The Perilous Path to Diabetes

From the standpoint of saving lives, this chapter should prove to be the most significant one I have ever written. Here's why: For the past two decades, two illnesses have escalated so rapidly that they are considered twin epidemics-obesity and Type II diabetes. I might go so far as to say they are Siamese twins.

Obesity and Type II diabetes are actually two aspects of a single illness, characterized by insulin resistance (insulin not doing its job in your body) and hyperinsulinism (excess production of insulin). The overlap between the two is impressive. Over eighty percent of Type II diabetics are obese.' And in my experience, the vast majority of obese people have the identical problems that lead to diabetes. The most convincing connection of all is that these twin epidemics escalated at exactly the same time, coinciding perfectly with dramatic changes in the American diet. During the generation in which these conditions reached unprecedented heights, the intake of dietary fat fell from forty to thirty-three percent of total calories consumed. But, predictably, the intake of refined carbohydrates, including both sugar and flour, went up by an even greater amount.

Type II diabetes is caused by a genetic predisposition to the disease and/or a diet filled with refined carbohydrates combined with an overall decrease in physical activity. Let me call your attention to one of the most important books ever written, Saccharine Disease: The Master Disease of Our Time. By British Surgeon Captain T. L. Cleave, MD, the book examined nearly a dozen cultures in which diabetes (and coronary heart disease as well) simply never occurred until twenty years after the people in that culture began to consume significant amounts of refined carbohydrates (a further discussion of Cleave's findings appears in Chapter 27).

Cleave's logic has been confirmed with a worldwide epidemic of diabetes. United Nations researchers have stated that by the year 2025, our planet is likely to have three hundred million diabetic residents, the greatest number of which will be from nations that had very few cases of diabetes until they supplemented their indigenous diets with excessive amounts of refined foods.

I am not alone in my concern that diabetes is a looming national health crisis. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has redefined its standard for diagnosing the illness, enabling physicians to identify it at an early stage, when treatment can be more effective. In 1997 the Centers for Disease Control estimated that almost sixteen million adults in the United States had diabetes. Almost eight hundred thousand new cases are diagnosed yearly. Direct and indirect costs of the illness were figured at ninety-eight billion dollars annually in 1997!

Even children are now at risk for Type II diabetes-although it has generally been referred to as adult onset diabetes. A Cincinnati study was typical of many that are currently being published-researchers found that the incidence of children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 diagnosed with Type II diabetes had increased tenfold from 1982 to 1994. All evidence indicates that this disturbing trend is continuing. Further, African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are at a significantly higher risk for diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, a statistic that presumably has a close relationship to their higher rates of obesity, although there may be a genetic component as well.

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