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Cut Your Risk of Diabetes

For many Americans, adopting a healthier diet is a radical change, with sacrifices such as swapping a salad and vegetable juice for a burger and a shake. But the positive results are equally radical in terms of weight loss, improved health and reduction in diabetes risk.
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Do you eat the typical American diet, high in soft drinks (including diet soda), white flour, French fries and processed meats like cold cuts and hot dogs?

Eating that way can increase your risk of developing diabetes by 300 percent.

Are you carrying around extra weight? That raises the risk of getting diabetes a lot. A woman who is mildly obese -- for example, weighing 190 at 5'6" tall -- has a 55 percent chance of getting diabetes. A man who is mildly obese, for instance, who weighs 225 pounds and is 6 feet tall -- has a 57 percent chance of developing diabetes.

This can be prevented, and I will share with you the exciting research on nutrition and foods that can help prevent and reverse diabetes in a moment. But first, a closer look at the problem.

The Diabetes Epidemic:

  • There are 21 million diabetics and 41 million people at risk of becoming diabetic in the U.S.

  • One out of three American children born in the year 2000 is predicted to develop diabetes during their lifetime. For children of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent, the odds are closer to one in two.
  • Diabetes is predicted to increase by 481 percent among Hispanics, 208 percent among blacks and 113 percent among whites by mid century.
  • The estimated total costs of diabetes rose from 23 billion in 1969 to 132 billion in 2002 and is expected to reach 192 billion by 2020
  • However, it is in the cost to the individual and their families where diabetes takes its human toll:

    • Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations and nerve disease in the U.S.

  • Diabetes causes damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.
  • A diagnosis of diabetes doubles your risk of dying over the next 10 years.
  • What makes this so unacceptable is this simple fact: Type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease responsible for this epidemic, is almost totally preventable. Staying fit and lean reduces your odds of developing diabetes by over 90 percent.

    What Is Insulin Resistance?

    Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells do not respond normally to insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas. This condition is called insulin resistance and it leads to high blood sugar, high blood levels of fat (triglycerides) and high blood pressure.

    Once it was a disease seen only in people over 40 and referred to as "adult-onset diabetes." Today, Type 2 diabetes occurs even in young children. Almost half the new cases of childhood diabetes are now Type 2, reflecting the sharp increase in obesity and lack of physical fitness among our children.

    At least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, and this is expected to reach 366 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. Clearly, prevention of Type 2 diabetes must become an international priority.

    We already have the knowledge necessary to reverse the diabetes epidemic.

    Three Steps To Reducing Diabetes Risk

    Cut your risk of Type 2 diabetes in half by increasing physical activity. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise like walking can do it. Adopt a diet rich in vegetables, nuts and seeds. Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. It is estimated that over half of all cases of Type 2 diabetes could be avoided if excessive weight gain in adults could be prevented.

    These steps prevent Type 2 diabetes by preventing insulin resistance. When your diet is high in sucrose (table sugar), saturated fat and white starchy foods like white bread you increase your chances of developing insulin resistance.

    The Diabetes-Inflammation Connection

    Silent chronic inflammation increases your risk of developing diabetes. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet high in fiber, omega-3 fats (the kind found in flax seed and in fish) and carotenoids (the yellow, orange and red colors in many fruits and vegetables) reduces your chances of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.

    For many Americans, adopting a healthier diet is a radical change, with sacrifices such as swapping a salad and vegetable juice for a burger and a shake. But the positive results are equally radical in terms of weight loss, improved health and reduction in diabetes risk. I know this because of my experience in helping people make the switch to an anti-inflammatory diet with our book The Fat Resistance Diet.

    Foods That Cut Diabetes Risk

    The following foods have been associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes in observational studies of people in different countries:

    Flaxseed prevents insulin resistance in four ways, making it the king of antidiabetic foods. Flaxseed is loaded with fiber, omega-3 fats and carotenoids. It also contains a large quantity of lignans, natural compounds shown to reduce insulin resistance in experimental studies. The best way to eat flax is to grind organic flaxseed in a coffee grinder every day, to make sure it's fresh.


    Salmon is a concentrated source of omega-3 fats and carotenoids.

    Green tea contains natural compounds called flavonoids that reduce inflammation, a leading cause of insulin resistance. "Slim Chai Tea," a recipe found in our book, uses spices like chives, cardamom and cinnamon to enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of green tea.


    Walnuts are a source of fiber and omega-3 fat, and eating nuts is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.

    Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, spinach and tomatoes

    These vegetables are six highest in carotenoids. You'll absorb more carotenoids from these by eating them in a meal that contains some healthy fat, like salmon or olive oil.

    Brewing cinnamon in a tea produces an extract that directly increases the sensitivity of your body's cells to insulin. Cinnamon extract was also shown to reduce the blood sugar of people who already had developed Type 2 diabetes.

    Research from Spain found that supplementing a diet with olive oil was inversely associated with diabetes incidence.

    Garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric

    These foods reduce inflammation, one of the chief causes of insulin resistance. Each of these has been shown to reduce blood sugar in scientific experiments.

    Now I'd like to hear from you:

    Do you have diabetes or pre-diabetes? Are you on an exercise and nutrition routine? What have you noticed that helps?

    Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

    Best Health,

    Leo Galland, MD

    Important: Share the health with your friends and family by forwarding this article to them, and sharing on Facebook.

    Leo Galland, MD is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food. Sign up for FREE to discover how your medications and vitamins interact. Watch his videos on YouTube and join the Pill Advised Facebook page.

    References and Further Reading

    PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e19852. Epub 2011 Jun 6. "Immunological and cardiometabolic risk factors in the prediction of type 2 diabetes and coronary events: MONICA/KORA Augsburg case-cohort study" Herder C, Baumert J, Zierer A, Roden M, Meisinger C, Karakas M, Chambless L, Rathmann W, Peters A, Koenig W, Thorand B,Institute for Clinical Diabetology, Leibniz Center for Diabetes Research at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany

    Int J Circumpolar Health. 2007 Apr;66(2):101-12. "National type 2 diabetes prevention programme in Finland: FIN-D2D."Saaristo T, Peltonen M, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Vanhala M, Saltevo J, Niskanen L, Oksa H, Korpi-Hyövälti E, Tuomilehto J; FIN-D2D Study Group. Finnish Diabetes Association, Tampere, Finland.

    Diabetes Care. 2011 Jan;34(1):14-9. Epub 2010 Oct 7."Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with the Mediterranean diet: results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial." Salas-Salvadó J, Bulló M, Babio N, Martínez-González MÁ, Ibarrola-Jurado N, Basora J, Estruch R, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Ros E; PREDIMED Study Investigators. Human Nutrition Unit, Hospital Universitari de Sant Joan, Departament de Bioquímica i Biotecnologia, Institut d'Investigació Sanitària Pere Virgili, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Reus, Spain.

    BMJ. 2010 Aug 18;341:c4229. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c4229. "Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis." Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, Khunti K, Davies MJ. Diabetes Research, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 5WW.

    Diabetes Care. 2010 Feb;33(2):227-32. Epub 2009 Oct 30. "Effects of walnut consumption on endothelial function in type 2 diabetic subjects: a randomized controlled crossover trial." Ma Y, Njike VY, Millet J, Dutta S, Doughty K, Treu JA, Katz DL. Yale University School of Medicine, Derby, Connecticut, USA.

    Int J Clin Pract Suppl. 2011 Feb;(170):71-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2010.02581.x. "Exercise and diabetes." Zisser H, Gong P, Kelley CM, Seidman JS, Riddell MC. Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

    J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):884-9. Epub 2011 Apr 11. "Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis." Davis PA, Yokoyama W.Department of Nutrition, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA.

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;82(3):685-93. "Diabetes mellitus and serum carotenoids: findings of a population-based study in Queensland, Australia." Coyne T, Ibiebele TI, Baade PD, Dobson A, McClintock C, Dunn S, Leonard D, Shaw J. School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

    Full Text: "Diet and Inflammation" Leo Galland, MD, Nutr Clin Pract December 7, 2010 vol. 25 no. 6 634-640

    Power Healing: Use the New Integrated Medicine to Cure Yourself. Leo Galland, 384 pages, Random House, (June 1, 1998)

    The Fat Resistance Diet Leo Galland, M.D. ( 2005)

    This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician -- patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

    For more by Leo Galland, M.D., click here.

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