Diabetes – The New Epidemic

by Maria Zilka, NT

It would be hard to find a medical expert these days, conventional or otherwise, who wouldn’t agree that our sugar-based diets are killing us. Our daily bread has turned into a non-stop feeding frenzy of refined carbohydrates including many breads, pastries, sweets, over-processed cereals and artificial sweeteners. And despite the warning signs – epidemic rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and depression – we continue to indulge ourselves on this poison, sugar.

And the real danger is that sugar has an insidiously addictive quality. Studies done at Harvard, MIT and other universities confirm that eating refined carbohydrates temporarily raise levels of the brain’s four “feel good” neurotransmitters – serotonin, endorphin, dopamine and GABA. These foods actually can give us a “high” similar to drugs and alcohol. That can be why for some they are almost impossible to give up.

Yet when asked, most people will tell you they don’t eat a lot of sugar. It may be surprising to know that if you are eating pre-packaged and manufactured food, you are eating a lot more sugar than you probably know. Today, sugar is found in almost all of these products in several different forms, and often under hidden names like rice extract, succanat, mannitol, disaccharides, dextrose and the most infamous of all – high fructose corn syrup. And a new marketing trick is to make it sound healthy by saying organic cane sugar or golden syrup – which is still just sugar. Processed foods account for more than 90 percent of the money Americans spend on meals. So even if the box says “healthy” and “organic” you are often only getting a nutrient-less, high sugar meal.

Why does blood sugar matter so much? Elevated blood sugar levels equal elevated insulin levels – which are the foundation of nearly every chronic disease known to man from cancer and arthritis to heart disease and of course, diabetes. Diabetes is now considered an epidemic with cases having increased from 1.6 million in 1958 to a whopping 15.1 million today! It is estimated that one in three children born in the U.S. are at risk of developing this disease. It is safe to say that never before in the history of mankind have we had a greater need to lower blood sugar.

However, diabetes doesn’t happen overnight. There is a path toward the disease and another path that leads away from it. People who suffer from Reactive Hypoglycemia – where they have a marked decline in blood sugar 4 to 5 hours after eating a meal and often experience shakiness, irritability and a “crash” both physically and emotionally – are actually in the early stages of insulin resistance. Choosing to ignore these dramatic symptoms from your body can lead to diabetes.

So what can you do to protect your health? First, take care what you eat. A bowl of pasta can cause you to crash just as mightily as a candy bar! Avoid processed, pre-packaged foods as much as possible opting for the tastier, healthier fresh foods abundant on the “outer ring” of the grocery store. (The middle aisles are where you find most of the shelf stable foods –meaning processed.) Bring back the fiber in your diet – fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar. A piece of fruit is a much better choice than a glass of juice as it provides the necessary fiber to help metabolize the sugar. Secondly, get moving! Exercise is fundamental to good health and can help utilize a lot of your quick energy from carbohydrates. And lastly, educate yourself. You can ignore symptoms for only so long before they turn into something you can no longer avoid. Talk to your doctor, learn to cook, read books on the subject and above all, listen to your body.

Come see us at the Diabetes Expo, Saturday February 20 at the Oregon Convention Center. We’ll be at booth 900!