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The Diabetes Epidemic
Almost 29 million people in the United States alone have diabetes – over 9% of the population. Of that number, the ADA (American Diabetes Association) estimates that 7 million are not aware they have the disease. In 1958 the number of people diagnosed with diabetes was 1.5 million. By 2010 that number had increased to epidemic proportions to 18.8 million.
Medical expenses for people with diabetes are twice that of non-diabetics and the estimated total health care cost in the US in 2012 was $245 billion and growing.

The growth of pre-diabetes is also growing rapidly. The ADA reports that in 2012 there were 86 million cases in people aged 20 and older. An astounding 51% of these cases are in people 65+.

We propose it is time for people to take control of this epidemic. Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes can be prevented in many cases. Factors like diet, exercise, stress and genetics play a role. You may not be able to control your genetics but you can control other factors. Especially the factors that link diabetes to chronic inflammation brought on by poor diet, weight gain, stress and a sedentary lifestyle. An anti-inflammatory diet and moderate exercise can prevent and can even treat type 2 diabetes and does wonders for stress levels.

First, let’s look at the disease process and then the solutions which are offered in part 2 of this article.

Diabetes and the Complication
Photo courtesy of WebMd

Type 2 diabetes results when the body does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin produced in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. When blood sugar is too high it becomes toxic.

Recent research shows that when chronic inflammation is triggered by excess fat in the body, particularly around the abdomen, it plays a significant part in the progression of type 2 diabetes.

When blood sugar levels are constantly high, over time it affects the heart, eyes, skin, kidneys, nerves, as well as other parts of the body. Often, people experience one or more of the associated complications prior to being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes:

Heart Disease – Diabetics are at twice the risk for heart attack and stroke than non-diabetics

Kidney Disease – Diabetes can damage the kidneys due to overwork from high blood sugar. Over time it can cause kidney failure

Eye Complications – Diabetics have an increased risk of blindness, glaucoma and other vision related problems

Nerve Damage (neuropathy) – Damage occures to the nerves throughout the body.

Skin Issues – Diabetes can cause infections, open sores, and chronic itching. Skin related issue are often a first sign of diabetes.

Foot Related Issues – nerve damage, infections and impeded blood flow to the feet can lead to serious problems like chronic pain, gangrene and amputation.

Dental – Diabetics are far more prone to problems with their teeth and gums. Gingivitis and periodontitis increase the risk for heart disease.

How Inflammation Develops
Graphic courtesy of The Scientist

Insulin’s effect on our internal organs and cells are influenced by many factors. The buildup of fat around the stomach and on major organs in the abdomen cause the immune system to produce chemicals that trigger inflammation.

Scientists and physicians are connecting the role of this type of inflammation in the advancement of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, premature aging as well as other types of immune dysfunction.

Inflammatory Chemicals Produced by the Immune System

High levels of inflammation where discovered decades ago in people that had type 2 diabetes. Inflammatory chemicals, produced by the immune system, called cytokines are often significantly higher in type 2 diabetes compared to people that are not diabetics. Cytokines are especially important in the immune system and host an array of actions that regulate health and disease when in balance, including inflammation. When not in balance, they can result in chronic inflammation.

The two highest risk factors, obesity and inactivity, have long been known to promote the development of type 2 diabetes. Generally speaking, a high carbohydrate diet, which in high in inflammation producing foods like Omega 6 fatty acids and grain glutens is associated with both weight gain and triggering inflammatory chemicals.

So, how does extra weight and a sedentary life-style promote chronic inflammation and fuel the progress of diabetes?

Researchers made the connection between type 2 diabetes and elevated cytokine levels inside fat tissue. They concluded that this excess fat causes chronic, low levels of inflammation, causing the immune system to dysfunction. This dysfunction alters the action of the hormone insulin and insulin resistance developed. When chronic high blood sugar is accompanied by high blood pressure, bad cholesterol ratios and excess abdomen fat, it is referred to as Metabolic Syndrome, an all too common combination in diabetes which substantially increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke and brain disorders.

Type 2 diabetes is in part a result of a vicious cycle. The body becomes less and less sensitive to insulin, resulting in insulin resistance which then leads to more inflammation. The rise of chronic inflammation causes more insulin resistance. As blood sugar levels rise more and more, it eventually results in type 2 diabetes. The resulting stress of deterioration in health also contributes to increased inflammation. In the earliest stages, type 2 diabetes is reversible so it pays to address as early as possible.
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