh water has its origin in Agriculture particularly animal husbandry. But it doesn’t mean one should waste water.
It’s an important natural resource and should be used judiciously.
Lifestyle Related Changes
- Cut short on the consumption of alcohol, smoking etc.
- Cut short on fat consumption (Meat and Diary)
- Increase raw seasonal fruits, green veggies, sprouts, grains in your diet. Sticking to season vegetables and fruits is important.
- Exercise daily even if you do it just for half an hour but do it regularly.
- Have a proper sleep cycle, eating times as per your body clock. Don’t compromise them frequently.
- Don’t starve yourself. Keep eating healthy snacks (fruits or salad) and take your meals on time. Starvation impairs sugar tolerance.
- Drink enough water. Keep your water bottle with you. Keep sipping every once in a while.
Most of the things discussed in this blog have been discovered over a century ago but still, they are not in public domain due to ulterior motives and hidden agendas of different stakeholders in the supply chain except end consumer.
- Type 2 Diabetes has a direct correlation with meat consumption
- Type 2 Diabetes has a direct correlation with other high-fat foods like cheese and other dairy products
- Diabetes is caused when the sugar doesn’t reach muscles due to inefficiency or absence of insulin.
- High carb diet doesn’t cause Diabetes, high fat diet does.
- High carb diet improves sugar tolerance in the body.
- A plant-based diet can reverse and in some cases even cure type 2 diabetes
Nothing is gonna change unless we change ourselves. If we start taking care of our wellbeing, diet, peace and keep ourselves updated and aware that’s how things will change.
All these companies that keep misguiding people or creating doubt in their minds so that they can sell their products, would keep doing it unless we stop consuming them.
We need to learn more about our body and take care of it. We need to reduce the consumption of things that cause damage to our body.
These livestock companies would keep hurting our health, those animals and the environment unless we stop consuming their products. I understand some people can’t stop at once but conscious
What is needed is our will to keep ourselves aware and spread that awareness. We need to take corrective actions immediately as and when required.
Even if it means working a litter harder, compromising on taste buds, working against the government, working against your favourite brands. But we gonna have to work for the right thing for our health and planet.
Try plant-based diet for a couple of months and see the changes yourself. How your blood flow would improve, you would lose weight faster and also gain muscles fasters.
Happy Healthy Eating to All :)
Next blog would be on Vegan Athletes.