Type 2 diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. There are 3.9 million people living with diabetes – 90 per cent those of being affected by type 2 diabetes. Here’s another shocking statistic: 1 in 3 UK adults has prediabetes, the condition that precedes diabetes.
As you’ll soon see on BBC One’s Doctor in the House, it is entirely possible to both prevent as well as reverse type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice that is given for the condition is, in my opinion, unhelpful and misguided. Most people think of it as a blood sugar problem but this is the ultimate effect rather than the cause.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that is characterised by chronically elevated blood sugar levels. However, the main cause as well as the driver for this condition is something called Insulin Resistance. When you eat certain foods, particularly refined carbohydrates, that food is converted to sugar inside your body. Your body’s way of dealing with this sugar is to produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin moves the sugar inside your cells so that it can be used for energy. Sounds great, right?
Well, yes and no. When working efficiently, this is a fantastic system that helps your body to function well. But when you have type 2 diabetes, prediabetes or significant abdominal obesity, that system does not work so well.
Eating too many refined carbohydrates elevates your insulin levels for long periods of time and your cells start to become resistant to the effects of insulin. Think of this a bit like alcohol. When you start to drink, a single glass of wine can make you feel drunk. Once your body becomes accustomed to drinking, you need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect. This is what happens in diabetes. You need more and more insulin to do the same thing. The problem is that too much insulin is toxic to the body.
The only way to effectively reverse type 2 diabetes (or even pre-diabetes) is to deal with the underlying cause – Insulin Resistance. Trying to address the blood sugar levels (with medication) without addressing the insulin levels is treating the symptoms, not treating the root cause. It is similar to using a bucket to remove water from an overflowing sink rather than actually turning off the tap!
The most important thing to do is to stop adding fuel to the fire. If Insulin Resistance is driving the condition, you need to firstly stop consuming foods that increase insulin production. Secondly, you need to make some lifestyle changes so that you can become sensitive to insulin once again
All carbohydrates – to some degree at least – will raise your blood insulin levels. That is why I consider type 2 diabetes a form of “carbohydrate intolerance”. Protein can also raise levels but to a much lesser degree. The only macronutrient that keeps your insulin levels and, therefore, your blood sugar stable is FAT! Therefore, if you are trying to reduce insulin levels, you need to reduce your amount of certain carbohydrates and replace them instead with healthy, natural fats.
What does that mean in terms of actual FOOD CHOICES though?
When I say healthy, natural fat – think nuts and seeds, avocados, omega 3 fats (found in almonds, flax seed and cold water fish, like wild salmon, herring, mackerel and tuna), extra virgin olive oil and whole eggs.
And when I talk about reducing certain carbohydrates, I mainly mean reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and bread. Non starchy vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower) are fine and can be eaten in abundance. Many fruits are packed with carbohydrates, so if you’re trying to reduce your carb intake, try and limit your intake to low-carb fruit, such as rhubarb, watermelon, berries, peaches and blackberries.
It is really important to say that I do not believe that there is one perfect diet for everyone. Different people respond to different diets.
However, if you have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or if you have been told you are at high risk or if you have significant abdominal obesity, here are 11 ways to start reversing the effects immediately:
— Dr Chatterjee