Diabesity is a term that describes the continuum of metabolic abnormalities that ranges all the way from mild blood-sugar elevation to insulin resistance to full-blown type II diabetes mellitus. It is during this time period that a large amount of damage is taking place. Nearly all people who are overweight already have pre-diabetes, which is an early stage of diabesity that carries significant risks of disease and death. Interestingly, even those who are not overweight can have diabesity. These are the “skinny fat” people. They are “under lean”, not enough muscle, instead of overweight and often carry a little extra weight around the middle.
Diabesity and insulin resistance are the leading causes of most chronic disease in the 21st century. Those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.
Before a person becomes a diabetic, they go through a stage called insulin resistance. This means that their cells require more insulin than usual to force sugar into the cells. This problem is caused by lifestyle factors including physical inactivity, eating too many calories, high sugar and high starch snacks and meals, and a lack of dietary fiber. People in the insulin resistance stage usually complain of getting tired after meals, craving sweets, and having trouble losing weight. When the insulin receptor becomes over-saturated, due to inflammation or insulin resistance, sugar cannot get into the cells and the glucose/sugar level in the blood begins to elevate. In essence, the root problem in pre-diabetes and type II or adult-onset diabetes is not too little insulin in the bloodstream, but actually too much circulating insulin. In fact, elevated insulin levels can be the earliest detectable sign of developing abnormalities.
While there are some predisposing genes, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are almost entirely caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. Therefore, a search for the diabetes gene and the magic-bullet drug or gene therapy to treat it are useless. While understanding our genes can help us personalize our approach to metabolism and weight loss, it can also shift our focus away from the most important target: the modifiable lifestyle and environmental factors that are driving this epidemic.
Nutrition is the most important modifiable lifestyle factor. When your diet is full of empty calories and an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars such as liquid calories including sodas, juices, sports drinks or vitamin waters and refined or starchy carbohydrates including bread, pasta, rice and pastries, your cells slowly become numb to the effects of insulin. Your body thus needs more and more of it to balance your blood-sugar levels. This leads to insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and eventually full-blown diabetes.
Elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance are the most important factors leading to rapid and premature aging and all its resultant diseases. Increased levels of insulin, the fat-storage hormone, tell your body to lose muscle and gain weight around the belly. High insulin levels also drive inflammation and oxidative stress. This combination leads to a multitude of downstream effects including increased weight in the mid-section, inability to lose weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, low libido, erectile dysfunction, infertility, joint aches and pain, hair growth in women, poor sleep, increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. These conditions are all directly caused and worsened by elevated levels of insulin and inflammation.
Since insulin resistance and diabesity are a direct result of poor diet and lifestyle, the condition is reversible in the majority of cases. Most people just need to eliminate the things that are sending their body 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. Simply, eliminate sugar and processed carbohydrates, include whole real foods, like lean protein (chicken or fish), veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. It is also important to incorporate regular aerobic exercise into your regimen.
You are responsible for taking back your health. No single change will completely allow you to take back your health. Pharmaceutical companies continually promise the next breakthrough on diabetes, obesity and heart disease, although we inevitably end up disappointed. Furthermore, the food and diet industry peddles quick fixes and gimmicks, but they are never completely effective or permanent. It is the hundreds of little choices you make every day that will transform your overall health and make a difference. Start making changes today and take back your health and save yourself a couple dollars in the long run.