I doubt that there is a person in the Western World who doesn’t know at least one diabetic. Worldwide, there are around 250 million known cases and millions more undiagnosed. Could it be the end of us?
The circulatory system is the first to part of the body to be adversely affected by diabetes. If blood sugar is left unchecked or is not stable, the health of all organs in the body are at risk. Most commonly, the eyes, kidneys, heart and peripheral nerves are affected. If we can’t radically alter the pattern of this growing phenomenon – soon – I believe that the human species will fall into two subtypes – one that lives and reproduces and one that struggles with both of these. Let me explain.
Firstly, how does someone become a type 2 diabetic? There is a lot of science involved, some of which I don’t understand and no-one has all the answers – believe me I’ve looked. Remember too that just like me, all these people who expound on the topic are voicing an opinion or voicing their interpretation of research results. I am not a scientist but just try to see what is logical from our evolution. This offers us some reliable clues – some still open to interpretation of course, but generally history doesn’t change its mind as often as science does!
In Europe our ancestors existed through seasons, taking what food we could find from each one – and due to varying weather conditions, this would have been hit and miss. Spring: very little vegetation early in the year, but roots and shoots plus fish, birds and their eggs and animals. Summer: more vegetation, young birds, animals, fish, eggs and a few early fruits. Autumn: still some vegetation, roots, animals, birds and fish, more fruits (but remember these would have only been berries and a few small cherries), seeds and nuts. Winter: animals, birds and fish, nuts and seeds that had been stored from autumn, roots, probably, probably insects and very few fresh leaves or other vegetation. Much of the year, they would have been living on their fat reserves – and the ketones produced from the breakdown of fat. This is the body’s preferred fuel and today this diet is called ketogenic.
In the views of many authorities, we have not changed much genetically in the last 10,000 years. In terms of nutrition, this diet would have sustained us – providing all nutrients necessary for existence and procreation. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that a diet far removed from this would be beneficial to us now. We got to this point in time because we became omnivorous, which to my way of thinking is nature’s way of protecting the species. (I should say here that when nature sees an advantage which aids the progression of a species, it can switch genes on and off to make use of this advantage. This is why we will continue to evolve – but very slowly.)
Our ancestral diet is relatively high fat (think duck, wild boar and organ meat which have a high fat content), medium protein and low carbohydrate. Diabetes was unheard of as we know it. People ate what they had to – not what they fancied!
Now to diabetes; during our evolution we developed the ability to digest all the above macro-nutrients. The relatively low carbohydrate content supplied by vegetation, roots, nuts, seeds, fruit and an occasional (rather painful I expect!) foray into wild honey, needs the hormone insulin for metabolism. All these foods contain sugars that must be broken down into their simplest form for absorption – glucose. This was undoubtedly a life-saver all those years ago, because insulin is the fat-storing hormone. It can change glucose to fat for storage. During summer and autumn, when there would be a reasonable amount of carbohydrate containing foods around, fat could be stored for winter energy when times were lean. Brilliant! The human body is so amazing!
Now think about what happens today. We eat what we want, not what we need. We eat bread, cereals, fruit, potatoes (a recent addition to our vegetables – around 400 years ago) and rice every day and most often three or more times a day – because the government says we should! Insulin will be in our bloodstreams almost constantly and if you are not expending energy then your muscles don’t require a glucose diversion and all glucose in the blood will be stored as fat. After a of time eating this way, the body becomes “insulin resistant” – more and more insulin is needed to provide the same function and it is this state that can contribute to, or maybe even cause, type 2 diabetes.
There are some other possible predisposing factors for type 2 diabetes too:
Low vitamin D levels
Poor gut health
High intake of polyunsaturated fats
Diabetes in your family
Heart disease in your family
Obesity (indicative not causative)
So why do I think we’ll split into two sub-groups? Well, my theory is to do with the main effect of glucose imbalance – damage in the circulatory system. Unchecked glucose in the bloodstream leads to inflammation – and this is disease provoking. Due to roughening of the blood vessel walls, the body sends out the rescue team which tries to repair the damage. This ultimately compromises arterial blood flow by narrowing the lumen, thus reducing the flow to all organs. Now, younger and younger people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – even as young as teenagers. Diabetes can affect the artery supplying the groin. In men this can cause erectile dysfunction and production of sperm. In women it can cause poor blood flow via the umbilical cord to a growing foetus, making spontaneous miscarriage likely or the baby could be born with serious health problems. These scenarios will lead to fewer viable pregnancies and therefore population decline. People who obtain all the nutrients – in the right proportions – for human existence will continue to thrive and produce healthy offspring. Please remember that this is my view and I have only my own observations to back me up. Something needs to be done about this situation but I suspect it will get far worse before it gets better. Sorry to be the harbinger of doom!
The advice I would give if you believe you are at risk is to go for a low-carbohydrate, natural, organic food diet. (Here are my health guidelines) Some nutritionists think it is a good idea to have your daily carb “fix” (if you need one) just once in the day, maybe breakfast or lunch time in order that you raise your insulin levels substantially, only once during the day. I think it is better to spread them over the day and get most of the carbohydrates from the most nutritious sources – nuts, seeds, root vegetables, fruits occasionally (and try to stick to berries and cherries). Leave cereals alone if you can or make them special occasions only.
By the way, animal fat is a definite must for diabetics and those with the risk factors, so go ahead with creamy (but not floury) sauces, pastured eggs, butter on your veg and the delicious fat and crackling from the organic roast pork!
This is a doctor’s view of the standard recommendations for diet, given to diabetics.