This week the 6D Book Club is reading chapter six in Dr. Greger’s How Not To Die which is all about diabetes, its causes and what the science tells us about the role nutrition plays in the preventing, arresting and even reversing Type 2 diabetes. To hear it from the man himself, check out this video from Dr. Greger.
“Type 2 diabetes has been called the “Black Death of the twenty-first century” in terms of its exponential spread around the world and its devastating health impacts.” (1)
In order to fully understand the gravity of this epidemic it behooves us to look at the science. Epidemic? Who said anything about an epidemic?
Though not contagious in the traditional sense of the word, we can catch diabetes from our learned behaviors and habits we inherit from our elders and society. Moreover, diabetes has “rapidly spread” (2) and that growth has been “very widespread” (3) in most developed societies. Well that surely sounds like an epidemic to me.
But please, do not take my words as fact (please never do that! *), instead take a look at what the CDC published in 2020(4), that may help to define this disease appropriately. (these numbers reflect data ONLY from the USA)
· 34.2 million people have diabetes
· 26.9 million have been diagnosed
· 7.3 million are suffering from the disease without a diagnosis
· 88 million people have prediabetes
· Type 2 Diabetes accounts for 90% to 95% of all cases
Honestly, with the high prevalence of diabetes in the USA how could it not be classified as an epidemic? One could argue that it is now a pandemic and its symptoms (health consequences) include neuropathy, blindness, numbness, stroke, kidney failure, heart attacks and loss of circulation at a level that can lead to amputation. Scary stuff.
Type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas is able to create insulin but the body is not able to use it. Cells cannot take in the glucose and so it lurks in the bloodstream like a hooligan wreaking havoc on everything it encounters.
Dr. Greger provides a simple way to understand what is happening on a cellular level, “Think of insulin as the key that unlocks the doors to your cells to allow glucose to enter” (5)
With every meal the pancreas releases more insulin in the hopes of opening that lock. But to no avail, the key holes are all gummed up and the key cannot get in. But what is that gummy substance blocking the key? Fat. Gross, bubbly, saturated fat. Yuck.
If only it were possible to pick the lock and let the goodness into the cells. If only it were possible to clean the keyhole.
Is there a way to prevent or stop this fat from clogging the key holes? Is there a way to clean out the key holes already gummed up?
Is it possible to create a new key, one that will open the lock and allow the cellular-glucose party to begin? Once more, it behooves us to look at the science here in order to understand how impactful our nutritional choices truly are.
This dense, sticky and dangerous fat accumulates within muscle and liver cells and can interfere with action on insulin in the body. Not all fats are created equal however and the stickiest, densest and most dangerous fat of them all is, you guessed it, saturated fat. (6)
There is even a study where they injected fat in subjects (gross) and observed a massive spike in blood sugar levels. (7) With only one hit of saturated fat and the body’s ability to absorb glucose becomes compromised in just a couple of hours (8) as the fat impairs both insulin action and secretion. (9) Finally, research shows that as fat content in the bloodstream is reduced, insulin function improves. (10)
Remember how early we said that all fats are not created equal? Well science has a bit to say about that as well. Saturated is found primarily in animal products but what about plant fats, specifically monounsaturated fats, could those fats also gum up the cellular locks like saturated fat does? Simple answer – no. Not at all.
In fact! Monounsaturated fat (11) has been shown to be a protector for the body, fighting off the harmful impact saturated fats in the body. (12) And after they are done fighting off would be invaders, these monounsaturated fats can be safely stored for future battles of if they have fought the good fight and have run their course, the body flushes them away with gratitude.
Finally, saturated fat has been shown to destroy beta cells (13) (these are the awesome little cells that produce insulin) while monounsaturated fat (14) did not have that same effect. Those are some pretty big differences between the two fats.
Knowing now how the locks are getting gummed up it is time to see what the science tells us about how to clean them out and protect them from becoming blocked again. Fortunately, there is a ton of science on this! Here is but a little taste of what is out there for data-hungry explorers. You know what comes next right? Of course you do, Plants! Yup, the champion phyto-warrior army wins the day once again.
And this army destroys its enemies quickly and ruthlessly. Within a few weeks of switching to a plant-based diet research has shown a drop of around 60% in insulin requirements for diagnosed diabetics. And after a few months most require no further insulin injections at all! (15)
Plant-based diets have also been shown to relieve the pain of neuropathy with which some diabetics suffer, and in just a few days! (16) This was a welcome surprise to many in the health community, a bonus side-effect of the power in plants.
When phyto-warriors do battle, they attack from all sides and ensure the complete annihilation of the enemy - they engage in the WHOLE BATTLE. Pharma-warriors just are not trained like that, they focus on the skirmishes on the periphery and miss the entire war.
Stick with it for nine months or more and watch the body cleanse itself of all trans fats, cleaning out the last stubborn remnants of gunk in those key holes. (17) Now all the cellular keys fit perfectly and the body is allowed to function optimally. Plant-based diets can indeed prevent, arrest and reverse Type 2 diabetes and if you would like to learn more about the power of plants to fight a plethora of diseases, check out Dr. Greger’s book How Not To Die – the good book for all plant-based humans.
If you are interested in learning more from Dr. Greger about diabetes, both Types 1 and 2, click here for over 300 options! Dr. Greger’s work truly is a gift for those who are seeking knowledge and we are grateful for all that he does for us.
*Please never take anyone’s words as fact. No matter the source, check the sources! There is a good tool to guide you as you assess information presented to you in your journey, use it wisely.
This article is part of a series which follows the teachings of Dr. Michael Greger in his book How Not To Die. 6D Book Club has chosen this book as the first for our 2021 explorations.
"In How Not to Die, internationally renowned physician Dr. Michael Greger examines the top causes of premature death - heart disease, cancers, diabetes and more - and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to enjoy better health. Full of practical, actionable advice and surprising, cutting-edge nutritional science, these doctor's orders are just what we need to live longer, healthier lives." (from book jacket)
“My primary duty has always been to care for my patients, to accurately provide the best available balance of evidence … with the democratization of information, doctors no longer hold a monopoly as gatekeepers of knowledge about health. When it comes to safe, simple lifestyle prescriptions, I am realizing it may be more effective to empower individuals directly.” – Dr. Michael Greger, How Not To Die (preface)
Visit Dr. Greger’s Website … NutritionFacts.org is an amazing source for current research studies about nutrition and optimal health.
Information provided by 6D Living is not intended as medical advice and should not be used as such. Suggested foods are examples and are not intended to be used as a prescribed nutritional program. Please consult your health care provider if you have any concerns about beginning any new health practice.
1. Greger, M., Stone, G., & Greger, M. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease:116.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2020.
5. Greger, M., Stone, G., & Greger, M. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease:116.
6. Rachek LI. Free fatty acids and skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2014; 121:267-92.
7. Roden M, Krssak M, Stingl H. et al. Rapid impairment of skeletal muscle glucose transport/phosphorylation by free fatty acids in humans. Diabetes. 1999;48(2):358-64.
8. Roden M, Krssak M, Stingl H. et al. Rapid impairment of skeletal muscle glucose transport/phosphorylation by free fatty acids in humans. Diabetes. 1999;48(2):358-64.
9. Xiao C, Giacca A, Carpentier A, Lewis GF. Differential effects of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fat ingestion on glucose-simulated insulin secretion, sensitivity and clearance in overweight and obese, non-diabetic humans. Diabetologia. 2006;49(6):1371-9.
10. Himsworth HP. Dietetic factors influencing the glucose tolerance and the activity of insulin. J Physiol (Lond). 1934;81(1):29-48
11. Nolan CJ, Larter CZ. Lipotoxicity: why do saturated fatty acids cause and monounsaturated protect against it? J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009;24(5):703-6.
12. Evans WJ. Oxygen-carrying proteins in meat and risk of diabetes mellitus. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(14):1335-6.
13. Cnop M, Hannaert JC, Grupping AY, Pipeleers DG. Low density lipoprotein can cause death of islet beta-cells by its cellular uptake and oxidative modification. Endocrinology. 2002;143(9):3449-53.
14. Maedler K, Oberholzer J, Bucher P, Spina GA, Donath MY. Monounsaturated fatty acids prevent the deleterious effects of palmitate and high glucose on human pancreatic beta-cell turnover and function. Diabetes. 2003;52(3):726-33.
15. Anderson JW, Ward K. High-carbohydrate, high-fibre diets for insulin treated men with diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979;32(11):2312-21.
16. Crane MG, Sample C. Regression of diabetic neuropathy with total vegetarian (vegan) diet. J Nutr Med. 1994;4(4):431-9.
17. Crane MG, Zielinski R, Aloia R. Cis and trans fats in omnivores, lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988;48:920.
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