Since 1990, diabetes has tripled with more than 20 million Americans currently living with the disease. At this rate, 1 in 3 Americans will be diabetic by midcentury. Type 2 diabetes, which was previously named adult-onset, is responsible for 95% of cases and only around 5% are type 1.
What Causes It
I'd like to argue that its not all about sugar. We as Americans like to narrow it down and blame our obesity and diabetes epidemic on one nutrient. Nutrition is complex and it isn't quite that simple. Yes, we need to consume little to no added sugar and get our sugar naturally through whole foods, such as fruit. But extra fat is also a culprit. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, compared to a century ago, Americans are consuming 75 pounds more meat per person per year and 30 pounds more cheese per person per year. Fat has 9 calories per gram whereas carbohydrates (sugar) have 4 calories per gram. Fat has more than twice the calorie density so at the end of the day, eating more fatty foods, found especially in meat and cheese, will lead to weight gain and insulin resistance. Fat actually clogs insulin receptors, like putting gum in a keyhole, and does not allow the body to properly utilize sugar. Saturated fats in particular, found primarily in meat, dairy, and eggs, have been shown to cause insulin resistance whereas plant-based fats, such as nuts, olives and avocados, have not.
The Good News Thankfully there is hope for both the prevention and possible reversal of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes that has shown in studies to work more efficiently than the American Diabetes Association diet. A diet rich in low,-fat, fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes works to "unclog the keyhole" and allow insulin to do it's job of letting sugar into the cells for energy. It may be surprising but whole grains and legumes work beautifully for reducing blood sugars. If you're diabetic, please work with your doctor as you'll likely have to decrease oral or injectable insulin doses (which is great!) when switching to a plant-based diet. Together, let's work to stamp out diabetes!