Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Animal Protein and Diabetes

People in my practice are often diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes and they are usually curious as to how and why they developed it. My answer has been that it is some combination of their genetic heritage and their environment, but that the environment is playing a big role because we have seen a huge increase in the number of cases of diabetes over the last decade.

A recent study showed that people who ate no animal protein were only 25% as likely to develop adult-onset diabetes as those who ate a regular American diet. A close analysis of the data seems to suggest that the finding is robust.

The number of patients in the study was quite high, over 40,000 people. This increases the power of a study to detect small differences, but also makes it much less likely that a given finding of a study is due to chance differences, rather than real differences.

In addition, there are other studies that seem to show the same things. A study in Japanese schoolchildren was particularly interesting. It showed that increased consumption of animal proteins was associated with increased diabetes. This was only correlation and not cause, since the study was retrospective, but it seems to confirm the Loma Linda study's findings.

Also, a study done in Europe, called EPIC showed animal protein consumption was also an independent risk factor for the development of diabetes.

The takeaway message from these three studies on three continents in three very different populations is that we should all try to avoid animal protein to the degree our histories and personalities will allow, unless we want to become diabetic. In addition, it seems to suggest that even people with diabetes stand a good chance of returning their body to normal functioning if they avoid food that tends to cause the disease.

If you have a strong genetic heritage of diabetes, this information should be even more important to you. Feel free to make an appointment at Total Care Family Practice to review your current eating habits and see if we can make significant changes to protect your health.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chickpeas and Sugar

Sounds like a sort of odd Mediterranean recipe, I know, but it isn't. It's the topic of a new study that tried to figure out what the role of legume consumption was on diabetes.

The study is small, only 121 patients, and thus the results can't be fully generalized, but the addition of a cup of legumes or chickpeas to the diabetic patient's diets dropped hemoglobin A1c, a measure of average blood sugar over 3 months, by 0.5%, which is comparable to many drugs used to treat diabetes.

Interestingly, the comparative group were given a cup of whole grain per day, and they also saw a drop in Hgba1c of 0.3%. Possibly due to the Hawthorne effect.

What we learn is that adding legumes like chickpeas and lentils may help blood sugar control as much as several medications. So have at them!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Little Decisions

When it comes to your health, sometimes the biggest decisions are the smallest ones. Everyone has had the experience of walking past a box of cookies or a bowl full of candy. The decisions that you make during such a daily task have a gigantic cumulative effect on your overall health. American sugar consumption is now over 107 pounds of sugar per person per year.

So that you can understand what this means, in 1822, which is certainly not the lowest the refined sugar concentration has ever been in the human diet, the average American ate as much sugar as is found in a regular twelve ounce Coca-Cola every five days. The staggering increase in sugar consumption hasn't happened simply by having people gorge on Twinkies and M&Ms however. Sugars are added to many foods that are not thought of as sweets to increase their palatability. Thousand Island dressing, for example, has over four grams of sugar per ounce.

So one small decision that I strongly recommend is to read food labels when shopping. Avoid purchasing foods with high levels of any sugar, be it cane juice, agave, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar or honey. In addition, avoid sugary condiments like thousand island dressing and ketchup as anything other than a rare treat (every week or less).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Can't I Do This Naturally?

"Is there a natural way to get my cholesterol down?"

"Is there a way to get my diabetes under control without all these pills?"

"Can I control my blood pressure naturally?"

Usually, the answer is, "Yes, you can." I recommend eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding the extremes of psychological stressors. Yet most of my patients have trouble making the adjustments to diet and lifestyle that are necessary to control their metabolism without medications.

So it is gratifying when occasionally I have patients who do exactly what I recommend and harvest the results. Over the last month, I've seen three patients, all of whom were diagnosed with diabetes. Each one had changed their diet to a primarily whole foods, plant-based diet and all of them had been able, in consultation with me to drop all diabetes medications. All but one had been (again, on my advice) able to discontinue their cholesterol pills, and we stopped the one who was still on them. One patient was only on a single blood pressure pill with a goal of stopping that as well, down from seven different medications previously.

The lesson is that the people who can and do make modifications to their eating and lifestyle do get great results.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Locos Win!

Gary Manley and I were happy to serve as medical personnel at the most recent Las Vegas Locos game! The game was a lot of fun to attend and it was great to meet and talk to the players and coaching staff. The trainers really put in a lot of effort to help the players get ready and stay ready to play.
The Locos did end up winning the game 19-6. They have won their league two out of three seasons and started the year with a defeat of the defending champs. We'll be rooting for them as they take on Omaha this Wednesday night!