Blood Sugar Issues and The Fundamental Solutions

BLOOD SUGAR ISSUES AND THE FUNDAMENTAL SOLUTIONS

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and of those, 90 to 95-percent of them have type 2 diabetes–an illness induced by nutritional and lifestyle factors. Diagnosed diabetes cases cost the United States healthcare system $327 billion per year. One in seven healthcare dollars is spent treating type 2 diabetes and its complications. And according to the Center for Disease Control, more than 84 million American adults–1 in 3–are prediabetic. And 90% of them don’t know it (I).

This data is beyond troubling. And I could go on–the obesity statistics, the rates of cardiovascular disease, or the clusters of metabolic illnesses. But I think the frightening direction of American health is known–finding solutions is what pose the largest hurdle. Blood sugar is a hot topic in the diet world, and attempts at correcting the issue often skip over the low-hanging fruit. Some fundamentals of health get overlooked, or not even considered when investigating blood sugar regulation.

The Glycemic Index

The popularization of the “glycemic index” concept in the 1990s led to a boom in “low-glycemic diets” that stress the avoidance of sugars, starches, and fruit. Some even go so far to disallow anything grown underground. Just last week I spoke with someone who had cut carrots from his diet because they are “sugary vegetables grown underground.” He was utterly convinced of this fact based on the diet he is following. The problem with the concept of low-glycemic foods is that everyone’s glycemic index is totally different. And the multitude of variables that comprise one’s ability to tolerate and metabolize glucose is vast. And many of these variables depend on essential factors that everyone is overlooking while they try to go on extreme diets—namely exercise, sleep, food quality, body weight, movement, and stress-reducing behaviors that make us fundamentally human (anyone want a friend to relax with?).

An athlete who lifts heavy weights four to five times per week with friends and sleeps for eight hours a night is going to be able to utilize starches in ways that a sedentary person’s body just can’t. A white rice cake could send one person’s blood glucose off the charts, while another person can eat five with almost no effect on their levels. Because of the shining examples of health that we can investigate–resistance-trained athletes and people who exercise regularly and sleep well consistently–we can extrapolate that humans are not inherently fragile in their design. Rather, it’s just the opposite. We become sick when we fail to do the activities that make us human. It’s not natural to not move. It’s not natural to not sleep. It’s not natural to consume high-fructose corn syrup and soybean oil cupcakes.

I don’t mean to suggest that the solution to these issues are simple, but I do mean to stress that diet extremism is actually overlooking gentler, evidenced-based fundamentals. We’re cutting out entire food groups before we’ve reached a point in our diet where 95% of our meals are managed with reasonable macronutrient ratios that are comprised entirely of whole, fresh foods. Or we’re avoiding everything grown below ground when we’re not even taking 8,000+ steps per day. And vitally important, we’re not even considering sleep.

Sleep

The effects of sleep on blood sugar are shown to be pronounced in the research. Spiegal et al. investigated the latest data on sleep, insulin sensitivity, glucose, and an array of other hormones involved in energy regulation. The first study looked at consequences of recurrent, partial sleep loss in healthy young men. They found that when they restricted the young men to approximately four hours per night for six consecutive nights, their glucose tolerance reached a range that is typical of aging people suffering from impaired glucose tolerance (2015).

Another study investigated the effects of slow-wave sleep on glucose and insulin. Slow-wave sleep is associated with the stimulation of growth-hormone, inhibition of cortisol, decreased sympathetic nervous system activity, increased vagal tone, and a decreased use of glucose by the brain. The researchers suppressed slow-wave sleep in healthy young adults and examined the effect on glucose tolerance. After suppression of slow-wave sleep, but not total sleep time, insulin sensitivity had decreased by around 25% and reached the level reported in populations at high risk for diabetes (Tasali et al., 2008).

Not only does sleep time affect insulin sensitivity, but the quality of sleep was associated with glucose tolerance as well.

Movement

In tandem with ample sleep, people need to move. The effects of exercise on both energy intake and improved insulin sensitivity are impressive.  Dubeé et al. found that insulin sensitivity was significantly related to exercise in a graded dose-response relationship. Participants received an exercise intervention lasting 16-weeks that was monitored for both intensity and duration by the use of heart rate monitors. The intensity of the exercise prescription increased in stages over the course of the intervention. Participants were given healthy meals of carbohydrates, protein, and fat; and then glucose was monitored for 48-hours (Dubé et al., 2012).

The researchers found significant improvements in insulin sensitivity, and as the workout regimens were graded, there was no maximal dose that leveled-off. In essence, there was no cap on the benefits. People just keep reaping rewards when they move more. Exercise intensity was also significantly related to improvements in insulin sensitivity–so when you do exercise, it really does need to be challenging. Easy exercise isn’t going to get us very far.

The Power of Fundamentals

Studies like these–and there are many others–continue to illustrate the importance of the fundamentals. They cannot be overlooked. Instead of trying to cut-out carbohydrates (vegetables are carbs, and we need those), we should be trying to build the ability to utilize them well. We should focus on increasing our boundaries, not closing ourselves into a small box. Human mammals are a robust, arboreal species whose bodies regulate themselves at incredibly high levels. To think that we can’t tolerate vegetables, fruit, and starches is to assume we’re fragile. To think that we can’t maintain insulin sensitivity is to assume we’re not dynamic. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have to give our bodies the stressors, movement, and recovery it needs in order to thrive and function true to its genetic and evolutionary roots. Consistent, high-quality nutrition; adequate, deep sleep; copious amounts of movement; and lots of fun with friends are all a perfect place to the begin.

http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/news-events/cost-of-diabetes.html

BLOOD SUGAR ISSUES AND THE FUNDAMENTAL SOLUTIONS

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and of those, 90 to 95-percent of them have type 2 diabetes–an illness induced by nutritional and lifestyle factors. Diagnosed diabetes cases cost the United States healthcare system $327 billion per year. One in seven healthcare dollars is spent treating type 2 diabetes and its complications. And according to the Center for Disease Control, more than 84 million American adults–1 in 3–are prediabetic. And 90% of them don’t know it (I).

This data is beyond troubling. And I could go on–the obesity statistics, the rates of cardiovascular disease, or the clusters of metabolic illnesses. But I think the frightening direction of American health is known–finding solutions is what pose the largest hurdle. Blood sugar is a hot topic in the diet world, and attempts at correcting the issue often skip over the low-hanging fruit. Some fundamentals of health get overlooked, or not even considered when investigating blood sugar regulation.

The Glycemic Index

The popularization of the “glycemic index” concept in the 1990s led to a boom in “low-glycemic diets” that stress the avoidance of sugars, starches, and fruit. Some even go so far to disallow anything grown underground. Just last week I spoke with someone who had cut carrots from his diet because they are “sugary vegetables grown underground.” He was utterly convinced of this fact based on the diet he is following. The problem with the concept of low-glycemic foods is that everyone’s glycemic index is totally different. And the multitude of variables that comprise one’s ability to tolerate and metabolize glucose is vast. And many of these variables depend on essential factors that everyone is overlooking while they try to go on extreme diets—namely exercise, sleep, food quality, body weight, movement, and stress-reducing behaviors that make us fundamentally human (anyone want a friend to relax with?).

An athlete who lifts heavy weights four to five times per week with friends and sleeps for eight hours a night is going to be able to utilize starches in ways that a sedentary person’s body just can’t. A white rice cake could send one person’s blood glucose off the charts, while another person can eat five with almost no effect on their levels. Because of the shining examples of health that we can investigate–resistance-trained athletes and people who exercise regularly and sleep well consistently–we can extrapolate that humans are not inherently fragile in their design. Rather, it’s just the opposite. We become sick when we fail to do the activities that make us human. It’s not natural to not move. It’s not natural to not sleep. It’s not natural to consume high-fructose corn syrup and soybean oil cupcakes.

I don’t mean to suggest that the solution to these issues are simple, but I do mean to stress that diet extremism is actually overlooking gentler, evidenced-based fundamentals. We’re cutting out entire food groups before we’ve reached a point in our diet where 95% of our meals are managed with reasonable macronutrient ratios that are comprised entirely of whole, fresh foods. Or we’re avoiding everything grown below ground when we’re not even taking 8,000+ steps per day. And vitally important, we’re not even considering sleep.

Sleep

The effects of sleep on blood sugar are shown to be pronounced in the research. Spiegal et al. investigated the latest data on sleep, insulin sensitivity, glucose, and an array of other hormones involved in energy regulation. The first study looked at consequences of recurrent, partial sleep loss in healthy young men. They found that when they restricted the young men to approximately four hours per night for six consecutive nights, their glucose tolerance reached a range that is typical of aging people suffering from impaired glucose tolerance (2015).

Another study investigated the effects of slow-wave sleep on glucose and insulin. Slow-wave sleep is associated with the stimulation of growth-hormone, inhibition of cortisol, decreased sympathetic nervous system activity, increased vagal tone, and a decreased use of glucose by the brain. The researchers suppressed slow-wave sleep in healthy young adults and examined the effect on glucose tolerance. After suppression of slow-wave sleep, but not total sleep time, insulin sensitivity had decreased by around 25% and reached the level reported in populations at high risk for diabetes (Tasali et al., 2008).

Not only does sleep time affect insulin sensitivity, but the quality of sleep was associated with glucose tolerance as well.

Movement

In tandem with ample sleep, people need to move. The effects of exercise on both energy intake and improved insulin sensitivity are impressive.  Dubeé et al. found that insulin sensitivity was significantly related to exercise in a graded dose-response relationship. Participants received an exercise intervention lasting 16-weeks that was monitored for both intensity and duration by the use of heart rate monitors. The intensity of the exercise prescription increased in stages over the course of the intervention. Participants were given healthy meals of carbohydrates, protein, and fat; and then glucose was monitored for 48-hours (Dubé et al., 2012).

The researchers found significant improvements in insulin sensitivity, and as the workout regimens were graded, there was no maximal dose that leveled-off. In essence, there was no cap on the benefits. People just keep reaping rewards when they move more. Exercise intensity was also significantly related to improvements in insulin sensitivity–so when you do exercise, it really does need to be challenging. Easy exercise isn’t going to get us very far.

The Power of Fundamentals

Studies like these–and there are many others–continue to illustrate the importance of the fundamentals. They cannot be overlooked. Instead of trying to cut-out carbohydrates (vegetables are carbs, and we need those), we should be trying to build the ability to utilize them well. We should focus on increasing our boundaries, not closing ourselves into a small box. Human mammals are a robust, arboreal species whose bodies regulate themselves at incredibly high levels. To think that we can’t tolerate vegetables, fruit, and starches is to assume we’re fragile. To think that we can’t maintain insulin sensitivity is to assume we’re not dynamic. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have to give our bodies the stressors, movement, and recovery it needs in order to thrive and function true to its genetic and evolutionary roots. Consistent, high-quality nutrition; adequate, deep sleep; copious amounts of movement; and lots of fun with friends are all a perfect place to the begin.

http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/news-events/cost-of-diabetes.html

2018-09-30T12:47:20+00:00

About the Author:

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Erin is a graduate student working toward a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Health Promotion, as well as completing the Didactic Program in Dietetics to become a Registered Dietitian. She’s also a Precision Nutrition Certified Nutrition Coach and Certified Sports Nutritionist.