You’ve heard of diabetes. You’ve heard of obesity. But have you ever heard of diabesity? If not, you may want to lean in.
As the leading cause of chronic illness in the 21st century, diabesity is the most significant health challenge facing the nation today. From cancer to digestive disorders to heart disease, diabesity is to blame. In fact, it could even be the reason for your poor cholesterol levels.
However, it’s not all gloom and doom. Here’s the silver lining: diabesity is entirely reversible.
What is diabesity?
Close to 35 million Americans are living with diabetes. Another 88 million have pre-diabetes. This chronic condition impacts how the body turns food into energy and contributes to multiple health disorders, including those of the heart, skin, brain, and eyes.
What’s more, nearly 43 percent of US adults are considered obese with a body mass index over 30. Three out of four Americans are either overweight or obese.
As diabetes and obesity have reached epidemic proportions, health professionals have coined a new term: diabesity. Diabesity refers to the coexistence of diabetes and obesity within a single person. Also called obesity-dependent diabetes, individuals who are both obese and diabetic are at high risk for additional health conditions, including heart disease, kidney failure, and cancer.
Diabesity is not an official medical diagnosis. Instead, it’s a term used to describe a constellation of health imbalances. While some individuals with diabesity may have mild blood sugar imbalances, others have severe cases of type 2 diabetes. Signs of diabesity may include:
- Excess weight, especially around the midsection
- Elevated blood pressure
- High blood sugar (fasting glucose above 100 mg/dL)
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- Excess inflammation in the body
What are the symptoms of diabesity?
The early stages of diabesity are often silent. For example, individuals may not be aware that they have elevated blood glucose levels. Similarly, they may notice that their clothing is a bit tighter.
An aware individual may notice some of the following subtle symptoms of diabesity:
- Excess tiredness, especially after eating
- Frequent sugar cravings
- Waking up at night to urinate or urinating more frequently
- Increased thirst
- Difficulty losing weight
- Unintended weight loss
- Digestive discomfort
- Delayed wound healing
- Declining eyesight
- Frequent infections or illness
Relationship between diabetes and obesity
Obesity and diabetes go hand-in-hand. Scientists have spent years playing the chicken-or-the-egg game. While some believe that weight gain contributes to insulin resistance, others argue that insulin resistance causes weight gain. In all likelihood, it’s a combination of both.
Regardless of the cause, research suggests that being overweight and having type 2 diabetes are intricately linked. Approximately 30 percent of those carrying extra weight have diabetes, and 85 percent of type 2 diabetics are overweight.
In type 2 diabetes, two interrelated issues are at play. Either the pancreas is not making enough insulin hormone, or the cells respond poorly to insulin. Both problems result in and are caused by too much sugar circulating in the blood.
Insulin is the vehicle that transports sugar into cells. When a person consumes high amounts of carbohydrates, the pancreas must work hard to produce more insulin. Additionally, the pancreas needs to pump out even more insulin to reach all the cells of an obese individual. Over time, an overworked pancreas gets tired, and insulin production falls. With less circulating insulin, blood sugar levels stay elevated.
As a result of this stress, cells trigger an inflammatory response and release a protein called cytokines. Cytokines block the insulin receptor signals, causing the cells to become resistant to insulin. As a result, the body cannot convert sugar into energy, and blood glucose levels rise even further. Insulin resistance is the first sign of impending diabetes.
Diabesity and cholesterol
Individuals with high cholesterol are often given a prescription and told to lower their fat consumption. However, science has shown that dietary cholesterol intake minimally impacts blood cholesterol levels. Instead, carbohydrates are to blame.
Simple sugars are easy to digest and are quickly processed by the body. Glucose in the blood prompts the pancreas to release insulin. However, if there is not enough insulin or the cells are resistant, the body must do something with the excess sugar. Here’s where the liver comes to the rescue.
The liver is responsible for converting extra glucose into triglycerides. However, triglycerides can’t travel through the blood alone. Instead, they are wrapped in very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). Over time, these VLDLs become dangerous small and dense LDLs. Multiple studies have linked diabetes with an elevated level of VLDLs, the cholesterol carriers that lead to heart attacks and strokes.
For this reason, elevated triglycerides are often the first sign of insulin resistance. High triglycerides, especially with otherwise normal cholesterol levels, points to a sugar problem rather than a fat issue.
Inflammation is the real problem
Our bodies are innately intelligent. Continuous damage to our cells due to obesity and chronically high blood glucose causes the body to fight back through inflammation. While short-term inflammation is healthy and life-saving, chronic inflammation damages tissues and creates additional health problems.
It’s essential to recognize that inflammation is a two-way street. While diabetes can cause inflammation, the reverse is also true. For example, studies have found that inflammation can get in the way of insulin-signaling pathways and contribute to the development of diabetes.
Diabesity, then, is a combination of inflammation, weight gain, and sugar imbalances, which create a vicious cycle that keeps individuals stuck in an unhealthy pattern of illness.
Many problems: one solution
Besides inflammation, what do high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and obesity all have in common? In most cases, they can be completely reversed by lifestyle changes alone! That’s right — you can cure yourself of these health issues without the nasty side effects of medications.
The first step in reversing diabesity involves dietary changes. Studies have found that adopting an ancestral diet can prevent and even reverse diabesity. While food can trigger inflammation, it’s also the most powerful healing tool.
Foods on the ancestral 100 Year Heart Diet are rich in phytochemicals and potent anti-inflammatories. In addition, the 100 Year Heart Diet eliminates unhealthy processed sugars and replaces them with vitamin-rich complex carbohydrates.
Multiple other lifestyle habits can help reverse diabesity, including:
- Regular exercise (preferably outside)
- Stress reduction
- Removal of toxins from the home
- Quality sleep
- Exposure to the sun
It’s also important to understand your starting point. Seek out a medical professional who understands the importance of the abovementioned lifestyle.
The right provider will order the most helpful blood work. For example, most doctors rely on fasting blood sugar levels to determine diabetes risk. However, this is a poor indicator of diabesity. Instead, you will want a one and two-hour insulin response test.
Additionally, a full advanced cholesterol panel including apolipoproteins and inflammation markers will provide valuable insight into your diabesity risk. The team at Natural Heart Doctor can support you in this effort.
Diabesity: an early warning sign
Many people walk through life feeling mediocre, at best. A visit to the doctor reveals a “clean bill of health,” yet something deep down tells us that we are not well.
Unfortunately, most physicians don’t address health until illness develops. Our current healthcare system is too damaged to pick up on the imbalances that occur early on in the course of illness. However, by the time symptoms appear, the damage is often already done.
Thankfully, diabesity is reversible, and your 100 Year Heart is possible. Even after diagnosis, you have an opportunity to stop the disease in its tracks before it progresses to a life-threatening condition. It all starts with you!
If you are concerned about your diabetes risk or want more information on diabesity, work with one of our expert practitioners who can give you tools to regain great health and reverse diabesity.
Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well
Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD 2022