There are about 4 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and there are probably millions more who are not yet diagnosed, or who have pre-diabetes and will soon have the full disease. It has become so common, I worry that some people may be slightly too relaxed about it but it is an awful disease and nobody should be blasé. Most people would say that diabetes is too much glucose in the bloodstream. It is true that diabetics have too much sugar in their blood but that is not really the disease: it is a symptom of the disease. The real disease is Insulin Resistance, which can also be referred to as Carbohydrate Intolerance.
If you have diabetes, it will degrade your blood vessels. The tiny capillaries in your kidneys and the retina of your eyes can become so damaged that you need kidney dialysis and may go blind. Diabetes also greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and this is the major cause of death in diabetic people. Some of your nerve fibres can be damaged causing neuropathic pain, which is a nagging pain that normal pain killers do not control. The damaged blood vessels in your legs reduce the blood flow to your feet and this leads to ulcers that will not heal. These ulcers can develop gangrene and then you will have to have your toes, feet or legs amputated. In England alone, 120 diabetics have part of a limb amputated every single week
A healthy adult circulation contains about 10 pints of blood with one teaspoon (or 5 grams) of glucose dissolved in it. The level of glucose is very strictly controlled. When it falls too low, the hormone glucagon is released and glucagon brings glucose out of storage and into the blood. If the level rises too high, the hormone insulin is released and insulin transports glucose out of the blood and into the cells. If the cells don’t need any more glucose and the storage area is full, insulin gets the liver to convert the extra glucose into fat and stores it in the fat cells.
The reason obesity is so closely linked to diabetes is because, if insulin didn’t convert excess glucose to fat and store it away, you would become diabetic whenever you ate too much starchy food. (Starch is just a lot of glucose molecules joined together.) Putting on weight is the body’s way of avoiding diabetes. Eventually though, the body cannot cope anymore and the system breaks down and blood sugar goes up. Obesity and diabetes are linked because they are both symptoms of insulin resistance. Obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: they are both caused by too much sugar.
What causes insulin resistance? Insulin does. The carbohydrates you eat are converted to glucose which raises your blood sugar and increases insulin production. Over the years, an excess of insulin in the blood makes your cells resistant to it and then it cannot do its job. Blood sugar goes up, which stimulates more insulin production, leading to more resistance and, suddenly, you have type 2 diabetes.
These are some of the common symptoms of diabetes: increased thirst; frequent urination; dry mouth; unexplained weight loss; feeling tired and weak; blurred vision with headaches; and recurrent infections, especially thrush. If you go to your doctor with any of these symptoms, you will be given some tests and if you have high levels of blood glucose, you will be told that you have type 2 diabetes. It is very likely that you will also be told that diabetes is a progressive, incurable disease. You will be given medication which either increases sensitivity to insulin or increases insulin production. You will also be told to control your diet. Unfortunately, the dietary advice you are likely to get will make your diabetes worse. The standard advice is to eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains and to reduce the amount of fat you eat, in a mistaken attempt to lose weight. If you want to avoid diabetes, or make it go away if you already have it, you should completely ignore the official dietary advice.
Diabetes is a disease of too much insulin but when the tablets no longer work, they will inject you with insulin. The only food group that does not stimulate insulin is fat and they want you to avoid it. Fruit and whole grains have high levels of carbohydrate which raise your blood sugar and insulin. If you follow the official advice, you will discover that what they told you told is true; diabetes is progressive and incurable. If you ignore the official advice and eat a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet, you will avoid diabetes and quite probably reverse it if you already have it. Please note, if you are taking medication for diabetes and you change to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet you must tell your doctor and monitor your blood very closely because your sugar levels will fall and the medication may precipitate a hypo.