A Call for Change

The link between diabetes and obesity is undeniable. How does this change our outlook?
by Cara Lucas

There is a fine line between diabetes and obesity. The two conditions share such an intimate relationship that it’s often difficult to distinguish which one precedes the other. One thing is certain, though—they are definitely related and many professionals now group the distinct diseases together into a unique, brand-new epidemic—introducing diabesity.

Diabesity is much more intricate that one would think. It includes an entire range of people, from those who have mild blood-glucose imbalances to full-blown diabetes. There are even “skinny fat” individuals who, although thin on the outside, carry major deposits of internal fat that put them at risk for the same diseases as outwardly obese people. Don’t assume that just because you are thin, you are fit.

“While the word diabesity is made up of the concepts of obesity and diabetes, even those who are not overweight can have this problem. They are ‘under lean’ (not enough muscle) instead of ‘overweight’ and have a little extra weight around the middle or belly fat,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution. “What is difficult about diabesity is that there are no national screening recommendations, no treatment guidelines, no approved medications, and no reimbursement to health care providers for diagnosing and training anything other than full-blown diabetes.”

So, don’t be lulled into thinking that you aren’t at risk just because your doctor hasn’t diagnosed you with the obvious related conditions. It’s important for you to recognize the factors that contribute to diabesity and implement a plan to fight back.

Correcting The Past, Planning for the Future

What got us here? It’s simple: America is sick because of a combination of inactivity and poor diet choices. Did you know that obesity has surpassed smoking as the top underlying cause of health complications? If America stays on its current path, research says that by 2020, one in two people will have pre-diabetes or diabetes, costing us more than $3.5 trillion over ten years.

Today, not a single state in the nation has an obesity rate under 20 percent. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has tripled since the 1980s. There are now 27 million diabetics in the country and 336 million diabetics around the world. Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness, amputation, kidney failure, and painful and debilitating peripheral neuropathy. But even with all the research that exists out there, individuals just don’t seem to “get” it. Statistics are mere numbers, apparently, and individuals don’t seem to realize what these numbers truly reflect—until they are sitting in a doctor’s office themselves, faced with the reality of having type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Even then, pre-diabetes is thought of as a warning, and not an imminent threat. Julian Whitaker, MD, founder of Whitaker Wellness Institute Medical Clinic and a pioneer for alternative and integrated medicine says, “The greatest misconception is that pre-diabetes has some meaning. If you are heavy and inactive, you likely have some degree of type 2 diabetes. It may be slight or mild rather than severe, but there is nothing ‘pre’ about it.”

You Are What You Eat

Diet is crucial in preventing and reversing chronic diseases. What does a poor diet create? Insulin resistance. This is the root of many major diseases such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer. But diet is the reason why we have insulin resistance and, because it’s self-inflicted, it’s also reversible.

“As your insulin levels increase, it leads to an appetite that is out of control, increasing weight gain around the belly, more inflammation, and oxidative stress,” says Hyman. “And because insulin resistance (and diabesity) is a direct outcome of diet and lifestyle, the condition is 100 percent reversible in the vast majority of cases. Most people just need to eliminate the things that are sending their biology out of balance and include what’s needed to help the body rebalance itself. For most the interventions required are extremely simple and extraordinarily effective.”

So, which foods are good and which are bad? The American Diabetes Association recommends these superfoods for diabetics:

• Beans: Although they are considered a starchy vegetable, a half-cup of beans provides the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat, without the saturated fat!

• Dark, green leafy vegetables: Packed with nutrients and low in calories, you really can’t get too much.

• Citrus fruits: These are great sources of soluble fiber and vitamin C.

• Sweet potatoes: They are packed full of vitamin A and fiber.

• Berries: Antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber make berries a great little superfood for diabetics. Eat them on their own, in a salad, or combine with nonfat yogurt for a refreshing parfait.

• Tomatoes: No matter how you eat them, tomatoes pack a punch with vitamins C, E, and iron.

• Fish high in Omega -3 fatty acids: This doesn’t mean breaded or fried fish; salmon is a favorite for diabetics.

• Whole Grains: Nutrients are in the germ and bran of the whole grain. If you buy processed grains, these nutrients (folate, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and chromium for example) aren’t present anymore.

• Nuts: Offering magnesium, chromium, and a good way to control hunger, nuts provide a great source of healthy fats.

• Fat -Free milk and yogurt: Calcium and vitamin D are essential to good health and longevity.

Ideally, one should consume nutrients as food. But more and more, supplements are showing that they, too, can make a powerful impact on a diabetic’s health. In a recent study published in Diabetic Medicine, cinnamon proves to be a key blood-stabilizing agent for diabetics. It helps to increase your glucose metabolism, has insulin-like effects due a bioactive compound, and slows the emptying of your stomach—which reduces blood-sugar spikes and improves the sensitivity of insulin. It also has antioxidant properties and reduces inflammation.

“Food is the most powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease,” says Hyman. “To this end, all we need to do is eat our medicine and think of our grocery store as our pharmacy.”