Two new studies show that you can help to prevent Type II diabetes by following a regular exercise program and by eating a plant-based diet that avoids foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar.
The Exercise Study
Researchers followed 3,232 men and women for 12 years and found that each increase in exercise of six MET-hours/week was associated with a six percent reduction in the incidence of Type II diabetes (Diabetes Care, November 16, 2020). MET (metabolic equivalent of task) is a measure of the amount of energy used for a specific task or activity, compared to the amount used at rest. See How Exercise Helps to Prevent Diabetes and Heart Attacks
The Diet Study
Researchers followed 5,646 healthy males and females, 40–69 years of age, for 8 to 14 years and found that those on a “healthful plant-based diet” were far less likely to develop Type II diabetes than those on an unhealthful diet (PLoS Med, Nov 18, 2020;17). Their definition of a healthful plant-based diet was one that severely restricted refined carbohydrates, sugar, and salty foods. The healthful diets were:
• based on plant foods such as whole unprocessed grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, tea and coffee
• low in plant foods that cause a higher rise in blood sugar, such as refined grains, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sugar-added foods and drinks
• low in animal foods such as meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, and animal fats
Participants who followed a healthful plant-based diet lost more belly fat and had lower triglycerides, lower bad LDL cholesterol, higher good HDL cholesterol, and lower fasting blood sugar and reduced high blood pressure.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
More than 30 percent of North Americans are already diabetic (Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Nov 2014;2(11):854-855) and an additional 30 percent are pre-diabetic (J Am Coll Cardiol, 2013;62: 697–703). Both diabetes and pre-diabetes markedly increase risk for heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, nerve damage, dementia and premature death (Circulation, 2009;120: 1640–1645). You are at high risk for being diabetic if you:
• have a big belly (pinch more than two inches at your belly button)
• have small buttocks (genetically store fat in your belly)
• are overweight
• have a close relative with diabetes
• don’t exercise at least three times a week
• are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Pacific Islander
• have high triglycerides (>150), high bad LDL cholesterol (>100), or low good HDL cholesterol (<40).
High Rises in Blood Sugar Damage Cells Everyone’s blood sugar level rises after eating. If blood sugar levels rise too high, sugar can stick to the outside membranes of cells throughout your body. Once attached, sugar can never get off and it is eventually converted to sorbitol, which destroys that cell. This cell damage causes all of the horrible side effects of diabetes: blindness, deafness, osteoporosis, dementia, impotence, heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers and so forth.
A normal fasting blood sugar of less than 100 mg/dL does not rule out diabetes. You get cell damage every time your blood sugar rises too high, so people whose blood sugar rises above 145 mg/dL one hour after a meal should be following all of the rules for lowering high blood sugar levels (Diabetes Care, 2001;24 (8):1448-1453). See The Hidden Epidemic of Early Diabetes
Most diabetics and pre-diabetics have high rises in blood sugar after meals because their liver and muscles are full of fat. When your blood sugar rises after meals, your pancreas releases insulin which is supposed to lower blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into the liver and muscles. However, if the liver and muscles are full of fat, they do not accept the sugar and blood sugar levels can rise too high. See Beat Diabetes By Getting Fat Out of Your Liver and Muscles
Both diabetes and pre-diabetes can damage every cell in your body and shorten your life. Most cases of diabetes are caused by excess fat in the liver that prevents the liver from lowering high blood sugar levels. You can reduce your chances of becoming diabetic or treat yourself if you are already pre-diabetic or diabetic by:
• trying to exercise every day
• restricting foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar
I recommend that you avoid all sugared drinks and all foods with added sugar. Restrict refined carbohydrates (found in most processed foods), meat from mammals (beef, pork, lamb and so forth) and processed meats.