Category Archives: Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Nearly Half of Adults in California Have Prediabetes

The actual figure is 46%, according to researchers at UCLA. The LA Times has the story.

“Our genes and our environment are kind of on a collision course,” said Dr. Francine Kaufman, the former head of the American Diabetes Assn., who was not involved with the research. “It’s not stopping.”

The problem with prediabetes is that it often evolves into full-blown diabetes. It’s also associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke. The Times article says “up to 70% of those with prediabetes develop diabetes in their lifetime.” I’d never heard that vague number before; I say vague because “up to 70%” could be anything between zero and 70. It’s more accurate to note that one in four people with prediabetes develops type 2 diabetes over the course of three to five years.

Prediabetes is defined as:

  1. fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 mg/dl (5.56–6.94 mmol/l), or
  2. blood sugar level 140–199 mg/dl (7.78–11.06 mmol/l) two hours after drinking 75 grams of glucose
Most adults with prediabetes don't know they have it

Most adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it

How To Prevent Progression of Prediabetes Into Diabetes

  • If you’re overweight or obese, lose excess fat weight. How much should you lose? Aim for at least 5% of body weight and see if that cures your prediabetes. For instance, if you weigh 200 lb (91 kg), lose 10 lb (4.5 kg).
  • If you’re sedentary, start exercising regularly.
  • Cut back on your consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, other sugar sources, and other refined carbohydrates like wheat flour.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

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Filed under Prediabetes, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

The Peter Sheehan Diabetes Care Foundation Requests Your Help to Fight Diabetes

 

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The Executive Director of the aforementioned foundation contacted me and asked me to help spread the word about the work they are doing. Goals of this new foundation include diabetes prevention and improvement of diabetes care, especially in at-risk communities. Click the link for more information and consider contributing to their current crowdfunding effort.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Mediterranean Diet Once Again Linked to Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes, Steve Parker MD

Olive oil and vinegar

And eating low glycemic load helps, too, according to an article at MedPageToday. The 22,000 Greek study participants were followed for 11 years. From the article:

The findings suggest that eliminating or strictly limiting high glycemic load foods such as those high in refined sugars and grains and following the largely plant-based Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, can have a significant impact on diabetes risk, La Vecchia said.

“The impact of the diets was synergistic,” he told MedPage Today. “The message is that eating a largely Mediterranean diet that is also low in glycemic load is particularly favorable for preventing diabetes.”

Spanish researchers found the same thing a few years ago.

The Mediterranean diet is also healthy for those who already have type 2 diabetes.

The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet may be the ideal way of eating for diabetics.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Glycemic Index and Load, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Book Review: The Heart Healthy Lifestyle – The Prevention and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

I just finished an ebook, The Heart Healthy Lifestyle: The Prevention and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes by Sean Preuss, published in 2013. Per Amazon.com’s rating system, I give it five stars (I love it).

♦   ♦   ♦

This is an invaluable resource for 1) anyone recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, 2) those who aren’t responding well to their current therapeutic regimen, and 3) type 2 diabetics who want to reduce their drug use.

Strength Training Helps Get Excess Blood Sugar Out of Circulation

Strength Training Helps Get Excess Blood Sugar Out of Circulation

Mr. Preuss is a fitness trainer who has worked with many type 2 diabetics. He demonstrates great familiarity with the issues diabetics face on a daily basis. His science-based recommendations are familiar to me since I reviewed many of his references at my blog, Diabetic Mediterranean Diet.

Like me, Mr. Preuss recognizes the primacy of lifestyle modification over drug therapy for type 2 diabetes, as long as drugs can safely be avoided or postponed. The main lifestyle factors are diet and exercise. Too many physicians don’t spend enough time on these, preferring instead to whip out the prescription pad and say, “Here ya go. I’ll see you in three months.”

I have gradually come to realize that most of my sedentary type 2 diabetes patients need to start a work-out program in a gym where they can get some personal attention. That’s Mr. Preuss’s opinion, too. The clearly explained strength training program he recommends utilizes machines most commonly found in a gym, although some home gyms will have them also. His regimen is easily done in 15-20 minute sessions two or three times a week.

He also recommends aerobic activity, such as walking at least several days a week. He recommends a minimum of 113 minutes a week of low intensity aerobic work, citing evidence that it’s more effective than higher intensity effort for improving insulin sensitivity.

I don’t recall specific mention of High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT holds great promise for delivering the benefits of aerobic exercise in only a quarter of the time devoted to lower intensity aerobics. It may be that it just hasn’t been studied in type 2 diabetics yet.

I was glad to see all of Mr. Preuss’s scientific references involved humans, particularly those with type 2 diabetes. No mouse studies here!

Another strength of the book is that Sean tells you how to use psychological tricks to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

The author notes that vinegar can help control blood sugars. He suggests, if you can tolerate it, drinking straight (undiluted) red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar – 2 tbsp at bedtime or before carbohydrate consumption. I’ve heard rumors that this could be harmful to teeth, so I’d do some research or ask my dentist before drinking straight vinegar regularly. For all I know, it could be perfectly harmless. If you have a definitive answer, please share in the comments section below.

I read a pertinent vinegar study out of the University of Arizona from 2010 and reviewed it at one of my blogs. The most effective dose of vinegar was 10 g (about two teaspoons or 10 ml) of 5% acetic acid vinegar (either Heinz apple cider vinegar or Star Fine Foods raspberry vinegar).  This equates to two tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing (two parts oil/1 part vinegar) as might be used on a salad.  The study authors also say that “…two teaspoons of vinegar could be consumed palatably in hot tea with lemon at mealtime.”

The diet advice herein focuses on replacement of a portion of carbohydrates with proteins, healthy oils, and vegetables.

I highly recommend this book. And sign up for Mr. Preuss’s related tweets at @HeartHealthyTw.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclosure: Mr. Preuss gave me a free copy of the book, otherwise I have received no monetary compensation for this review.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Exercise, Prediabetes, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Periodic Tests, Treatments, and Goals for PWDs (Persons With Diabetes)

If you don't like your physician, find a new one

If you don’t like your physician, find a new one

So, you’ve got diabetes. You’re trying to deal with it or you wouldn’t be here. You’ve got a heck of a lot of medical information to master.

Unless you have a good diabetes specialist physician on your team, you may not be getting optimal care. Below are some guidelines you may find helpful. The goal is to prevent diabetes complications. Many primary care physicians will not be up-to-date on the guidelines. Don’t hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. Nobody cares as much about your health as you do.

Annual Tests

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the following items be done yearly (except as noted) in non-pregnant adults with diabetes. (Incidentally, I don’t necessarily agree with all ADA guidelines.) The complete ADA guidelines are available on the Internet.

  • Lipid profile (every two years if results are fine and stable)
  • Comprehensive foot exam
  • Screening test for distal symmetric polyneuropathy: pinprick, vibration, monofilament pressure sense
  • Serum creatinine and estimate of glomerular filtration rate (MDRD equation)
  • Test for albumin in the urine, such as measurement of albumin-to-creatinine ratio in a random spot urine specimen
  • Comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist (if exam is normal, every two or three years is acceptable)
  • Hemoglobin A1c at least twice a year, but every three months if therapy has changed or glucose control is not at goal
  • Flu shots

Other Vaccinations, Weight Loss, Diabetic Diet, Prediabetes, Alcohol, Exercise, Etc.

Additionally, the 2013 ADA guidelines recommend:

  • Pneumococcal vaccination. “A one time re-vaccination is recommended for individuals >64 years of age previously immunized when they were <65 years of age if the vaccine was administered >5 years ago.” Also repeat the vaccination after five years for patients with nephrotic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, other immunocompromised states (poor ability to fight infection), or transplantation.
  • Hepatitis B vaccination to unvaccinated adults who are 19 through 59 years of age.
  • Weight loss for all overweight diabetics. “For weight loss, either low-carbohydrate, low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to two years).” For those on low-carb diets, monitor lipids, kidney function, and protein consumption, and adjust diabetic drugs as needed. The optimal macronutrient composition of weight loss diets has not been established. (Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.)
  • “The mix of carbohydrate, protein, and fat may be adjusted to meet the metabolic goals and individual preferences of the person with diabetes.” “It must be clearly recognized that regardless of the macronutrient mix, total caloric intake must be appropriate to weight management goal.”
  • “A variety of dietary meal patterns are likely effective in managing diabetes including Mediterranean-style, plant-based (vegan or vegetarian), low-fat and lower-carbohydrate eating patterns.”
  • “Monitoring carbohydrate, whether by carbohydrate counting, choices, or experience-based estimation, remains a key strategy in achieving glycemic control.”
  • Limit alcohol to one (women) or two (men) drinks a day.
  • Limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of calories.
  • During the initial diabetic exam, screen for peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation). Strongly consider calculation of the ankle-brachial index for those over 50 years of age; consider it for younger patients if they have risk factors for poor circulation.
  • Those at risk for diabetes, including prediabetics, should aim for moderate weight loss (about seven percent of body weight) if overweight. Either low-carbohydrate, low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to 2 years). Also important is exercise: at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. “Individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to achieve the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendation for dietary fiber (14 g fiber/1,000 kcal) and foods containing whole grains (one-half of grain intake).” Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • “Adults with diabetes should be advised to perform at least 150 min/week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (50–70% of maximum heart rate), spread over at least 3 days/week with no more than two consecutive days without exercise. In the absence of contraindications, adults with type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to perform resistance training at least twice per week.”
  • Screening for coronary artery disease before an exercise program is depends on the physician judgment on a case-by-case basis. Routine screening is not recommended.
Steve Parker MD, low-carb diet, diabetic diet

Olive, olive oil, and vinegar: classic Mediterranean foods

Obviously, some of my dietary recommendations conflict with ADA guidelines. The experts assembled by the ADA to compose guidelines were well-intentioned, intelligent, and hard-working. The guidelines are supported by 528 scientific journal references. I greatly appreciate the expert panel’s work. We’ve simply reached some different conclusions. By the same token, I’m sure the expert panel didn’t have unanimous agreement on all the final recommendations. I invite you to review the dietary guidelines yourself, discuss with your personal physician, then decide where you stand.

General Blood Glucose Treatment Goals

The ADA in 2013 suggests these therapeutic goals for non-pregnant adults:

  • Fasting blood glucoses: 70 to 130 mg/dl (3.9 to 7.2 mmol/l)
  • Peak glucoses one to two hours after start of meals: under 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/l)
  • Hemoglobin A1C: under 7%
  • Blood pressure: under 140/80 mmHg
  • LDL cholesterol: under 100 mg/dl (2.6 mmol/l). (In established cardiovascular disease: <70 mg/dl or 1.8 mmol/l may be a better goal.)
  • HDL cholesterol: over 40 mg/dl (1.0 mmol/l) for men and over 50 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/l) for women
  • Triglycerides: under 150 mg/dl (1.7 mmol/l)

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) in 2011 proposed somewhat “tighter” blood sugar goals for non-pregnant adults:

  • Fasting blood glucoses: under 110 mg/dl (6.11 mmol/l)
  • Peak glucoses 2 hours after start of meals: under 140 mg/dl (7.78 mmol/l)
  • Hemoglobin A1C: 6.5% or less

The ADA reminds clinicians, and I’m sure the AACE guys agree, that diabetes control goals should be individualized, based on age and life expectancy of the patient, duration of diabetes, other diseases that are present, individual patient preferences, and whether the patient is able to easily recognize and deal with hypoglycemia. I agree completely.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Diabetes Complications, Exercise, Fat in Diet, Fiber, Mediterranean Diet, Overweight and Obesity, Prediabetes, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are epidemics because of excessive consumption of refined sugars and starches, and lack of physical activity.  I can’t prove it; nevertheless that’s my impression after years of pondering the nutrition science literature.

I could be wrong.  I reserve the option to change my mind based on evidence as it becomes available.  That’s one of the great things about science.  Accurately identifying the cause of diabetes could provide strong clues about optimal prevention and treatment strategies.

Genetics undoubtedly plays a major role in diabetes, but the gene pool hasn’t changed much over the last several decades as type 2 diabetes rates have soared.

The problem in type 2 diabetes and prediabetes is that the body cannot handle ingested carbohydrates in the normal fashion. In a way, dietary carbohydrates (carbs) have become toxic instead of nourishing. This is a critical point, so let’s take time to understand it.

NORMAL DIGESTION AND CARBOHYDRATE HANDLING

The major components of food are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. We digest food either to get energy, or to use individual components of food in growth, maintenance, or repair of our own body parts.

We need some sugar (also called glucose) in our bloodstream at all times to supply us with immediate energy. “Energy” refers not only to a sense of muscular strength and vitality, but also to fuel for our brain, heart, and other automatic systems. Our brains especially need a reliable supply of bloodstream glucose.

In a normal, healthy state, our blood contains very little sugar—about a teaspoon (5 ml) of glucose. (We have about one and a third gallons (5 liters) of blood circulating. A normal blood sugar of 100 mg/dl (5.56 mmol/l) equates to about a teaspoon of glucose in the bloodstream.)

Our bodies have elaborate natural mechanisms for keeping blood sugar normal. They work continuously, a combination of removing and adding sugar from the bloodstream to keep it in a healthy range (70 to 140 mg/dl, or 3.9 to 7.8 mmol/l). These homeostatic mechanisms are out of balance in people with diabetes and prediabetes.

By the way, glucose in the bloodstream is commonly referred to as “blood sugar,” even though there are many other types of sugar other than glucose. In the U.S., blood sugar is measured in units of milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), but other places measure in millimoles per liter (mmol/l).

When blood sugar levels start to rise in response to food, the pancreas gland—its beta cells, specifically—secrete insulin into the bloodstream to keep sugar levels from rising too high. The insulin drives the excess sugar out of the blood, into our tissues. Once inside the tissues’ cells, the glucose will be used as an immediate energy source or stored for later use. Excessive sugar is stored either as body fat or as glycogen in liver and muscle.

When we digest fats, we see very little direct effect on blood sugar levels. That’s because fat contains almost no carbohydrates. In fact, when fats are eaten with high-carb foods, they tend to slow the rise and peak in blood sugar you would see if you had eaten the carbs alone.

Ingested protein can and does raise blood sugar, usually to a mild degree. As proteins are digested, our bodies can make sugar (glucose) out of the breakdown products. The healthy pancreas releases some insulin to keep the blood sugar from going too high.

In contrast to fats and proteins, carbohydrates in food cause significant—often dramatic—rises in blood sugar. Our pancreas, in turn, secretes higher amounts of insulin to prevent excessive elevation of blood glucose. Carbohydrates are easily digested and converted into blood sugar. The exception is fiber, which is indigestible and passes through us unchanged.

During the course of a day, the pancreas of a healthy adult produces an average of 40 to 60 units of insulin. Half of that insulin is secreted in response to meals, the other half is steady state or “basal” insulin. The exact amount of insulin depends quite heavily on the amount and timing of carbohydrates eaten. Dietary protein has much less influence. A pancreas in a healthy person eating a very-low-carb diet will release substantially less than 50 units of insulin a day.

To summarize thus far: dietary carbs are the major source of blood sugar for most people eating “normally.” Carbs are, in turn, the main cause for insulin release by the pancreas, to keep blood sugar levels in a safe, healthy range.

Hang on, because we’re almost done with the basic science!

You deserve a break

CARBOHYDRATE  HANDLING  IN  DIABETES  &  PREDIABETES

Type 2 diabetics and prediabetics absorb carbohydrates and break them down into glucose just fine. Problem is, they can’t clear the glucose out of the bloodstream normally. So blood sugar levels are often in the elevated, poisonous range, leading to many of the complications of diabetes.

Remember that insulin’s primary function is to drive blood glucose out of the bloodstream, into our tissues, for use as immediate energy or stored energy (as fat or glycogen).

In diabetes and prediabetes, this function of insulin is impaired.

The tissues have lost some of their sensitivity to insulin’s action. This critical concept is called insulin resistance. Insulin still has some effect on the tissues, but not as much as it should. Different diabetics have different degrees of insulin resistance, and you can’t tell by just looking.  (There are several other hormones involved in regulation of blood sugar.)

Did you know that people who work at garbage dumps, sewage treatment plants, and cattle feedlots get used to the noxious fumes after a while? They aren’t bothered by them as much as they were at first. Their noses are less sensitive to the fumes. You could call it fume resistance. In the same fashion, cells exposed to high insulin levels over time become resistant to insulin.

Insulin resistance occurs in most cases of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. So what causes the insulin resistance? It’s debatable. In many cases it’s related to overweight, physical inactivity, and genetics. A high-carbohydrate diet may contribute. A few cases are caused by drugs. Some cases are a mystery.

To overcome the body tissue’s resistance to insulin’s effect, the pancreas beta cells pump even more insulin into the bloodstream, a condition called hyperinsulinemia. Some scientists believe high insulin levels alone cause some of the damage associated with diabetes. Whereas a healthy person without diabetes needs about 50 units of insulin a day, an obese non-diabetic needs about twice that to keep blood sugars in check. Eventually, in those who develop diabetes or prediabetes, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand for more insulin to overcome insulin resistance. The pancreas beta cells get exhausted and start to “burn out.” That’s when blood sugars start to rise and diabetes and prediabetes are easily diagnosed. So, insulin resistance and high insulin production have been going on for years before diagnosis. By the time of diagnosis, 50% of beta cell function is lost.

Steve Parker, M.D.

EXTRA  CREDIT  FOR  INQUISITIVE  MINDS

You’ve learned that insulin’s main action is to lower blood sugar by transporting it into the cells of various tissues. But that’s not all insulin does. It also 1) impairs breakdown of glycogen into glucose, 2) stimulates glycogen formation, 3) inhibits formation of new glucose molecules by the body, 4) promotes storage of triglycerides in fat cells (i.e., lipogenesis, fat accumulation), 5) promotes formation of fatty acids (triglyceride building blocks) by the liver, 6) inhibits breakdown of stored triglycerides, and 7) supports body protein production.

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Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Mediterranean Diet Prevents Diabetes – Again

Spanish researchers report that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 50% in middle-aged and older Spaniards, compared with a low-fat diet. 

Over 400 people participated in a trial comparing two Mediterranean diets and a low-fat diet.  Over the course of four years, 10 or 11% of the Mediterraneans developed type 2 diabetes, compared to 18% of the low-fatters.  One of the Mediterranean diets favored olive oil, the other promoted nut consumption.

We’ve seen previously that the Mediterranean diet prevents diabetes—not all cases, of course—in folks who have had a heart attack.  It also reduced the risk of diabetes in younger, generally healthy people in Spain.

So What?

The study at hand is not ground-breaking.  It enhances the body of evidence that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest around.  I suppose another way to look at this study would be to say that the low-fat diet caused diabetes.

Learn how to move your diet in a Mediterranean direction at Oldways or the Advanced Mediterranean Diet website. 

Diabetics and prediabetics should consider the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet; otherwise look into the Advanced Mediterranean Diet if you need to lose weight.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Salas-Salvado, Jordi, et al.  Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with the Mediterranean diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus Nutrition Intervention Randomized Trial.  Diabetes Care, epub ahead of print, October 7, 2010.  doi: 10.2337/dc150-1288

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Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Prevention of T2 Diabetes