Drug companies have a solution to Type II Diabetes unfortunately their ‘solution’ will make us almost as fat as their wallets (and won’t change the outcome). The real solution is much simpler and you don’t need to buy anything from anyone to implement it.
Our body is a machine that runs on a fuel of pure glucose. When we eat carbohydrates (like fruit, vegetables, bread, pasta and rice) our liver converts the starch in those foods to glucose. Almost every cell in our body can burn (or oxidise to be more precise) the glucose to create energy.
Managing the fuel (glucose) levels in our blood is therefore pretty important to our wellbeing. The level of glucose is managed by two primary hormones. We release insulin when blood glucose goes up and glucagon when it drops.
The insulin helps cells access the glucose in the blood and either use it (if they need it) or turn it into fat for storage. Either way, a primary function of the insulin is to lower the amount of glucose in our bloodstream. If blood sugar stays high for a long time, damage starts to occur in places where we have lots of small blood vessels, such as our kidneys, our eyes and eventually our hands and feet.
Glucagon does the same thing in reverse. The combination of the two hormones working together means that normally our blood glucose levels stay in tight range regardless of what (or when) we eat.
Sometimes we can become resistant to insulin. This simply means that cells do not respond as efficiently as they should and glucose stays in our blood for too long.
Doctors can tell when we are insulin resistant because our blood glucose levels remain too high for too long after eating. But (at least at first) there are no real symptoms that we have the problem. And so a majority of people who are insulin resistant don’t know it.
If you remain insulin resistant for long enough, at certain levels, you will be declared to have Type II Diabetes.
Our body usually responds to insulin resistance by pumping up the insulin levels until the glucose is cleared. If we ask our body to run on overdrive like that for years, for most of us, our pancreas (the insulin maker) will pack it in and we will need to get daily insulin injections to live.
One carbohydrate (and only one) does not work this way. Fructose is not normally converted to glucose and does not trigger an insulin release. It is instead converted to saturated fat by our liver. So for a long time, fructose was prescribed as a perfect sugar for Type II Diabetics. Unfortunately it looks like that cure is turning out to be the cause of the disease.
Last week, the American Heart Association issued a scientific position statement which makes it clear that they are satisfied that fructose does indeed create dangerous levels of circulating fats (called triglycerides). The statement went further and warned that the creation of triglycerides is directly linked to the onset of the insulin resistance which leads to Type II Diabetes. In other words, fructose consumption is likely to be a significant cause of Type II diabetes.
The primary source of fructose in the Australian diet is sugar. So the obvious cure for Type II Diabetes would be to tell people to stop eating sugar. But there is no money in telling people to not eat something.
No, if you are diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in Australia today you will be put on drugs to sort you out (after a perfunctory nod to ‘lifestyle interventions’).
The standard treatment for high blood sugar (and therefore diabetes) is a prescription of ‘eat less fat and exercise more’. When that doesn’t work (as it almost never does) the prescription is changed to a combination of drugs.
There are a few different types of medication but the ones most commonly used in Australia work by stimulating the body to produce more insulin. The drugs squeeze that little bit more insulin out of our pancreas to help clear the blood sugar. As you might expect, putting the pancreas on overdrive eventually results in it conking out completely. Then the only option is to start injecting insulin every day.
Unfortunately a side effect of the drugs is weight gain. Insulin does clear glucose from the bloodstream, but if the cells don’t need the glucose, they just turn it into fat. Giving people more insulin (or giving them drugs to force them to produce it themselves) simply channels sugar out of the bloodstream and converts it into body fat.
Using drugs to force insulin resistant person to make more insulin just moves the immediate problem from the bloodstream to the tummy (or bot-bot). And even then it only works until the pancreas packs it in anyway. Removing the cause (fructose) would be infinitely more effective but if the drugs remain part of the prescription while that is going on, motivation will soon be a problem (because it will be very difficult to lose weight).
We need a new approach to treating insulin resistance. We need an approach based on the science rather than one based on a drug manufacturer’s bottom line. People diagnosed as being insulin resistant (or ultimately Type II Diabetic) should be told the truth about sugar and then told how to remove it from their food supply.
When this happens (and only when this happens) will we start to make a real difference in the progress of a disease that is responsible for more than 9 limb amputations a day in Australia and is our 6th biggest killer (heading for #1 with a bullet).