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.