September 3, 2014

How Western Diets are Making the World Sick

pin it button How Western Diets are Making the World Sick

by Dr. Mercola

overweight man 4 15 How Western Diets are Making the World Sick

Physician Kevin Patterson noticed something during his work as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Afghan soldiers, police and civilians he treated had very different bodies from those of the Canadians he treated in his home country.

The organs of the Canadians, Americans, and Europeans he treated were encased in fat.  Afghan civilians and soldiers had little or no fat or adipose tissue underneath the skin. Patterson has become convinced that the effects of urbanization are making people everywhere in the world both fatter and sicker.

According to NPR:

“[Patterson] explains that the increase in abdominal fat has driven the epidemic of diabetes over the last 40 years in the developed world — and that he’s now seeing similar patterns in undeveloped regions that have adapted Western eating patterns.”

Sources:
NPR March 24, 2011
Maissonneuve November 15, 2010

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

The disease pattern Dr. Patterson discusses in his article Diseases of Affluence published last year in Maisonneuve, is essentially what I’ve been writing about for the last decade. The modern Western diet, high in fructose, grains, and grain-fed, pesticide-laden and hormone-laced meat, is the primary driving factor behind the skyrocketing incidences of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

And any nation that adopts this processed junk food-type diet quickly sees the same disease pattern emerge among their population.

Most of my paternal relatives (my dad included), have, or have died from, diabetes, so this is an issue very close to my heart.

It’s particularly heartbreaking because it’s relatively easy to reverse without any drug treatment whatsoever, and it is 100 percent preventable. Unfortunately, misguided health advice has proliferated throughout the past several decades—advice that is causing diabetics to get worse and die in large numbers…

Visceral Fat—A Strong Link to Diabetes and Heart Disease

Having a thick waist has long been known as a sign of build-up of a dangerous type of fat around your internal organs. This “visceral fat” is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and other chronic diseases. It is thought that visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver, affecting how your body breaks down sugars and fats.

While it’s often referred to as “belly fat” because it can cause a “beer belly” or an apple-shaped body, you can have visceral fat even if you’re thin.

Patterson is correct when stating that “the effects of urbanization are making people everywhere in the world both fatter and sicker.”

Because with urbanization comes the dependence on mass-produced processed foods, as fresh organic farm food ceases to be the norm. This highly unnatural diet, which is over-saturated with sugars and artificial ingredients, leads to obesity and insulin resistance, which is the root cause of all of the diseases we’re now wrestling with on a mass-scale.

We’re Reaching a Breaking Point…

He’s also, I believe, correct when he states that the current situation is unsustainable

“No country in the world has the resources to continue to treat diabetics the way that they’re being treated now, if the prevalence rates increase at the rates that they’re increasing for much longer.

I worked in Saipan, which is in the Marianas Island in the Pacific, and there, the dialysis population was increasing at about 18 percent a year, all as a consequence of diabetes and acculturation — exactly the same process as what’s going on with the Inuit.

When you look at the curves, it’s clear how unsustainable it is. In 20 or 30 years, everybody on that island will either be a dialysis patient or a dialysis nurse unless something fundamental is done about the rise in diabetes. That’s no less true in Canada and in Samoa and Hawaii, and even in Omaha and Toronto. We all have exactly the same problem when we plot out those curves.”

Currently, roughly 1 in 10 of US adults has full blown type 2 diabetes, and according to the latest CDC estimates published last year, diabetes is expected to affect a staggering 1 in 3 adults by 2050. However, when you factor in those with pre-diabetes—those who are a hair’s breadth away from the full-blown disease—then nearly 1 in 4 Americans are already either pre-diabetic or diabetic!

People with diabetes face medical costs more than twice that of those without the illness, and the total cost of treating diabetes in the US is already about $174 billion annually.

Diabetes should not be taken lightly. It increases your risk of heart disease and brings on fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events 15 years earlier than in those without diabetes, and significantly shortens your lifespan. Rising diabetes rates also exponentially increase other serious diseases, one of which is Alzheimer’s disease.

As I’ve discussed before, some are even referring to Alzheimer’s as “type 3 diabetes,” due to the links between the two conditions.

Obesity and Diabetes—A Deadly Pairing

The obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics go hand-in-hand and exact a stupendous toll on Americans’ health. And we’re now seeing these devastating effects spread across the world as former indigenous cultures are adopting a more Western-style diet.

But how exactly are these two epidemics intertwined?

The two hormones insulin and leptin work in tandem when it comes to developing diabetes, and unless you understand this concept, you won’t understand why nutrition and exercise are indeed the solutions for this disease, as opposed to drugs.

Leptin is largely responsible for the accuracy of insulin signaling, and whether you become insulin resistant or not. It actually plays a far more important role in your health than, for instance, cholesterol, yet few doctors are taught to pay attention to it, or even know much about it.

Leptin’s critical importance is still largely unknown to the medical community because there are no known drugs that regulate its activities. Therefore there’s no incentive to spend money to educate physicians about its crucial role in health and disease…

The only known way to reestablish proper insulin and leptin signaling is via diet, and therefore, these strategies can have a more profound effect on your health than any other known modality of medical treatment.

How Leptin is Linked to the Production of Dangerous Visceral Fat

Most people are not aware that leptin is just as important as insulin in determining your risk for Type 2 diabetes, and plays an enormous role in the development of obesity. Leptin resistance actually causes an increase in the visceral fat your body produces. And the hormones your fat cells produce impact how much you eat and how much fat you burn, setting into motion a vicious cycle.

So, how do you become leptin resistant?

Here’s how:

  • You eat a diet which includes too much fructose and grains (because grains also turn to sugar once you consume them)
  • The fructose quickly metabolizes to (turns into) fat and is stored in your fat cells
  • This activity in turn causes a surge in leptin
  • Eventually, your body becomes resistant to leptin just as it can become insulin-resistant by excessive insulin spikes

When you’re leptin-resistant, your body no longer hears its own signals to stop eating, burn fat, or pass up sugary foods. As a result, you stay hungry, you crave sweets, and your body stores ever more fat.

When your body routinely stores excess visceral fat around your organs, you increase your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vascular disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries) and an increased thickness in the walls of your heart.

How to Measure Your Diabetes Risk

Many of you may not realize this, but one of the most powerful tools available to determine your risk of diabetes is a simple tape measure. Your total body fat and overall level of fitness are not the best indicators of insulin sensitivity, your waist size is. Studies clearly show that measuring your waist size is one of the best ways to predict your risk for diabetes.

Determining your waist size is easy. With a tape measure, figure the distance around the smallest area of your abdomen below your rib cage, above your belly button.

If you’re male, these guidelines apply:

  • Ideal waist measurement: between 31 and 36 inches
  • Overweight: between 36 and 40 inches
  • Obese: over 40 inches

For women:

  • Ideal waist measurement: between 28 and 33 inches
  • Overweight: between 33 and 37 inches
  • Obese: over 37 inches

Two Keys to Getting Rid of Visceral Fat

As mentioned earlier, insulin and leptin are closely linked to obesity in general and dangerous visceral fat in particular. And there is no such thing as a cure in pill form. The solution is to make certain lifestyle changes.

These two are absolutely KEY for successfully eliminating excess visceral fat, and normalizing both your weight and insulin/leptin levels:

  1. Eliminate sugars and grains from your diet. Remember that “sugar” does not only refer to refined sugar but also fructose in all its forms. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is particularly dangerous, and insidious as it can be found in most processed foods and sweetened drinks.

    Starch, in the form of grains and potatoes, also metabolizes into sugar in your body and should also be eliminated from your diet if you suffer from excess weight, diabetes or high cholesterol.

    Following my nutrition plan is a simple way to progressively and automatically reduce your intake of both grains and sugars.

  2. Exercise regularly. Studies show regular exercise is extremely important in getting rid of visceral fat. Exercise also reduces the inflammatory properties of visceral fat that are linked to metabolic syndrome.

    One of the keys to using exercise to normalize your insulin and leptin levels and eliminate visceral fat is to do enough of it. There are three important variables with exercise:

    1. Intensity
    2. Frequency
    3. Length of time

    Intensity is KEY for an effective exercise regimen, and the beauty of high-intensity, burst-type exercises such as Peak 8 is that it significantly cuts down on the amount of time you have to spend exercising. Full instructions on how to properly perform these exercises can be found in this previous article.

    High-intensity exercises should be performed no more than three times per week, and only take a total of 20 minutes each session.Once you reach your fitness and weight goals you can drop down to once to twice per week as that is all you really need.

    In addition to Peak 8, you’ll want to incorporate other types of exercise to round out your regimen. A truly comprehensive exercise plan would also include strength training, core exercises and stretching.

    And what about classic aerobic exercise? Honestly, most of the time spent on a treadmill is wasted, because you actually get the benefits of aerobic endurance as a side effect of high-intensity exercise!  Sure, it will provide some health benefits, but spending most of your time on conventional aerobic activities will NOT provide you with optimal health benefits, so limit the time you spend on jogging and long-distance running activities.

    I did cardio for well over 40 years and seriously regret that massive waste of time and harm I did. Learn from my lesson and avoid making the same mistake I did. You will be FAR better off with Peak 8, strength training and some flexibility exercises like yoga.

The CURE for Disease-Producing Modern Diets and Lifestyles

There’s absolutely no doubt that our modern lifestyles, with mass-produced processed foods and lack of exercise is at the root of the scourges of obesity and diabetes. So what’s the answer?

Simple!

Return to the basic tenets of optimal health…

Creating health is actually far simpler than most people seem to realize. It’s not rocket science.

  1. Eat a healthy diet that will help reduce and normalize your insulin and leptin levels. A “healthy diet” is qualified by the following key factors:

Leading a common sense, healthy lifestyle based on these guiding principles is your best bet to produce a healthy body and mind.

Read the full article here: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/04/15/how-western-diets-are-making-the-world-sick.aspx

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