As a podiatrist at the Diabetic Foot and Ankle Center, I frequently see the terrible results of diabetes: Diabetic neuropathy, sores on the feet, wounds that won’t heal and lives interrupted. Occasionally a patient’s limbs become so damaged from their diabetes that I’ve had to perform surgery to save their foot from amputation. Unchecked, it’s a deadly disease.
As of January, 2011 nearly 26 million people in the u.s. – 8.3% of the population – have diabetes. An additional 79 million people have what we call pre-diabetes (blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes). The truly sad part is that in most cases Type 2 diabetes can be completely avoided by making proper dietary choices early in life before the disease shows any symptoms.
Unfortunately, the typical American diet is chock full of hidden sugars (white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, etc) and white flour products which raise your blood glucose to dangerous levels. These products are marketed so intensely by their manufacturers that much information about a truly healthy diet is drowned out.
How diet creates type 2 diabetes
When you eat excess calories and fat, your body responds by creating blood glucose. Blood glucose is the principal sugar produced by the body from food–especially carbohydrates, but also from proteins and fats; glucose is the body’s major source of energy, transported to your body’s cells by your circulatory system.
A human body only needs the equivalent of about one teaspoon of sugar (glucose) for all of its regular activities. When you have more than this in your bloodstream, the excess sugar can slow down your circulation, which over time leads to the complications connected with diabetes.
In order to keep the sugar level in the blood at one teaspoon, your body releases a hormone called insulin whenever you eat foods that contain or convert to sugar in your blood. Examples would be cookies, cakes, pasta, potatoes, sweeteners, or white flour products. Insulin tells your body’s cells to “sponge up” this excess sugar from your bloodstream. Once the sugar is in your cells, it’s used for energy, and any unused sugar is stored as fat tissue.
When your diet consists of too many foods like those mentioned above, your body releases so much insulin so frequently that your cells actually lose their sensitivity to the hormone, which means they sponge up less sugar. The excess glucose stays in your bloodstream, creating the problems associated with diabetes such as circulatory issues, foot ulcers and infections, hyperglycemia, nerve disease, kidney disease and heart disease.
Click here for part 2, Avoiding diabetes with a healthy diet