By Dana Garcia, B.A. Kinesiology, B.Ed., OCT, NCC, PHCD
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that results from decades of blood sugar imbalance due to a poor diet and lifestyle habits. Diabetes manifests when the body stops responding to insulin causing spikes in blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when we eat food and it transports sugar from the blood into our cells to make energy. This metabolic dysfunction results in high insulin and blood sugar.
Symptoms & Long-Term Risks
Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent infections and tingling in hands and feet. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) left untreated damages the blood vessels and nerves causing many health problems over time (blindness, kidney failure, limb amputation, heart attack, stroke, nerve damage) and other chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.
Saturated fat from animal products contributes to the buildup of fat within cells and stops insulin from working properly. Fat accumulation in the liver and muscles contributes to insulin resistance.1 The Adventist Health Study published in 2013, reported on 8,000 participants without diabetes. After 17 years of tracking their diet, 543 of the participants developed diabetes. Those who ate animal products were 29% more likely to develop diabetes compared to vegetarians. Those who reported long-term meat consumption before the study period had a 74% increased risk for developing diabetes compared to the vegetarians. “Meat in the diet contributes a load of dietary fat that enhances intracellular lipid storage and impairs insulin metabolism which increases resistance”. The Adventist Health Study demonstrates that meat consumption is a major risk factor for diabetes. 2
Leucine is an amino acid (protein) found in high amounts in animal products and was found to stimulate excess insulin production. 3 The EPIC Study of 17,000 people over 10 years found an 8% increased risk of diabetes for every 50g (ex. ¼ of a chicken breast) of meat consumed a day. 4 A 2017 study found that a single serving of meat each day increased the risk of diabetes by 19% compared to vegetarians. 5 The Adventist Mortality Study showed that diabetes prevalence increases as frequency of meat consumption increased. 6
Excess Iron & Sodium
Animal products are inflammatory due to their high iron, nitrate and sodium content which damages insulin producing cells of the pancreas. The Nurses Health Study showed higher inflammatory markers with increased meat consumption. 7
Advanced glycation end-products found mostly in animal products are inflammatory and damage the kidneys especially in diabetic patients. 8
Pollution, chemicals and heavy metals that are dumped into the air and water accumulate in the animal flesh that people consume. Environmental toxins create inflammation and contribute to the development of inflammatory diseases like diabetes. 9
Excess body fat also increases insulin resistance due to the inflammatory chemicals that visceral fat and adipose tissues release. 10
A diet including processed foods and refined carbohydrates leads to blood sugar dysregulation. High-glycemic foods include sugar, flour, bread, crackers, pasta, cereal, granola bars, soda, candy and more. These processed foods are rapidly absorbed and spike blood sugar levels. 11
Stay tuned for next week’s article where we discuss the diet and lifestyle treatments used to reverse diabetes naturally!