Sugar Is at the Very Heart of the Type 2 Diabetes Epidemic
The average American eats 152 pounds of sugar every year. That’s well over 50 billion pounds — or 25,046,484 tons — of sugar every year!
To put this in perspective, nearly 200 years ago the average American only ate 6.3 pounds of sugar a year. Not that a 19th-century menu was ideal — by any stretch — but at least we know it wasn’t loaded with refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, starches, gums and artificial ingredients we have today.
Insulin Resistance: When Our Bodies Rebel
One of the main ways that sugar overconsumption is a driver in all of those diseases is because too much sugar causes insulin resistance and can also cause diabetes.
You see, insulin — a hormone produced in the pancreas in response to glucose — is a key that unlocks our cells in order to allow glucose in the bloodstream to enter, be used for energy, and power our metabolism.
Insulin resistance develops, over time, when our bodies get overwhelmed with too much sugar, causing our cells to go into defense mode and to ignore insulin’s unlock “requests,” which spikes our blood sugar levels and moves us down the road to chronic disease.
And insulin resistance can bring on (or contribute to the development of) metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome, sometimes called Syndrome X, affects 47 million Americans and is marked by elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat and unhealthy levels of either LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or ”bad” cholesterol) or triglycerides.
Metabolic syndrome boosts your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes? A Disease of Modern Times
If we don’t do anything to combat it, insulin resistance — along with obesity and physical inactivity — often leads to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
With type 2 diabetes symptoms — what used to be called adult-onset diabetes and which is also called diabetes mellitus —your cells become resistant to insulin and your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to overcome this resistance.
Instead of being able to go into your cells, where it's needed for energy, sugar builds up in the bloodstream.
If diet and physical activity changes aren’t made, type 2 diabetes can lead to such serious problems as: heart and vascular disease; nerve damage (neuropathy); kidney damage; eye damage; slow-healing wounds that lead to amputation, hearing loss, skin infections, sleep apnea, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs of type 2 diabetes can include some (or all) of the following:
- blurred, worsening vision
- changes in appetite, usually feeling very hungry, sometimes even if you’ve just eaten
- excessive thirst
- fatigue, feeling always tired despite sleeping and mood swings
- frequent urination
- slow healing of skin wounds, frequent infections, dryness, cuts and bruises
- tingling sensations or pain and numbness in the limbs, feet and hands
- unexplained weight changes
Pre-diabetes, which affects 84 million Americans, is an early stage just before diabetes, when blood sugar levels are almost, but not quite, high enough to “graduate” our insulin resistance to full-blown disease.
To have less sugar and more health in our diet, we need more high-quality protein in our diet from multiple sources and much fewer foods such as refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, sodas, sweetened juices, refined carbs, deep-fried foods, and partially hydrogenated (trans) fats.
Here are 5 things we want to include in an overall metabolism-enhancing lifestyle approach to metabolic health:
1. Get more protein and amino acids
Certain foods can increase our metabolism through something called the thermic effect of food (TEF), which is caused by the extra calories needed to process some nutrients.
Protein gives us the biggest boost in TEF, increasing our metabolic rate by 15–30 percent. It also makes us feel fuller, which makes us less likely to overeat, too.
And when we’re trying to lose fat, protein helps keep our metabolism primed so we can hold onto our lean muscle mass. Making sure that we’re getting high-quality amino acids, the building blocks of protein (such as taurine), is just as important.
2. Drink more cold water
Drinking more water is a great idea, partly because we’re then choosing H2O versus all kinds of carbonated sodas and sugar-packed juices. But drinking an extra 17 ounces (about 2 cups) of cool, freshwater each day also boosts our resting metabolism by 10–30 percent for up to one hour. And drinking water 30 minutes before a meal helps us feel more full, too, so we can eat less.
The benefits of increased exercise show up all over, including improvements in sugar metabolism and decreased insulin resistance. Whether we’re using weights or doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes — or both — we burn more fat, keep more muscle and hold onto our strength.
4. Drink tea
It’s hard to imagine an easier addition to our metabolic health program than drinking more tea but, yes green tea and oolong tea improve metabolism by 4–5 percent. They also can increase fat burning by 10 – 17 percent and can help with overall weight loss.
5. Get more sleep
Not getting enough sleep is linked to obesity, increased blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
I know diabetes symptoms in women are a concern for many, and some women with diabetes wonder if pregnancy is safe. Babies require energy from glucose just like you and transferring high blood sugar to unborn babies puts them at risk.
Gestational diabetes, and worries about it, are tackled in the next article on this Optimal Health Expert site.