Colette's Blog

Diabesity: The Epidemic of Obesity and Diabetes

June 20, 2012

One of the most disturbing trends in an age of growing waistlines is the increasing onset of diabetes in the U.S.

According to the American Diabetes Association, there are over 25.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 8.3% of the population, who have diabetes. The Center for Disease Control has reported that an estimated 79 million Americans were pre-diabetic in the year 2011. As a result, the need to control this epidemic grows more urgent with each day.

In fact, the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity—diabesity—is becoming a global health crisis:

  • Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes— but it’s a preventable disease
    • Diabetes affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide!
    • The International Diabetes Federation predicts 438 million will have diabetes by 2030
    • The prevalence of diabetes will be higher if obesity continues to increase
  • And the facts continue to show that obesity is a worldwide problem:

  • Obesity rates have DOUBLED since 1980
    • 1.5 BILLION adults are overweight (BMI > 25)
    • 500 MILLION adults are obese (BMI > 30)
    • 43 MILLION children are overweight
    • 2.8 MILLION deaths each year due to obesity/overweight
  • How did this happen? It’s simple. The modern American diet is grossly tipped toward refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour, both of which rank high on the glycemic index. And as these processed foods become more available to the rest of the world, the problem is spreading. When you eat such junk foods, your body overreacts: So much glucose pours into your bloodstream that your pancreas goes into overdrive and pumps out excessive insulin.

    In your youth, your body was functioning efficiently and you may not have noticed any symptoms resulting from this flood of blood sugar and the resultant insulin overload. Later in life the symptoms pile on, often along with pounds. The vast majority of overweight people on a high-carbohydrate diet display an extensive range of symptoms, the by-products of unstable blood-sugar levels.

    A significant number of people who are overweight are also insulin resistant. It may be that in most people, insulin resistance precedes hyperinsulinism. Either way, because insulin in not effective in doing its work, the pancreas reacts by pouring forth ever-increasing quantities of insulin. People who are both obese and pre-diabetic often have insulin levels some 20 times higher than the norm. The massive amounts of insulin cause blood sugar to drop to an inappropriately low level. The adrenaline the body releases to correct the blood-sugar level when it has fallen too low also produces many of those symptoms.

    If you make the right changes in the early stages of this insidious process, it will be a lot easier to fix the problem, but very often you don’t find out until it’s too late.
    Ralph deFronzo, M.D., one of the nation’s leading diabetic specialists, has clarified the confusion that leads to a delayed diagnosis by pointing out that there are five stages of diabetes1. The first three stages precede the actual diagnosis of the illness. That's because conventional medicine does not routinely recommend the Glucose Tolerance Test with insulin levels, so people at risk are rarely found in the early stages of the disease.

    The Five Stages of Diabetes
    • Stage 1 - insulin resistance (IR) only
    • Stage 2 - IR, plus hyperinsulinism (HI)
    • Stage 3 - IR, HI, plus abnormalities in a GTT
    • Stage 4 - Type II diabetes, with high insulin levels
    • Stage 5 - Type II diabetes, with low insulin levels

    The road to diabetes is a clear. If you take the high-carbohydrate trail you may—after many years of unstable blood sugar and excessive insulin release that you may not even be aware of—finally arrive at that unpleasant destination. Since insulin is the body’s premier fat creator, most of us will have picked up significant extra pounds along the journey.

    Then, after you actually become diabetic, your blood-sugar level ceases to oscillate; it is now consistently high. Massive insulin resistance has been preventing insulin from effectively doing its job (stage 4) or your pancreas will have exhausted itself after years of overproduction, and will not be able to make enough insulin (stage 5). Either way, you’ve waited a little too long to make the diabetes go away, but not too long to achieve a useful level of control.

    This means that if you have not dealt with pre-diabetes, you now have full-blown diabetes. You’re in trouble. Blood sugar that cannot be transported by insulin into your cells and liver now spills over into your urine, wasting vital energy (stage 4). Once your insulin has been reduced to very low levels (stage 5) you start losing weight inexplicably. Heavy urination leads to constant thirst. Your body burns anything it can find to fuel its daily operations. You now know that something is very wrong.But if you attend to the early warnings long before you hit this juncture, you can head off diabetes at the pass.

    Traditionally, Atkins is viewed as a weight loss and weight management program, but Dr. Atkins knew his nutritional approach could accomplish more for people. The Atkins Diet is also an effective intervention for disease prevention, and not just heart disease, but also Type 2 diabetes.

    Dr. Atkins introduced the concept of utilizing controlled-carbohydrate nutrition, supplementation and other lifestyle changes along with your doctor's help for the prevention and management of the metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. He familiarized readers with the warning signs of Type 2 diabetes and provided information that will help people identify risks for disease as early as possible.

    Over the past decade, ongoing and emerging peer-reviewed and independent research have made a compelling argument for controlled-carbohydrate nutrition and its role in preventing and controlling serious medical conditions like Type 2 diabetes. The studies examine the effects of the Atkins Diet show that, on average, patients following the Atkins program had improved insulin sensitivity and glycemic control and improved cholesterol profiles, including a decrease in triglyceride levels.

    It’s quite simple. One of the main purposes of the Atkins Diet is to focus people on the basic but dramatic fact that many individuals may prevent Type 2 diabetes by simply changing what they put on their plate. If you are following Atkins, you are taking a very proactive step in not only shrinking your waistline, but improving your overall health and quality of life.

    Selected References

    1. DeFronzo, R.A., Bonadonna, R.C., Ferrannini, E., et al.,"Pathogenesis of NIDDM: A Balanced Overview," Diabetes Care, 15(3), 1992, pages 318-368.

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