Today’s focus is on the science behind diabetes and treatment (one of Vitarock’s November themes), particularly type 2 diabetes.
TYPE 1 VS. TYPE 2
Type 1 diabetes is the autoimmune type most commonly found in children, while type 2 is caused mainly by obesity, too much sugar and a lack of exercise and is found most commonly in adults. Type 1 is due to too little insulin (the hormone controlling blood sugar levels) from the pancreas, while type 2 is due to the insensitivity of organs to the action of insulin.
Type 2 is much more common than type 1 and type 2 is considered to be a global epidemic. Type 1 is a mystery of sorts; no one really knows why it happens. Some speculate that a viral or other type of infection occurs, and once it is eradicated, the immune system mistakenly “thinks” that the pancreas is the original virus and attacks it. Another theory is that the immune system simply gets confused — understandable given the thousands of genes and hundreds of receptors, all of which work to ensure the proper functioning of the immune system.
TYPE 2 EFFECTS
Type 2 diabetes is straightforward and is the type causing more harm from a global perspective, so let’s focus on it. There is a genetic component, but the strongest causative factor is lifestyle. Being obese, eating excessive simple carbohydrates, (i.e. sugars), and a lack of cardiovascular exercise are the main causes of this disease. The result is an excess of fatty tissue (especially in the abdominal region) and too much sugar in the diet.
Simply put, when we consume something sweet, (like a soft drink), the pancreas releases a large amount of insulin in a very short time. This is called an insulin spike. In contrast, when we consume complex or fibrous carbohydrates, (like a sweet potato,) the sugar is absorbed at a much slower rate, the insulin released is not that great and there are no insulin spikes in the blood.
Generally speaking, insulin spikes are bad. They cause a decrease in the number of receptors for insulin in organs such as the liver, muscle and fat tissue. This hinders the absorption of sugar from the blood into these organs to be utilized for energy. The consequence is that sugar lingers in the blood for too long and at too-high levels. When this happens, the sugar has a toxic effect on the inner lining of tiny arteries (i.e., blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood). This stimulates the build-up of cholesterol fatty plaques inside these blood vessels, which ultimately cause heart attacks, strokes, peripheral arterial disease, blindness and kidney problems.
The other aspect is inflammation. When a person is obese, barely exercising and with a diet made up mainly of junk food, inflammation and free radicals thrive. The fat tissue is actually the biggest source of this inflammation. Inflammation also makes a huge contribution to insulin insensitivity, causing type 2 diabetes. It also accelerates the build-up of arterial plaques leading to the health complications listed above.
Next week I will talk about how to prevent diabetes through proper diet and exercise and how to treat diabetes though natural means once it develops. I’ll also explore a radical new therapeutic technique called earthing.
See you next time.