Diabesity: What It Is, How To Prevent It
Diabesity (obesity + diabetes) has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. More than 1 billion people globally suffer from diabesity. This includes 100 million Americans, 50% of whom are over the age of 65.
The combination of obesity and diabetes, or diabesity, is arguably the leading cause of death and disability in the world today. After all, obesity and diabetes contribute to most chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, etc. The health costs to treat these diabesity-related diseases are also astronomical.
But what is diabesity and how did it turn into an epidemic?
The term diabesity refers to the insulin resistance and/or pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction that underlies and links obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Diabesity: the link between obesity and diabetes
The link between obesity and diabetes is such an established fact now that the term diabesity was coined to show the interrelationship between them, though who actually coined this term is a matter of debate. Some say endocrinologist and author Dr. Francine Kaufman created this term, others give the credit to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
But one thing that is not debatable is that obesity increases the risk of diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 90% of those who are obese will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. In addition, studies show diabetes also increases the risk of obesity and that approximately 90% of diabetics are also obese.
The link between obesity and diabetes is so obvious now that it is difficult to imagine a time when it wasn’t common knowledge. But just 30 years ago, obesity was an unknown risk factor for diabetes.
In 1990, Walter Willett, who is now a Professor of Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, was among the first researchers to discover the consistent relationship between excess weight and type 2 diabetes. In fact, he and his colleagues discovered weight gain to be the main risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Link finally established as a fact
Despite Dr. Willett’s work, the medical profession didn’t believe these findings, and it was difficult for him to get his first paper on this subject published. But doctors and researchers could not deny the ever-increasing numbers of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Eventually, they had to accept the truth that obesity and diabetes were inextricably linked, but they didn’t know the reason for this link until recently.
You see, many studies show that obesity may cause insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Other studies, however, also show that insulin resistance causes obesity. It appears that obesity and diabetes are two sides of the same disease, each spurring the other’s growth. The true link between obesity and diabetes is that they are both symptoms of the same underlying cause, primarily insulin resistance.
The obesity epidemic
It is probably not a surprise that the link between obesity and diabetes wasn’t discovered until the mid-90s. After all, the obesity epidemic began, most experts agree, in the mid-70s with the low-fat diet craze. That was when the U.S. government developed dietary recommendations promoting low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.
To be fair, when the government recommended eating more carbs and less fat, it meant for our carb consumption to be in the form of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Instead, food manufacturers produced a variety of low-fat and fat-free foods that did not contain any real fruits or vegetables. Most consumers believed anything low-fat or fat-free was good for their health and their waistlines, so they purchased these products. What they didn’t realize is that manufacturers replaced fat with sugar to make these products taste better. With more sugar and no fiber to slow absorption into the bloodstream and no dietary fat to add satiety, the rates of obesity started steadily rising from the mid-70s onward, as did type 2 diabetes and other diseases. The diabesity epidemic had also unofficially begun.
Type 2 diabetes takes years to develop, however, so it took a couple of decades for researchers to realize that it, too, had become an epidemic. All that skilled researchers, such as Dr. Willett, had to do then was to connect the dots.
But before fully diving into diabetes and diabesity, let’s discuss obesity. Obesity is a condition of excessive accumulation of body fat sufficient to increase the risk of health complications. Being overweight and obese can both increase the risk of health problems, but the risk is much higher with obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 40% (93.3 million) of adults in the U.S. are obese, and more than 70% are overweight or obese. The adult obesity rates in the U.S. have doubled since 1980, from 15% to 30%, and the obesity rates of children have tripled.
Health Risks of Obesity
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many health conditions, including:
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Sleep Apnea
- Gallbladder Disease
- Some Cancers
In 2008, these and other obesity-related health conditions accounted for $147 billion in medical costs for the nation. The Centers for Disease Control also states that the medical costs of those who have obesity were $1,429 higher than those of normal-weight people in 2008.
The diabetes epidemic
And diabetes soon followed, with a rising trend of its own. In 1975, 4.78 million people in the U.S had been diagnosed with diabetes. (That was just 2.29% of the population.) That figure rose to 5.53 million people by 1980. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 30.3 (9.4%) of Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes.
In other words, the number of American adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled in the past 38-40 years, these rising rates spurred by the obesity epidemic.
Like obesity, diabetes also increases the risk for many health problems, including:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Foot Damage
- Gallbladder Disease
- Heart Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
- Retinopathy (Disease of the retina of the eye that can lead to blindness.)
According to the American Diabetes Association, the healthcare costs of diabetes in 2017 were $327 billion. (This includes both direct medical costs and indirect costs, such as increased absenteeism, loss of productivity for employers, etc.) Those who suffer from diabetes also spend an estimated 2.3 times higher on medical costs than those who do not have diabetes.
Why traditional treatments for diabesity fail
The epidemic has been growing for many years, and yet nothing “experts” do seems to be working; nothing they try reverses diabesity. That’s because the majority of experts and health officials are focusing on the wrong things. For the past 30 years, they have been treating the symptoms and not the cause of diabesity. And they have frequently been treating these symptoms with medications, which only makes the health problems worse.
Here are some of the treatments doctors prescribe for the most common symptoms of diabesity.
High blood sugar Insulin or oral medication to help lower or regulate blood sugar
Hypertension Diuretic, beta-blocker to help lower blood pressure
High cholesterol Statins to lower cholesterol
Cardiovascular symptoms Aspirin and other medications to help think the blood
Most of these drugs have bothersome or distressing side effects. Plus, you really can’t take medication for one problem without affecting other systems in your body. Why take the risk of creating more health problems for yourself when these solutions aren’t even addressing the real, underlying cause of diabesity?
Causes of diabesity
Though there is a genetic component to diabesity, it is not enough to play a major role in this epidemic.
Studies show the most common cause of diabesity is a poor-quality diet. Let’s discuss diet in more depth.
A poor-quality diet is one that doesn’t provide your body with the nutrients it needs to perform all its functions and thrive. (These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fibers, fats, proteins, and water.) A poor-quality diet also includes an overabundance of foods or ingredients proven to harm your biochemistry.
Unfortunately, many people today regularly eat poor-quality diets, and the rising numbers of people diagnosed with diabesity and other diseases are the outcome. Here are some of the foods and/or ingredients that constitute poor-quality foods.
Ultra-processed foods are mass-produced food-like products often created in a lab with few (or any) whole foods components, and they usually contain large amounts of added sugar and salt. They are also typically loaded with preservatives, artificial colorings and flavorings, and other chemicals. You’ll find ultra-processed foods in the center aisles of the grocery store.
Because ultra-processed foods contain no fiber, they are digested quickly, with the glucose being absorbed into the bloodstream just as quickly. This leads to a huge spike in blood sugar levels, increasing the risk for both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Of course, this also ultimately leads to diabesity. The added sugars and chemicals in ultra-processed foods also damage your biochemistry, particularly the body’s ability to regulate its weight.
A recent study shows more than 60% of the calories in the average American’s diet come from ultra-processed foods, so it is no wonder there is a diabesity epidemic.
Refined carbohydrates (also called simple carbs)
Refined carbohydrates have been stripped of all fiber and most of their nutrients. There are two main types of refined carbohydrates.
Sugars: Yes, sugar is a refined and processed food because it is derived from sugarcane and/or sugar beets. Granulated sugar (sucrose) is the most common type of sugar used in baking and cooking. High-fructose corn syrup is one of the most common types of sugar used in processed foods because it is a cheaper alternative to sucrose. (Because high-fructose corn syrup is sweeter than granulated sugar, manufacturers can use less sweetener in their products and save money.)
Refined Grains: These are grains that have had their bran and germ removed, leaving them without dietary fiber, iron, and many other nutrients. White flour is the most commonly used refined grain. Other refined grains include white rice and white bread.
Like ultra-processed foods, refined carbohydrates are quickly turned into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. This leads to blood sugar surges that can lead to obesity and then type 2 diabetes. Over-consumption of refined carbs is a perfect recipe for diabesity.
5 proven ways to prevent or reverse diabesity
If a poor-quality diet is the main cause of diabesity, as research indicates, then switching to a high-quality diet is the best way to prevent or reverse this disease.
Here are 5 proven ways to do just that:
1. Reduce consumption of processed foods and refined sugars/carbs. Eat more whole foods, which you’ll find on the perimeter of the grocery store. Select plants you could have picked or meats you could have hunted. In other words, they should be unprocessed or very minimally processed. Fresh or frozen fruits and non-starchy vegetables are okay as long as they do not contain added sugars, preservatives, or other chemicals.
2. Increase fiber intake. Fiber slows glucose absorption, preventing blood sugar spikes. This keeps you full for a long time, helping cut any cravings for refined sugars and refined carbs. This alone will help prevent obesity and diabesity.
3. Drink more fluids. Studies show drinking more water increases fat burning, which aids weight loss and reduces the risk of obesity. If water is too boring for your taste buds, add a spritz of lemon. You can also drink green tea sweetened with Stevia, a natural sweetener. Or, make your own SANE soda. Simply purchase plain carbonated water, pour in a blender with one strawberry or other pieces of low-fructose fruit, and blend. Yummy!
4. Prepare more meals at home. Making homemade meals, rather than eating out, allows you to control what ingredients are in the foods you and your family eat.
5. Switch to a SANE Diet. A SANE Diet has been scientifically proven to lower setpoint weight and stabilize blood sugar levels, both of which lead to long-term weight loss. The 3 main food groups to lower setpoint weight are non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, and whole-food fats.
Going SANE to prevent or reverse diabesity
When eaten together at the same meal, those 3 SANE food groups work together to fill you up fast, keep you full for a long time, trigger fat-burning hormones, and lower setpoint weight. You can even enjoy 0-3 servings of low-fructose fruit per day. With SANE, you won’t feel deprived or hungry, and you will effortlessly lose weight. How awesome is that?!!!
Next step: End Obesity, diabetes, diabesity with the SANE plan.
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