In part 1, I stated the reasons why the insulin resistance theory of Type 2 diabetes is illogical and unproven. Let me suggest a more logical theory based on the consumption of grains to explain why both India and the US have epidemics of diabetes.
In the 1970s, when it was discovered that Americans experienced an alarming rate of heart attacks, scientists identified cholesterol plaques as the culprit. Naturally, Americans reduced their intake of fat in general and cholesterol in particular. Nutrition experts suggested low-fat diets. Meanwhile, American farmers were cultivating an abundance of grains through improved cultivation methods. Shortly, food manufactures produced dozens of grain and grain-flour products for every meal and snacks. Decades later, it was discovered that the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes has skyrocketed.
In India, our traditional cuisine has emphasized rice, vegetables, herbs and spices. But over the last four decades, with an increase in wealth, our citizens including our youth consume white rice and fast-food items and snack foods with grain-flour ingredients several times per day. Think, when is the last time you had a meal or a snack that did not involve a grain product?
So, how is that in both cultures, grains cause diabetes? The answer is—the persistent activation of a normal body metabolism. Here’s what happens in the body when people overconsume grains.
First, every person has a natural, inherited allotment of fat cells, both in number and size. One person may have a limited capacity to store fat and remain lean, while another may appear obese by virtue of inheriting a large number and/or size fat cells. When we eat, any glucose from our foods that the body cells don’t immediately absorb must get stored as fat in our fat cells. Between meals, the liver releases glucose to maintain the function of brain centers, and stored fat is released as fatty acids that muscles can burn for their energy. Our muscle fibers are like a hybrid car—they can burn glucose or fatty acids. This is the normal body metabolism.
Over time, however, when people eat and eat grains, they eventually fill their fat cells to capacity. A lean person (such as a lean Indian) takes less time to do so compared with people who have inherited a larger fat storage capacity (such as an obese American). This explains why, on average, Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed 10 years earlier in Indians compared to Americans.
What happens next is the key to explaining high blood sugar. When glucose is sent by the liver to be stored in fat cells, it does so in the form of a triglyceride (meaning a composite of 3 fatty acids). When triglycerides arrive at fat cells, they are automatically degraded into fatty acids, which upon entry into the fat cell are reformatted into triglycerides for storage. But, if fat cells are full, these fatty acids are returned to the bloodstream. Muscles begin to burn them nearly all the time, leaving glucose in the blood.
Two findings support the above concept. The incidence of diabetes rose to the highest percentage of any ethnic population in the US among adult Pima American Indians after the tribe was forced to live on reservations and eat Western-style foods that provided almost 50% of their energy from carbohydrate. When diabetic Australian Aborigines who were eating a Western diet that provided almost 50% of energy from carbohydrate were asked to live in the wilderness for 8 weeks, eating trapped animals, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables from nature, they all experienced a drop in their blood sugar to normal ranges. In effect, they avoided foods made from grains and grain-flour.
My recommendations to prevent or reverse diabetes are revealed in Part 3 of this series, to appear in next week’s online edition of India West.
John Poothullil, MD, is a retired physician who practiced for 30 years in Lake Jackson, Texas. He is the author of two books on diabetes. The first, Eat, Chew Live is intended to teach how to prevent diabetes and the other book, Diabetes: The Real Cause and the Right Cure teaches people how to reverse diabetes if they already have been diagnosed. The first book is available in India and the US, and the second book will soon be available in both countries. He is also working on a new book about diabetes and cancer, to be published in October 2017. See www.drjohnondiabetes.com for more information.
(This is Part 2 of a 3-part series.This information is provided by Dr. Poothullil in his individual capacity and does not represent the views of India-West.)