By Dr. Mercola
Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and up to 95 percent of these cases are type 2 diabetes.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease that shuts down your body's insulin production, type 2 diabetes is directly caused by lifestyle. Whereas type 1 diabetics need to inject insulin several times a day to stay alive, type 2 diabetics do NOT need drugs. In fact, taking drugs for type 2 diabetes can be far worse than the disease itself!
Diabetes Drugs Increase Your Risk of Death
Drugs are widely prescribed for type 2 diabetics to help lower blood sugar levels, but a new meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials involving more than 33,000 people showed that this treatment is not only ineffective, it's dangerous as well. Treatment with glucose-lowering drugs actually showed the potential to increase your risk of death from heart-related, and all other causes.
"The overall results of this meta-analysis do not show a benefit of intensive glucose lowering treatment on all cause mortality or cardiovascular death. A 19% increase in all cause mortality and a 43% increase in cardiovascular mortality cannot be excluded."
Lessons Learned from Avandia: Diabetes Drugs Can be Deadly
Avandia (rosiglitazone) is the poster child for what is wrong with the drug treatment of type 2 diabetes. After hitting the market in 1999, a 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine linked it to a 43 percent increased risk of heart attack, and a 64 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death, compared to patients treated with other methods!
Avandia works by making diabetes patients more sensitive to their own insulin, helping to control blood sugar levels. In fact, most conventional treatments for type 2 diabetes utilize drugs that either raise insulin or lower blood sugar. Avandia, for example, reduces your blood sugar by increasing the sensitivity of your liver, fat, and muscle cells to insulin.
Millions of people have taken Avandia and have been exposed to these unacceptably high-risk side effects, for a drug that in no way treats the underlying causes of diabetes. More than 80,000 diabetics have suffered from strokes, heart failure or other complications including lethal heart attacks from this dangerous drug.
It took nearly 10 years of the drug being on the market for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action and restrict access to this dangerous drug, whereas the European Medicines Agency banned it altogether.
Since that 2007 NEJM study, data from various trials, studies and meta-analyses have consistently confirmed the dangers of this drug, and based on the evidence amassed over the past three years, the European Medicines Agency is now recommending the withdrawal of rosiglitazone-containing diabetic drugs due to the increased risk of ischemic heart disease.
The only thing rosiglitazone drugs like Avandia do is to help lower blood glucose, which has virtually no influence on the long-term damage due to type 2 diabetes. Most of the damage is caused by elevated insulin levels, which can be remedied with an optimal diet and exercise program alone, if you're compliant.
And Avandia is only one example. Other studies have also confirmed that most drugs given to type 2 diabetics are at best worthless and at worst harmful or even deadly. Last year the New England Journal of Medicine featured not one, not two, but FOUR studies backing up the conclusion that the path of conventional medicine is leading diabetics astray, and doing far more harm than good. The studies revealed:
- Using antihypertensives to lower systolic blood pressure below a 120 mm Hg does nothing to lower a diabetic's risk of heart complications
- Diabetics receive no health benefit from adding a drug to raise HDL "good" cholesterol levels if they're already taking a statin to lower their LDL cholesterol levels
- There were no heart benefits associated with two different drugs given to lower high blood sugar levels
Lowering Blood Sugar is Not the Correct Strategy to Overcome Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is not a blood sugar disease. So, drugs that focus on the symptom of elevated blood sugar, rather than addressing the underlying cause, are doomed to fail in most cases. Rather, as explained in this classic article by Dr. Ron Rosedale, type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by insulin resistance and faulty leptin signaling (leptin is a hormone produced in your fat cells), both of which are regulated through your diet.
As Dr. Rosedale states:
"Much more appropriate names for type 1 and type 2 diabetes would be insulin-deficient or insulin-resistant diabetes respectively, stressing the importance of insulin signaling in this disease. And in this case, the progression and deterioration of so-called type 1 and type 2 diabetes into one another should more appropriately be called Doctor Induced Exacerbation or DIE, stressing the significance of current medical treatment as the cause of … double diabetes."
For the last 50 years or so, Americans have followed the dietary recommendations of a high complex carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet—the exact opposite of what actually works for preventing and reversing diabetes! High complex carbohydrates include legumes, potatoes, corn, rice and grain products. Aside from legumes, you actually want to AVOID all the rest to prevent insulin resistance.
"Conventional wisdom" also states that table sugar is okay for diabetics, as long as you readjust your medications to compensate appropriately. But if you have diabetes, I recommend limiting or even eliminating sugar from your diet, especially in the form of fructose.
Fructose does not stimulate a rise in leptin, so your satiety signals are suppressed. It also raises your insulin and your triglycerides, which effectively reduces the amount of leptin crossing your blood-brain barrier. This interferes with the communication between leptin and your hypothalamus. Your brain senses starvation and prompts you to eat more.
Dr. Rosedale adds:
"I have been incensed about the [conventional] medical treatment of diabetes for decades. Diabetics have been told that they can eat meals multiple times daily that turn into sugar and even sugar itself, as long as they take enough insulin to lower their blood sugar. The importance of limiting the intake of sugar and foods that turn into sugar has been almost totally ignored.
There has been virtually no recognition that high levels of insulin are at least as much of an insult to a person's health as high levels of sugar."
Conventional nutritionists also recommend using toxic artificial sweeteners like aspartame in lieu of sugar for diabetics, despite the evidence showing it rapidly stimulates the release of insulin and leptin (which diabetics need to avoid), and actually leads to greater weight gain than sugar...
When you add drugs to this harmful mix, your pancreas is actually stimulated to produce even more insulin, and this is the last thing that a type-2 diabetic, whose pancreas has been producing excess insulin for some time to try to compensate for being insulin resistant, needs. Dr. Rosedale states:
"With blinders on, drugs have been and are still being given to lower blood sugar, even though they essentially whip the islet cells of the pancreas to produce more insulin. These unfortunate, overstressed islet cells have been producing excess insulin for years and often decades to try to compensate for the insensitivity, the resistance of the body's cells to insulin's signal.
This is much like whipping a horse to run faster at the end of a race; it runs faster for a little while, but if you keep doing it, it collapses and dies. So too do the islet cells that manufacture insulin in the pancreas die when drugs, nay doctors, whip them to keep producing more insulin when they are tired and sick.
At this point, a diabetic, who originally had plenty of insulin being produced, and whose problem was merely one of insulin resistance that is easily remedied via proper treatment and diet, now starts losing the ability to produce insulin and becomes, in addition to insulin resistant, insulin deficient; a much more serious and problematic disorder caused by DIE."
Leptin May be Even More Important Than Insulin
In terms of diabetes, leptin may even supersede insulin in importance, for new research is revealing that in the long run glucose and therefore insulin levels may be largely determined by leptin.
Dr. Rosedale explains:
"It had been previously believed that the insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat tissues were the most important factor in determining whether one would become diabetic or not. Elegant new studies are showing that the brain and liver are most important in regulating a person's blood sugar levels especially in type 2 or insulin resistant diabetes.
It should be noted again that leptin plays a vital role in regulating your brain's hypothalamic activity which in turn regulates much of a person's "autonomic" functions; those functions that you don't necessarily think about but which determines much of your life (and health) such as body temperature, heart rate, hunger, the stress response, fat burning or storage, reproductive behavior, and newly discovered roles in bone growth and blood sugar levels.
Another very recent study reveals leptin's importance in directly regulating how much sugar that the liver manufactures via gluconeogenesis.
Many chronic diseases are now linked to excess inflammation such as heart disease and diabetes. High leptin levels are very pro-inflammatory, and leptin also helps to mediate the manufacture of other very potent inflammatory chemicals from fat cells that also play a significant role in the progression of heart disease and diabetes. It has long been known that obesity greatly increased risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes, but no one really knew why."
This is an important distinction but the take-home message remains the same, because both insulin resistance and leptin resistance are caused by the same thing: poor diet. Dr. Rosedale continues:
"High blood glucose levels cause repeated surges in insulin, and this causes one's cells to become "insulin-resistant" which leads to further high levels of insulin and diabetes. It is much the same as being in a smelly room for a period of time. Soon, you stop being able to smell it, because the signal no longer gets through.
I believe the same happens with leptin. It has been shown that as sugar gets metabolized in fat cells, fat releases surges in leptin, and I believe that those surges result in leptin-resistance just as it results in insulin-resistance.
The only known way to reestablish proper leptin (and insulin) signaling is to prevent those surges, and the only known way to do that is via diet and supplements.
As such, these can have a more profound effect on your health than any other known modality of medical treatment."
This is why many type 2 diabetics become worse by following current medical recommendations and treatment. If your physician has not talked to you about the importance of limiting sugars, fructose and grains, and only wants to give you drugs, your diabetes will get worse, not better. Dr. Rosedale adds:
"Your body's cells become desensitized to insulin (and importantly to leptin and other hormones) by being overexposed to these hormones by eating food that causes excessive secretion. This is much like being overexposed to an odor in a room; soon you can't smell it. If you eat a diet high in sugar-forming foods, the excess insulin that is being produced each time causes your cells to eventually become unable to properly "smell" the insulin."
So remember, type 2 diabetes is a perfect example of a health problem best treated without drugs; lifestyle changes are the ticket to wellness you're really looking for. This is a disease that is reversible, and in many cases curable, by paying attention to decades of metabolic science!
Beware of New Statin-Fish Oil Pill Coming to Market
Aside from drugs to lower blood sugar, many physicians will advise diabetics to take a statin cholesterol-lowering drug to lower your heart disease risk. This is wrong on many levels (not the least of which is the fact that cholesterol is NOT the cause of heart disease!), including the fact that statin drugs may actually cause diabetes. A meta-analysis, published in JAMA in June, concluded that those taking higher doses of statins were at increased risk of diabetes compared to those taking moderate doses.
What this means is that the higher your dose, the higher your risk of developing diabetes.
Statins appear to provoke diabetes through a few different mechanisms, the most important being that they increase your insulin levels, which can be extremely harmful to your health. Statins also increase your diabetes risk by raising your blood sugar and robbing your body of certain valuable nutrients, which can also impact your blood sugar levels. Two nutrients in particular, vitamin D and CoQ10, are both needed to maintain ideal blood glucose levels.
It's important that you're aware of this connection because GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the new prescription-strength fish oil medication, sold under the name Lovaza, has a new combination statin-fish oil drug in the works, which has reportedly already passed the required FDA tests.
While high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats are essential for preventing type 2 diabetes, prescription-strength fish oil combined with a statin drug is not. So don't be fooled by this new "wolf in sheep's clothing" that's part of Glaxo's "all-natural" PR campaign.
You Can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Please don't let anyone tell you that type 2 diabetes has no cure, as this is not true. Type 2 diabetes is not terminal; you don't have to live with it forever! Nearly 100 percent of type 2 diabetics can be successfully treated -- eliminating the symptoms of diabetes, or the high risk of developing health complications -- if you are willing to implement the lifestyle changes discussed below. These same changes will also drastically reduce your risk of the disease, so you can avoid developing it in the first place.
- Severely limit or eliminate grains and sugar from your diet, especially fructose, which is far more detrimental than any other type of sugar. This is extremely important! Drinking just one sweetened drink a day can raise your diabetes risk by 25 percent compared to drinking one sugary drink per month, so you really need to evaluate your diet and look for hidden sources of sugar and fructose. Artificially sweetened food and drinks should be avoided as well.
This also means avoiding most processed foods, as they are loaded with fructose. You may even need to avoid fruits until your diabetes is under control.
- Following my nutrition plan will help you do this without much fuss. It's important to realize that nearly all type 2 diabetics need to swap out their grains for other foods, such as healthy sources of protein or vegetable-only carbohydrates.
- Exercise is an absolutely essential factor, without which you're highly unlikely to get this devastating disease under control. It is clearly one of the most potent ways to lower your insulin and leptin resistance. Make sure to incorporate high-intensity Peak Fitness exercises. These types of exercises boost fat loss, promote muscle building, and help your body produce human growth hormone (HGH) naturally. Typically, you'll need large amounts of exercise until you get your blood sugar levels under control. You may need up to an hour or two a day. Naturally, you'll want to gradually work your way up to that amount, based on your current level of fitness.
- Avoid trans fats as they will actually worsen insulin resistance.
- Consume saturated fats, such as grass-fed organic meat, raw dairy products, avocados, and coconut oil. These saturated fats provide a concentrated source of energy along with the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. When you eat healthy fats as part of your meal, they slow down absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
There are more than a dozen different types of saturated fat, but you predominantly consume only three: stearic acid, palmitic acid and lauric acid. It's already been well established that stearic acid (found in cocoa and animal fat) has no effect on your cholesterol levels at all, and actually gets converted in your liver into the monounsaturated fat called oleic acid.
The other two, palmitic and lauric acid, do raise total cholesterol. However, since they raise "good" cholesterol as much or more than "bad" cholesterol, you're still actually lowering your risk of heart disease.
- Get plenty of omega-3 fats from a high quality, animal-based source such as krill oil.
- Monitor your fasting insulin level. This is every bit as important as your fasting blood sugar. You'll want your fasting insulin level to be between 2 to 4. The higher your level, the worse your insulin receptor sensitivity is. The recommendations mentioned above are the key steps you need to achieve this reduction.
- Get enough high-quality sleep every night.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Maintaining your vitamin D levels around 60-80 ng/ml can significantly help control your blood sugar. In addition, recent studies have revealed that getting enough vitamin D can also have a powerful effect on normalizing your blood pressure, and reduces your risk of heart disease.
Having optimal vitamin D levels can also prevent type 1 diabetes in your children if you are pregnant. It's also vital for infants to receive the appropriate amounts of vitamin D in their early years for the same reasons. Ideally, you'll want to do this by exposing a large amount of your skin to appropriate amounts of sunshine (or a safe tanning bed) on a regular basis, year-round. Your body can safely create up to 20,000 units of vitamin D a day this way. Just remember to get your levels tested regularly by a proficient lab to make sure you're staying within the therapeutic range.
- Address any underlying emotional issues and/or stress. Non-invasive tools like yoga, journaling and meditation can be extremely helpful and effective.