What is the number one cause of disease? What is the cure?

Diabesity is the leading cause of most chronic disease in the 21st century. Diabesity describes the continuum of metabolic abnormalities that ranges all the way from obesity to full blown diabetes. It includes mild blood-sugar elevation and insulin resistance. 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. They have elevated resting blood sugars (greater than 100mg/dL. This problem is caused by many different 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 complain of constantly being hungry, craving sweets, having trouble losing weight and enlarging bellies.

While there are some predisposing genes, diabesity and type 2 diabetes are almost entirely caused by lifestyle factors. 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 insulin 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. These lead to many health issues including increased weight in the mid-section, inability to lose weight, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL (good cholesterol), 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. Instead, eat whole real foods. These are foods without labels. Meals should include protein, healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Regular physical activity is also important. Incorporate regular aerobic activities into your days. This means going for regular walks, swimming, playing tennis, or any other aerobic activity you enjoy.

You are responsible for taking back your health. No single change will completely allow you to take back your health. 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.

Diabesity – the leading cause of most chronic disease.

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.

Insulin resistance – What is it and why is it so bad?

Insulin resistance is a condition characterized by an inability of the body to utilize the hormone insulin properly. When you eat, food is broken down into glucose to be used for energy. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, tempers the amount of sugar in the bloodstream by helping glucose get into muscle, fat and liver cells. Insulin is a “key” that opens doors to the body’s cells, so glucose can enter. With insulin resistance, it’s like having locks that do not work. The keys won’t turn, and glucose can’t get into the cell. The pancreas, alarmed by the increase in blood sugar, cranks out more insulin. This cycle then feeds on itself, leading to higher and higher inulin levels in your blood.

 

People who have high levels of circulating insulin (hyperinsulinemia) in the body are called insulin resistant. This is because their pancreas continues to pump out more and more insulin in an effort to lower rising blood glucose levels. When an individual can no longer produce enough insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar, type 2 diabetes develops.

 

For those of you having difficult losing weight, high insulin levels make it very hard to lose those extra pounds because it “locks” the doors to fat cells.

 

Excess insulin is also highly inflammatory. As noted in previous articles, high levels of inflammation can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.

 

An estimated one in three Americans is insulin resistant, a condition that puts them at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, and stroke.  Insulin resistance can be diagnosed based on medical history, risk factors, and lab tests. Abdominal obesity is a significant risk factor for insulin resistance. It is defined as a waist circumference of 102 cm (40 in) or more in men and 88 cm (35 inches) or more in women.

 

The following lab results suggest a diagnosis of insulin resistance syndrome:

 

  • A fasting glucose level between 100 and 124 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides of 150 mg/dl or higher.
  • HDL cholesterol of < 40 (men) or < 50 (women).
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher.

 

The good news is that insulin resistance is reversible. Losing weight is the best natural way to treat insulin resistance. Many people think they need to lose large amounts of weight (50lbs or even 100lbs) to reverse insulin resistance. This is not necessarily true. Losing even small amounts of weight (15-20lbs) can significantly lower blood sugar levels and insulin levels. The best long-term diet or life style is one that is low in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods. Simple carbs such as bread, rice, flour, pasta, and cereals are quickly turned by the body into sugar and thus raise insulin levels. Eating complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and beans are slowly digested and do not raise insulin levels. Complex carbs tend to have a lot of fiber, which will help lower blood sugar and insulin levels. Your daily goal should be at least 30 grams of fiber a day. (See prior article on fiber.) Combining protein and healthy fats with your meals will also slow down digestion of sugars and help keep your insulin levels from rising too much. Finally, aerobic exercise is also a great way to burn off extra glucose in your blood stream and lower your insulin levels naturally. Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, and rowing for 20-30 minutes at a time 4-5 times a week can significantly lower both blood sugar levels and insulin levels.

 

 

Want to get healthy and lose weight? Reduce your insulin levels.

Food is medicine. I have said this many times. Is it really true? When it comes to losing weight and preventing disease – absolutely! Today we are going to talk about food, your insulin levels and your health.

 

First of all, what is insulin? Insulin is one of your body’s many hormones. The pancreas, in response to elevated blood sugar levels, releases insulin. Eating foods with sugar or foods that are easily turned into sugar, such as highly processed foods and simple carbs, elevate your blood sugar levels quickly. Insulin’s job is to keep your blood sugar level from getting too high. Insulin allows your body’s cells to remove the extra sugar in the blood. Without insulin, your cells would not have the ability to take in sugar (glucose). Your cells need insulin to be able to receive nourishment.

 

Eating excess sugar and simple carbs in your diet causes large amounts of insulin to be released into the bloodstream. Over time, your cells receive enough glucose (sugar), and do not need any more. If you continue to consume large amounts of sugar and simple carbs, the pancreas releases even more insulin. As a result, the pancreas is working overtime to push your blood sugar level back to normal. Unfortunately, it becomes difficult for even the increased levels of insulin to decrease the blood sugar levels back to normal. This continuous increased level of insulin in the blood is called hyper-insulinemia or insulin resistance. Eventually, if you still continue to consume large amounts of sugar and simple carbs, despite large amounts of insulin in your blood stream, the blood sugar level rises and you develop diabetes. The increased levels of insulin are ineffective.

 

Insulin is needed by everybody to keep his or her blood sugar levels in a normal range. A problem develops when insulin levels are chronically elevated. Insulin is the “get fat” hormone. Increased insulin levels directly lead to weight gain. If your insulin levels are high, you will be overweight. Increased insulin levels also lead to high blood pressure and to increased inflammation levels. Inflammation appears to be a greater risk factor for heart disease and stroke than cholesterol. Increased insulin may also lead to an increased cancer risk. Clearly, lowering your insulin levels is critical to good health.

 

How do you know if your insulin levels are high? If you have excess fat around your middle your insulin levels are probably high. Although, you may be tall or thin, short or fat or any combination and still have insulin resistance. If your fasting blood sugar level is greater that 100mg/dL, your insulin levels are high. If your fasting triglyceride levels are high, your insulin levels will also be high.

 

So how do you decrease your insulin levels? Here are some tips:

 

  • Stop eating flour and sugar products, especially high fructose corn syrup.
  • Don’t have liquid calories, like sugary sodas and juices. Your body doesn’t feel full from them anyway.
  • Stop eating all processed, junk or packaged foods. If it doesn’t look like the food it originated from, then stay away.
  • Slow the rate of sugar uptake from the gut through balancing your meals (low glycemic load) with healthy protein (nuts, seeds, beans, small wild fish, organic chicken), healthy carbs (vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains) and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, fish oil)
  • Eat plenty of soluble fiber (at least 30 grams a day)
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals
  • Exercise – regular aerobic exercise (20-30 minutes at a time, 4-5 times a week) will help decrease your blood sugar and insulin levels

 

Remember, what you eat directly affects your health through hormones. You can decrease your insulin levels directly through good nutrition and exercise. Ultimately, by decreasing your insulin levels you can lose weight and keep it off, decrease your risk of heart attack and strokes, and finally, also decrease your risk of cancer.

 

Can stress make me fat?

stress1 Yes! Stress is a big contributing factor to weight gain and obesity. Unfortunately, stress is pervasive throughout today’s society. We seem to be constantly stressed out. We are stressed out due to work, family, society, and many other life stressors.  When we are under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered in our bodies. Whether we’re stressed because of constant, crazy demands at work or at home or we’re really in danger, our bodies respond the same. It is like we are about to be physically harmed and need to fight for our lives. To answer this need, stress hormones are released, and we experience a burst of energy, shifts in metabolism and blood flow, and other changes. If you remain in this state for a prolonged amount of time due to chronic stress, you start to risk your health. Chronic stress leads to weight gain. The two major stress hormones are cortisol and adrenaline. Too much cortisol slows down your metabolism, increases insulin levels, and leads to weight gain. This makes dieting quite difficult. People experiencing chronic stress tend to crave more processed and sugary foods. This includes sweets, chips, and other foods that aren’t good for you. Prolonged stress can alter your blood sstress2ugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia and prediabetes. Too much stress has  been linked to the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Excessive stress even affects where we tend to store fat. Higher levels of stress hormones are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. Unfortunately, abdominal fat is not only aesthetically undesirable, it’s linked to greater health risks than fat stored in other areas of the body. Excessive stress also leads to emotional eating. This is when you are eating to help deal with your stress and not because you are truly hungry. Food essentially becomes a drug. Fortunately, stress can be controlled. The first step in dealing with stress is realizing that you are stressed. What are your stressors? Once you understand what is stressing you, the next step is to implement stress reduction methods. This will be the topic of our next post.

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Having Trouble Losing Weight? Avoid this!

I frequently hear from people who are having difficulty losing weight despite not over-eating. Many people seem to eat very little but still have difficulty losing weight. For some people, this may be related to the composition of their diet. Eating a large percentage of calories from simple carbs and processed foods leads to increased insulin levels. Increased insulin levels lead to weight gain and obesity. One type of sweetner is especially harmful – high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is found in a large number of  food products today as it is fairly cheap and quite sweet. A large concern about excess sugar in general, and specifically HFCS, is the impact on weight gain. Normally, our appetite is governed by a finely tuned hormonal system that drives us to eat just enough to meet our metabolic needs. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach which tells us when we are hungry. Leptin is a hormone which signals our brain to tell us we are full. The problem is that when HFCS is consumed, it does not shut off ghrelin, so we continue to feel hungry.  In addition, the leptin signal is not triggered, so we don’t feel full. This drives overeating and contrhigh-fructose-corn-syrupibutes to obesity. The excessive consumption of HFCS may be a main contributor to the increasing incidence of diabetes.  HFCS leads to increased insulin levels and insulin resistance. HFCS, when consumed in excess, also increases the triglycerides in the bloodstream and increases the risk of heart disease. But what about naturally occurring fructose? Fructose occurs naturally in fruit. Isn’t fruit healthy? Absolutely!  The fiber present in fruit slows the absorption of fructose. This keeps insulin levels down. This is why it is better to eat an orange than to drink orange juice, which is concentrated sugar. Furthermore, fruit is loaded with phytonutrients to help prevent chronic disease and cancer.  If you are having trouble losing weight, start looking at labels. Avoid food products with added HFCS. You may find that your weight finally starts decreasing.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome (or insulin resistance syndrome) is a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes. Unfortunately, it is becoming very common in the United States.  According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, metabolic syndrome is present if you have three or more of the following signs: blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg (or on blood pressure medication),  fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL, a large waist circumference (men – 40 inches or more and women – 35 inches or more), low HDL cholesterol (men – under 40 mg/dL and women – under 50 mg/dL), and triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL. Having any one of these risk factors isn’t good. But when they’re combined, they set the stage for serious problems. Metabolic syndrome can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes, myocardial infarction (heart attack), kidney disease, fatty liver disease, peripheral artery disease, and stroke. The incidence of metabolic syndrome continues to rise as does the incidence of obesity. But the good news is that it is both preventable and treatable, largely with changes to your lifestyle and diet. Treatments include: losing weight (initial goal should be a BMI < 30, with ultimate goal < 25),  regular aerobic exercise (get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking or bicycling, 5 – 7 days per week), lowering your cholesterol (using improved diet, weight loss, and cholesterol lowering medicines, if needed), and lowering your blood pressure (using weight loss, exercise, and medicine, if needed). Good nutrition is the key to treating metabolic syndrome. Eating processed foods loaded with sugar and simple carbs significantly increases your chances of developing metabolic syndrome. Fast foods, sweets, and snack foods lead directly to the metabolic syndrome. It is critical to change your diet to one low in fat, high in fresh fruits and vegetables (7-10 servings a day), and filled with whole-grain products high in fiber. Cut out simple carbs and sugar. If you have the metabolic syndrome or some of the signs, the time to take action is now. Don’t wait for hardening of the arteries or worse to occur. Be proactive! Take control of your health. Take action today!