Diabetes Epidemic…A Serious and Costly Disease on the Rise - ASSOCIATED COMPLICATIONS AND AIDS TO ASSIST IN THE FIGHT FOR DISEASE PREVENTION
BY FRANK SCHONLAU, PH.D.
DIABETES...WHO DOES IT AFFECT:
17 million Americans—or 6.2 percent of the population—have diabetes, with 11.1 million people diagnosed, and another 5.9 million undiagnosed. In addition, there are 16 million more people between the ages of 40-74 estimated to suffer from Pre Diabetes, also known as Syndrome X. Individuals suffering from Diabetes are characterized by having high levels of blood glucose as a result oftheir inability to produce or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to enter cells and be converted to energy.
DIABETES ON THE RISE:
Numerous studies indicate that diabetes is an ongoing health epidemic…one that shows little sign of slowing down. The American Diabetes Association estimates that one million people, aged 20 years and older, have been diagnosed with Diabetes in 2002. Overall, the number of Americans with diabetes has increased by 61 percent since 1991.
WITH RISING HEALTH EPIDEMIC...COMES ESCALATING COSTS:
A recent study by the American Diabetes Association on diabetes-specific health-related costs found a significant increase of people experiencing diabetes-related health problems. The results of the study estimated the total financial costs (both indirect and direct) of diabetes has increased from $98 billion in 1997, to nearly $132 billion in 2002. Of the $132 billion, the direct diabetes related costs (such as medical care and services) more than doubled, from $44 billion in 1997 to $91.8 billion in 2002. The total indirect diabetes-related costs, such as short-term and permanent disability and premature death, amounted to $39.8 billion. Since diabetes continues to be on the rise, it is safe to assume that health-related costs will follow suit.
COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH DIABETES:
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, leg and foot amputations, pregnancy complications, and even death. The National Vital Statistics Reports (NVSS) final 1999 data finds that diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death, with heart disease being the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths.
TYPES OF DIABETES AND PREVENTION
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF DIABETES:
TYPE 1 (APPROXIMATELY FIVE-10 PERCENT OF ALL CASES), also known as juvenile-onset diabetes because it most often develops in childhood, are individuals who are insulin dependent and require injections. People with Type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin shots to survive, and although there are several clinical trials currently in progress, there are no known methods to prevent this type of diabetes.
TYPE 2 (APPROXIMATELY 90-95 PERCENT OF ALL CASES), or adult-onset diabetes, are individuals who are non-insulin dependent. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body's inability to make enough, or effectively use insulin. The prevalence of Type 2 has tripled in the last 30 years, with much of the increase due to the dramatic number of individuals being obese. Although Type 2 typically develops in adulthood, because of our nation's poor eating and exercise habits, it is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents. Research studies have found that Type 2 diabetics can prevent or delay the onset of the disease through lifestyle changes. More specifically Type 2 diabetics may be able to control their blood sugar levels through weight reduction, improved nutrition, and moderate physical activity. In addition, there are various natural alternatives that can help to fight against both types of diabetes. While supplements cannot reverse the disease by themselves, they can contribute to disease prevention.
PREVENTING DIABETES COMPLICATIONS:
GLUCOSE CONTROL—Research studies performed in the United States and abroad have found that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can benefit from improved blood glucose levels. As a general rule, for every 1% reduction in results of A1C blood tests, the risk of developing microvascular diabetic complications such as eye, kidney, and nerve disease, is reduced by 40%.3 Chromium picolinate, a complex of the mineral chromium with picolinic acid, can be found in natural supplements and is reported to improve glucose levels and assist in weight loss. In addition, Alpha Lipoic Acid, a naturally occurring co-factor in the body, is an ideal antioxidant, and has been shown to have an enhanced effect on the uptake of glucose and subsequently the reduction of glucose levels.
WEIGHT CONTROL—Among those diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic, 67 percent within the United States are overweight and 46 percent are obese. Currently, more than 44 million Americans are considered obese by body mass index (BMI), reflecting an increase of 74 percent since 1991. BMI is a mathematical formula that evaluates a person's weight status by taking their body weight in kilograms and dividing it by the square of their height in meters. In addition to moderate exercise recommended on a regular basis, there are several natural supplements thought to have potential benefits in weight loss. In addition to chromium picolinate, as mentioned above, clinical studies published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proved that green tea not only reduced body weight, but also significantly increased 24-hour energy. Other studies indicate that the Garcinia Cambogia fruit extract may be linked to weight loss by interfering with fat metabolism or appetite suppression.
MAINTAINING VISION—Diabetes is responsible for eight percent of all legal blindness in the United States. The major cause of blindness in diabetics is diabetic retinopathy, which affects over 5.3 million Americans aged 18 and over. Diabetic retinopathy affects the capillaries of the retina. Retinal blood vessels can break down, leak, or become blocked, ultimately affecting or impairing vision over time Pycnogenol is a natural supplement that was shown in clinical trials with more than 1000 diabetics to support capillary function and aid in effectively sealing leaky retinal capillaries. Another supplement found to assist in vision complications of diabetics is Lutein, a potent antioxidant concentrated in the macula of the eye. In a clinical study, Lutein was found to have positive results in lowering the risk of developing age related mascular degeneration, the most common degenerative eye condition in the United States.
BLOOD CIRCULATION-According to the National Institutes of Health, having too much sugar in the blood for an extended time damages blood vessels. This causes the blood vessel walls to thicken, harden and become less elastic. As a result, the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to the skin and tissues is reduced. This poor circulation, especially common in legs, feet and toes, can lead to swelling and even make it difficult for diabetics to fight infections. In fact, from 1997-1999, about 82,000 non-traumatic lower limb amputations were performed each year among people with diabetes. Two natural extracts that are thought to support healthy vein structure are Horse Chestnut, and Butchers Broom. In addition, CoQ10, an antioxidant clinically proven to support healthy cardiovascular function, allows cells to generate the energy they need to function.
MULTI VITAMINS TO PROMOTE OVERALL HEALTH—Multiple studies indicate that antioxidant defense systems are reduced with age. Dietary supplements which include vitamins C & E are suggested to lower free radical concentrations and improve insulin action. In addition clinical studies have found that certain diabetic prescription medications may deplete the human body of essential vitamins and minerals including folic acid, vitamin B12, and CoQ10. Multi vitamins in general provide a variety of vitamins and minerals that Americans commonly lack from their diet alone.