By Jennifer Morganti, ND, NEEDS Director of Education
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that almost 10 percent of the U.S. population has Type-2 diabetes, and over one third of U.S. cases go undiagnosed. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death and because of a large aging population, statistics are expected to continue to increase steadily.
People with diabetes have high blood-sugar levels (hyperglycemia) caused by insulin resistance or insulin deficiency. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and acts like a taxi that shuttles glucose (sugar) from the blood into the cells, where it is either stored or made into energy (ATP).
Insulin resistance occurs when there is plenty of glucose in the blood, but the cells block insulin from entering and refuse delivery of glucose. In diabetes, there isn't enough insulin, usually because of pancreas dysfunction due to the constant stress of producing more and more insulin.
There are two types of diabetes, Type-1 and Type-2. Type-2 is by far the most prevalent type, yet it is highly preventable and treatable through lifestyle modifications. Type-2 was once called "adult-onset diabetes," but that term has faded over the past decade because it is now showing up increasingly in younger people. Type-2 diabetes develops due to a combination of genetics, lack of exercise, and most significantly, poor dietary choices. As we get older, the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases due to the compounded effects of chronically elevated blood sugar levels, which put excessive strain on the pancreas.
Type-1 diabetes is primarily diagnosed in children. Their pancreas doesn't produce insulin. It isn't the result of lifestyle and environmental factors; therefore, it can only be treated by delivering insulin through injection. Only 5% of the U.S. cases of diabetes are Type-1 and there are no known alternative treatments.
Escalating Rates of Diabetes in the U.S.
Some of the complications of hyperglycemia and diabetes include obesity, cataracts, glaucoma, blindness, nerve damage, periodontitis. Other conditions and complications related to cardiovascular disease include: high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and hypertension. The combination of hyperglycemia, cardiovascular disorders, and obesity constitutes metabolic syndrome, causing an escalated risk of heart attack. It is estimated that over 30% of the U.S. population has metabolic syndrome.
Type-2 diabetes is most prevalent and most within our control to reverse, with a little determination and commitment. The rate of diabetes in the U.S. would significantly decline if we focused on better dietary choices and using supplements that are proven to control blood glucose, rather than depending on drugs to regulate insulin and blood sugar.
Recently, a study was presented at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting about the effects of adding healthy protein to the diet to help stabilize blood sugar and encourage weight loss. Researchers contended that the key to healthy weight loss and blood-sugar stabilization is a diet plan that includes a highcalorie, high-protein breakfast, a medium-sized lunch, and a smaller dinner, which is practically the exact opposite of how many Americans eat.
The focus of the study was to determine if the quality of protein was significant. Study participants had type-2 diabetes and were overweight or obese. They were divided into three groups: group one ate primarily whey protein shakes for breakfast, group two had other protein sources, such as eggs, tuna, or soy for breakfast, and group three had a high-carb breakfast. After 12 weeks, group one lost almost 17 pounds, group two lost over 13 pounds and the high carb breakfast group lost almost 7 pounds. Group one also showed the most improvement in HbA1C blood levels, which is an indicator that blood-sugar levels were more stable over the long run as compared to the other two groups.
Beyond adding whey protein to your meals, these supplements have been found to help support stable blood sugar levels:
Berberine: A large body of research shows that berberine helps improve insulin resistance and stabilizes blood sugar levels, sometimes as well as metformin, a diabetic medication.
Chromium: Improves sensitivity to insulin, helps lower blood sugar. Recommendation: up to 1,000 mcg/day.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: A strong antioxidant. Improves insulin sensitivity and prevents or slows kidney damage; also improves symptoms of diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain). Recommendation: 600-1,200 mg/day.
Magnesium: May improve insulin production in the elderly. Also shown to prevent diabetic retinopathy—a major cause of blindness. Recommendation: 200-600 mg/day
Vitamin E: Those with low levels of vitamin E are more likely to develop diabetes. Shown to improve insulin resistance and decrease damage to nerves, eyes, and kidneys; also reduces chances of stroke. Recommendation: 800 IU/day.
B-vitamins: Shown to reduce blood sugar. B12 may significantly reduce nerve pain and improve nerve functioning when given orally at 500 mcg three times daily. Biotin, another B vitamin, has profound benefits for many with diabetes when given at 16 mg/day for a few weeks; some people's fasting blood sugar reduced by as much as 50 percent.
The key is to prevent the progression of diabetes as early as possible. With proper diet, exercise, and supplements, you can improve blood-sugar stability and prevent the damaging effects of insulin resistance.