Diabetes is a disorder where the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. As a result of this inability, diabetic individuals experience chronic high blood sugar levels. Obesity is the number one risk factor for the development of diabetes and more than 80% of type-2 diabetics, (the type of diabetes that is caused primarily by lifestyle factors) are overweight or obese. There are a lot of myths surrounding diabetes and obesity, and according to Mark Hyman, MD, functional medicine expert, and author of The Blood Sugar Solution, the perpetuation of the following 5 diabetes and obesity myths is what makes it so hard to overcome them.
Myth #1: Obesity and Diabetes Are Caused by Genetics
We have been led to believe that genetics play a principal role in the development of obesity and type-2 diabetes, however these assumptions are false. Although obesity tends to run in families, genes only play a small role in its development; the rest is a matter of nurture, and not nature. In other words, a major reason why obesity tends to be shared amongst family members is because they also tend to share similar, unhealthy dietary and lifestyle habits. As for type-2 diabetes, it can be brought on by environmental and lifestyle factors. As Dr. Hyman pointed out–the fact that the total number of people in the world with diabetes increased sevenfold, from 35 million to 240 million in the past 25 years, is proof that environmental, and not genetic factors, are primarily to blame for diabetes.
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Myth # 2: Diabetes is Irreversible
A healthy diet in combination with regular exercise is often all that is needed to completely reverse type-2 diabetes. Unfortunately, too many doctors focus solely on fasting blood sugar levels instead of insulin levels when it comes to diagnosing diabetes and this can result in doctors not catching diabetes early enough, states Dr. Hyman. This is problematic, because as the disease progresses, it becomes more difficult to reverse. Nevertheless, the majority of advanced diabetes cases can still be controlled via aggressive lifestyle changes, in combination with the temporary use of insulin medications.
Myth #3: Pre-Diabetes is Nothing to Worry About
If a blood sugar monitor or fasting blood sugar test suggests that you have pre-diabetes, it is not something you should take lightly. Pre-diabetes carries almost all the same risks as diabetes– it increases your risk for heart attack or stroke by 50% and it also increases your likelihood for developing dementia and cancer Pre-diabetes is much easier to reverse than full blown diabetes, and neglecting to proactively reverse it, is foolish and imprudent.
Myth # 4: Insulin Therapy is the Best Treatment Option for Diabetics
Although insulin can effectively reduce high blood sugar levels, it also encourages the storage of fat. Moreover, insulin therapy can lead to an increased appetite and weight gain, increased inflammation and higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels. According to Dr. Hyman, insulin should only be used as a last resort, and the lowest dose possible should be taken. Fortunately, if you are already on insulin, you are not stuck on it for life. Under your doctor’s supervision, you can use a combination of aggressive lifestyle factors and dietary modifications in order to reverse your diabetes and get off the insulin for good!
Myth # 5: Medications That Lower Blood Sugar Levels Can Prevent Heart Attacks and Death in Obese and Diabetic Individuals
According to recent trials in New England Journal of Medicine, treating risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes may not only be ineffective, it may actually be harmful because it ignores the root cause of the disease. In fact, as opposed to reducing heart attacks, strokes and deaths, the world’s #1 diabetes drug, Avandia, contributed to a whopping 47,000 incidences of them in the first ten years of its use alone.
If you suffer from obesity or diabetes, you should shift your focus from increasing insulin and lowering blood sugar levels, to simply getting healthy. By focusing on getting healthy instead of just treating the symptoms of obesity and diabetes, more often than not, the diseases will take care of themselves.