Dr Dale Peterson, diabetes mellitus, Type 1, Adult onset, sugar,

Diabetes Mellitus Part 1: Beyond Blood Sugar

Diabetes Mellitus Part 1: Beyond Blood Sugar

© 2000 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

The year was 1969. Susan’s health had been deteriorating badly. Suffering from diabetes, she was nearly blind and so weak that she could barely walk. She had become so emaciated that three physicians including her family physician and two diabetic specialists told her husband that she would be dead within a matter of months. They expressed their regret but advised him that there was nothing that could be done except to keep her as comfortable as possible and wait for the inevitable.

Lloyd was not a man to give up without a fight. He desperately began researching and reading everything he could find about diabetes. His effort was successful, for today, thirty years after she was given up for dead, Susan is a vibrant, active lady who cheers and inspires all who meet her. Lloyd’s pioneering research into the nutritional aspects of diabetes has given hope to thousands of diabetics. His nutritional program for diabetes provides a compass for individuals who are seeking to avoid the devastating complications commonly associated with the disease.

Diabetes Mellitus or “Sugar Diabetes” has reached epidemic levels in our society. The incidence of Type I diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin, has remained fairly constant, but the prevalence of Type II diabetes has soared. Type II diabetics commonly have elevated levels of insulin in the blood stream. Theirs is a disease of insulin resistance not of insulin deficiency. People with this type of diabetes have simply lost the ability to utilize insulin properly. Traditionally occurring in older individuals, type II diabetes has in the past been referred to as “Adult Onset” diabetes. Unfortunately, it is now presenting in teen-agers.

Type II diabetes can be insidious in its onset. Many people are unaware of its presence when it first appears. It is possible to live with this type of diabetes for years scarcely knowing that it is present. Despite its mild presentation it can and often does produce crippling complications over time. One of the prime characteristics of diabetes mellitus is accelerated and severe atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This can result in blindness, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and amputation.

Treatment efforts are usually centered around control of the blood sugar level. While normalizing blood sugar should be one of the goals, it is now clear that simply controlling the level of sugar in the blood will not completely prevent complications.

It is very difficult to balance on a stool with only one leg and it is equally arduous to sit on a stool with only two legs. Many cows have been milked using 3 legged stools, however, and four legged stools are also stable. Diabetes management should be viewed in this way, as a stool with three or four legs.

The first leg of diabetes management is diet. Traditionally, exchange lists of fat, protein and carbohydrate servings have been emphasized. Many people find these difficult to follow on a daily basis. As more has been learned about the effects of foods on insulin and blood sugar it has become clear that it is possible to achieve better sugar control dietarily than has previously been thought.

The effect of specific foods on insulin and blood sugar has been documented. This is referred to as the “glycemic index”. Lists of high glycemic foods (those that cause a significant rise in blood sugar) are available. A diet in which at least 70 % of foods eaten are glycemically acceptable is the most likely to normalize blood sugar levels. It is also true that the higher the percentage of raw or lightly steamed fruits, vegetables and cereal grains in the daily diet the better the blood sugar will be controlled.

The second leg of diabetes management is activity. Increased activity demands higher energy consumption and therefore more sugar is utilized. The most significant effect of increased activity, however, is to decrease insulin resistance. When muscles are used the cells become much more proficient at taking up and utilizing insulin properly. Since the inability to properly use insulin is the primary problem in Type II diabetes, increased muscular activity is one of the best ways to correct the defect and reverse the disease process.

Activity may be increased in a variety of ways. Walking is ideal, but any activity that gets the body moving is acceptable. Cycling, swimming and use of exercise machines can be equally helpful. Individuals who are restricted from arthritis can “walk” their arms back and forth. Using hand weights (which can be as simple as two soup cans) will intensify the benefit.

The third leg of diabetes management is supplementation. This critically important aspect has been largely ignored. This explains, at least in part, why the number of people experiencing severe complications has remained high despite improved blood sugar control.

Mineral deficiencies are common in the United States, and these play an integral role in the development and course of Type II diabetes. The main source of dietary minerals has traditionally been whole grain. When grains are refined and processed most of the mineral content is removed. Fast foods are almost completely void of needed minerals. The problem is amplified by the fact that United States farmland has been depleted of most minerals. If the minerals are not in the soil, they cannot be taken up by the plants grown in the soil, nor can animals raised on the crops obtain them. Therefore, it is not possible to get optimum amounts nor optimum numbers of minerals regardless of whether one eats a plant or meat based diet.

Chromium is perhaps the most essential mineral in diabetes. Chromium is an insulin co-factor. Cells cannot take up and use insulin properly if chromium is not present. The signs and symptoms of chronic chromium deficiency are identical to the signs and symptoms of type II diabetes. The best absorbed and most bioavailable form of chromium is chromium polynicotinate. Two hundred micrograms daily is adequate for prevention, but diabetics often require 100 to 200 micrograms with each meal to maximize insulin utilization.

Deficiencies of magnesium have also been associated with the development of type II diabetes. Most people in the United States are also lacking adequate stores of this major mineral. It is best taken as a chelated form such as aspartate or gluconate. Four hundred to five hundred milligrams daily are required by most people, but diabetes may require two to three times that amount. Blood tests are very poor indicators of magnesium status because only about 3 percent of the body’s magnesium stores are found in the blood stream. By the time the blood levels fall the total body stores have been severely depleted.

Vanadium, a trace mineral, has also been shown to facilitate cellular uptake and use of insulin. Very small amounts are all that are necessary for prevention. Diabetics may benefit from taking as much as 2.5 milligrams with meals. Some manufacturers have promoted amounts as high as 100 milligrams daily, but this cannot be justified and may be associated with adverse effects such as cramping, diarrhea, and mood disturbances.

I encourage diabetics to take a mineral supplement daily. This should provide 72 major and trace minerals. Additional chromium should be taken with meals and additional magnesium may be added if heart palpitations, constipation or muscle cramps suggest that it is needed. Extra vanadium is not usually required, but may bring about an added improvement in blood sugar if this remains high despite appropriate diet, activity and supplementation.

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