Tracing back as early as 1550 BC in Egypt, diabetes was once described as a very rare disease. Nowadays, this disease is more like an epidemic as it is the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates. And it only gets worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts the rate to double between 2005 and 2030.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (Type 1) or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (Type 2). Type 2 is by far the most common and develops gradually due to lifestyle factors. Since insulin is needed to regulate blood sugar levels, elevated blood sugar is common among diabetics. Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. According to the WHO, 50% of diabetics die from cardiovascular disease, 10-20% die of kidney failure, and 2% even become blind.
What can we do?
The fact that diabetes has only recently become an epidemic brings up an interesting question: what are we doing differently than our ancestors who enjoyed such a low rate of diabetes? The answer probably lies heavily within the way we eat. One study compared the effects of the Paleolithic diet to the generally recommended diabetes diet. The Paleolithic diet consists of grass-fed meat, free-range fowl or wild-caught fish, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and generous portions of healthy fats (fats are not the enemy!), including nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and coconut oil. Grains, legumes, dairy products, sugar, vegetable oils and processed foods are absent from this diet. Basically, it’s what our ancestors ate millions of years ago before the dawn of agriculture. Over a 3-month period, the Paleolithic diet came out on top with improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to the diabetic diet in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A while back I wrote on the subject of Intermittent Fasting (IF) and benefits to your health. Both IF and paleo-type diets are studied for their positive effects on blood sugar.
In The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson attests to the benefits of the Paleolithic diet. He points out that we are “genetically identical (in virtually all aspects relevant to human health) to our hunter-gatherer ancestors” and that we should look to their diets as a guideline on what we are designed to eat. Click here to access my article on how our genes and certain foods can actually trigger genetically-prone diseases.
Perhaps this is the first step towards not only preventing the diabetes epidemic, but also towards lowering the rates of other so-called epidemics such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and even cancer. Just some food for thought!