There is one driving factor that contributes, above all else, to the epidemic of diabesity and other chronic illnesses we see today. By addressing this one problem you may reverse many of your health problems, even if you don't do anything else. In today's blog, the last in my three-part series on diabesity, I will tell you what that problem is and how you can effectively treat it. Here's a hint: You won't find the solution in a pill bottle ...
Remember, in the last week's blog on diabesity, we learned what doesn't work to treat the condition--namely conventional, outdated approaches to medicine that focus on treating symptoms with medications instead of addressing the underlying causes of illness. Now that we know what doesn't work, I want to spend some time in this week's blog explaining what DOES work.
If we want to effectively treat this epidemic of diabesity, we must start focusing on the underlying causes that are driving these problems in the first place. You see, ALL of these phenomenon we see in diabesity are the result of the same thing: Imbalances in the seven underlying key systems in your body that are at the root of all health and illness.
Today you will learn what those seven systems are and how you can use this exciting new field of medical research and practice known as Functional medicine to help you prevent and even reverse Diabesity.
Introducing the 7 Keys
In the last 20 years an emerging body of scientific knowledge points to a number of factors that are the true drivers of diabesity and most chronic disease. While genetic predisposition may play a role in diabesity, what we now know is that it is the ways in which your lifestyle and environment wash over your genes to create changes in your moment to moment biological functioning that leads to health or disease.
These changes in gene expression or function are what result in the symptoms we see in diabetes. But your symptoms--your high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the rest--are NOT the cause of diabesity. They are simply clues to help us find the real underlying causes.
The fundamental causes of diabesity are imbalances in key systems of the body that results in insulin resistance, problems with blood sugar control, and all the other complications and associated problems. There are seven fundamental systems in your body. These keys form the basis of Functional medicine. I also call them the seven keys to UltraWellness.
Understanding these basic systems, how they get out of balance, and how to get them back in balance, allows us to create a personalized medicine program for each person. This is the medicine of the future.
To heal from diabesity, or overcome any of the other chronic illnesses you suffer from, you must rebalance the seven key systems in your body that are at the root of health and illness. They are: optimize nutrition, balance your hormones, cool off inflammation, fix your digestion, enhance detoxification, boost energy metabolism, and calm your mind.
Imbalances in these underlying key systems are at the heart of all chronic illness, including diabesity. Today I want to focus on one of the most important keys--Key number one: Optimize Nutrition--and explain how it contributes to diabesity.
Key #1: Optimize Nutrition
The main driving factor of our diabesity epidemic is our nutrient-poor, calorie-rich diet. It has led to a nation of overfed but undernourished people. In fact, there are so few nutrients in our diet that we now have an epidemic of nutritional deficiencies that promote the development of diabetes in including vitamin D, magnesium, chromium, zinc, and antioxidant deficiencies.(i),(ii).
The solution is simple. Whole, real, fresh food that you have to cook is the most potent medicine to prevent, reverse and treat diabesity.
First let's look at some of the major dietary shifts that have driven the diabesity epidemic, and then we will explore the exciting new science of nutrigenomics which promises to help us fix the problem for good.
The number one dietary shift that leads to diabesity is sugar in all its forms.
The average American today eats 150-180 pounds of sugar per year. That's over half a pound of sugar a day! And I'm not eating that much, so that means some of you are eating a lot more!
We evolved eating 22 teaspoons of sugar per year.(iii) So we are no longer eating in harmony with our genes. In the last 30 years our sugar calories increasingly come from high-fructose corn syrup. This mostly in the form of liquid calories from sodas, soft drinks, sweetened beverages.
In fact, Dr. Walter Willett from the Harvard School Public Health stated at a recent White House meeting on Prevention and Wellness at which I also spoke, that the two most important factors driving our obesity epidemic are sugar-sweetened drinks(iv) and the number of hours of television watched per day.(v) These correlate more with obesity than any other factors in the research.
We need to stop eating (and drinking) so much sugar. It's killing us.
The number two dietary shift that leads to diabesity is our low-fiber diet.
As our sugar consumption has increased, our fiber consumption has decreased. We now eat less than eight grams per day. Yet our Paleolithic ancestors ate 100 grams of fiber per day.(vi) This is another indication of how we are no longer eating in harmony with our genes ...
Fiber is important because it slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream from our gut and reduces cholesterol. It mostly comes from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans.
Those who eat a refined, processed, diet that comes from boxes, packages, or cans get less fiber than those who eat whole, real foods. The lack of fiber in our diet has enormous implications for our health. It causes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers and many other chronic diseases.(vii) In fact, studies show that adding high levels of fiber to the diet is as effective as diabetes medication without any of the side effects.(viii)
And the number three dietary shift that leads to diabesity is our epidemic of nutritional deficiencies.
A number of nutrients are particularly important to prevent and treat diabesity. These include vitamin D,(ix) chromium,(x),(xi) magnesium,(xii) zinc,(xiii) biotin,(xiv) omega-3 fats,(xv) and antioxidants such alpha lipoic acid.(xvi)
These nutrients are necessary for proper control and balance of insulin and blood sugar. When these are deficient, our biochemical machinery slows down and grinds to a halt. And these happen to be the very nutrients most of us are deficient in.
What's critical to understand is that the solution to the whole diabesity epidemic can be found at the end of your fork! What you put on your fork is the most powerful medicine you have to correct the fundamental underlying causes of chronic disease and diabesity. That is true for one simple reason: Food is more than calories; it is information. Here's what I mean...
We generally think of food as a way to get energy; a means to feed our bodies the fuel they need to function. However, new science has shown that food literally speaks to your genes. The information your body receives from the foods you eat turn your genes on and off.
This provides your body with instructions about how to control your metabolism from moment to moment and day to day, every time you take a bite of food. This is the science of nutrigenomics, or how food talks to your genes, and it is the nutritional approach that underlies this program. Food is more than calories - food is information.
By feeding your body the right information, you can turn off the genes that lead to diabesity and turn on the genes that lead to health. The key lies in the quality and type of food you eat, not necessarily the calories you consume or the ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in your diet.
Dr. Dean Ornish proved that you could reverse blockages in clogged arteries and increase blood flow in the heart by simply changing the quality of the food you put in your body and engaging in some simple lifestyle changes. He also showed that you could beneficially affect over 500 genes turning off the disease-causing genes and turning on the health promoting genes by changing diet and lifestyle in just three months. This is more powerful than ANY medication ever invented.
So what should you eat? The optimal diet to prevent and treat diabesity includes:
• Whole grains
• Healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocados, and omega-3 fats
• Modest amounts of lean animal protein including small wild fish such as salmon or sardines
This is commonly known as a Mediterranean diet. It is a diet of whole, real, fresh food. It is a diet of food you have to prepare and cook from the raw materials of nature. And it has broad-ranging benefits for your health.
Our common ideas about food only being a source of energy are very limited. Nutrigenomics and its role in diabesity is the future of medicine. It will help us both understand and successfully treat this burdensome condition that affects over one billion people worldwide.
That is only one of the seven keys you need to prevent or reverse diabesity ... but now I'd like to hear from you ...
Are you ready to take the steps needed to treat the underlying causes of your health condition?
Do you want to learn more about how food is medicine and what the other keys to treating diabesity are?
Have you tried any of the techniques in the blog? How did they work for you?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD
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(iii) Cordain L., et al. 2005. Origin and evolution of the Western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 8 (2):341-54. Review.
(iv) Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet. 2001 Feb 17;357(9255):505-8
(v) Hu FB, Li TY, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Manson JE. Television watching and other sedentary behaviors in relation to risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1785-91.
(vi) Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9. Review.
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(viii) Chandalia M, Garg A, Lutjohann D, von Bergmann K, Grundy SM, Brinkley LJ. Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med. 2000 May 11;342(19):1392-8.
(ix) Reis JP, von Mühlen D, Miller ER 3rd, Michos ED, Appel LJ. Vitamin D Status and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in the United States Adolescent Population. Pediatrics. 2009 Aug 3.
(x) A scientific review: the role of chromium in insulin resistance. Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14. Review.
(xi) Lau FC, Bagchi M, Sen CK, Bagchi D. Nutrigenomic basis of beneficial effects of chromium(III) on obesity and diabetes. Mol Cell Biochem. 2008 Oct;317(1-2):1-10. Epub 2008 Jul 18. Review.
(xii) Chaudhary DP, Sharma R, Bansal DD. Implications of Magnesium Deficiency in Type 2 Diabetes: A Review. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Jul 24.
(xiii) Masood N, Baloch GH, Ghori RA, Memon IA, Memon MA, Memon MS. Serum zinc and magnesium in type-2 diabetic patients. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak. 2009 Aug;19(8):483-6.
(xiv) Albarracin CA, Fuqua BC, Evans JL, Goldfine ID. Chromium picolinate and biotin combination improves glucose metabolism in treated, uncontrolled overweight to obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2008 Jan-Feb;24(1):41-51.
(xv) Flachs P, Rossmeisl M, Bryhn M, Kopecky J. Cellular and molecular effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on adipose tissue biology and metabolism. Clin Sci (Lond). 2009 Jan;116(1):1-16. Review.
(xvi) Shay KP, Moreau RF, Smith EJ, Smith AR, Hagen TM. Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Oct;1790(10):1149-60. Epub 2009 Aug 4.
Mark Hyman, M.D. practicing physician and founder of The UltraWellness Center is a pioneer in functional medicine. Dr. Hyman is now sharing the 7 ways to tap into your body's natural ability to heal itself. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on Youtube and become a fan on Facebook.