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Type 2 Diabetes Diet: Nixing Sugar Helps Your Heart & Brain

Dr. David Williams
Dr. David Williams

If there’s one thing you need to know if you want to prevent some of the biggest diseases of our time, it’s this: Sugar is a killer. So, removing sugar from your type 2 diabetes diet doesn’t just benefit your blood sugar, it improves your overall health.

Sugar Is Bad News for Your Heart

Researchers have found a direct relationship between refined carbohydrates (not naturally-occurring, as in fruit) and the risk of dying from heart attack.

Dr. Quanhe Yang with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has closely examined sugar consumption in this country. He found that people who consumed 10–24.9 percent of their daily calories as added sugar had a 30 percent higher chance of death from heart attacks, compared to those who took in less than 10 percent. Those who got more than 25 percent of their calories from added sugar had close to three times the risk. Even after adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and environmental issues, there was still a direct correlation between the daily dose of sugar and cardiovascular death.

The way our bodies handle sugar is well known. If you happen to be exercising intensely, your body uses sugar as energy. However, during inactivity, extra sugar triggers the pancreas to raise insulin levels. Insulin converts sugar to triglycerides, which are transported through the bloodstream to the liver for storage. High levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream increase clotting risks, and their deposition in the liver results in fatty liver disease. Insulin also causes this extra fat to be stored in fats cells in the belly, which block insulin receptors, causing insulin levels to rise even higher. The entire process creates a vicious cycle, which eventually progresses to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Using Artificial Sweeteners in Your Type 2 Diabetes Diet Is No Better

Soda manufacturers have tried to address these concerns by producing sugar-free options, which may be a tempting choice on a type 2 diabetes diet. But in many respects, these tend to be even worse. Studies indicate that individuals who drink artificially sweetened beverages gain even more weight than those who consume sugar sweetened drinks.

Researchers from Columbia University and the University of Miami followed the health of 2,564 New Yorkers over the age of 40 for 10 years. At the beginning of the study, the participants specified their diet soda intake as either none or less than one per month, one per month to six per week, or one or more per day. At the end of the 10 years, the daily diet soda drinkers were more likely to have experienced a stroke, heart attack, or death from cardiovascular disease. This was true independent of their sex, age, race, education, weight, cholesterol levels, smoking or exercise habits, and other factors.

Another study found that individuals who drank a diet soda daily had a 36 percent increased risk of metabolic syndrome and a 67 percent greater risk of diabetes.

With our current technology, we may be able to create chemicals that taste like sugar, but our body is still primitive in the sense that it reacts the same way to artificial sweeteners as it does to real sugar. The brain gets the signal that it is getting calories, but they aren't there. This triggers hunger, cravings, and higher consumption of foods that contain sugar and refined carbohydrates. The result is weight gain, resulting in greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

Sugar Can Also Lead to “Type 3 Diabetes”

Emerging research also strongly suggests that sugar is linked to one of the most common, costly, and frightening diseases of our time—Alzheimer’s disease.

Until lately, researchers and drug manufacturers have focused on amyloid plaques consistently found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, thinking they cause the disease. However, thanks to autopsies and brain imaging studies, it is now estimated that about 30 percent of older adults have considerable amounts of these plaques, yet remain perfectly healthy. So plaques appear to be more of a sign rather than a cause.

It’s no coincidence that the increasing incidence of Alzheimer’s comes on the heels of the diabetes epidemic we’ve been seeing over the last 30 to 40 years. Some researchers are now calling Alzheimer’s disease “type 3 diabetes”—which describes what happens when diabetes progresses to the point that it begins to destroy and alter brain function.

The brain is one of the most metabolically active organs, using more than 20 percent of the body’s total energy requirements. It relies almost entirely on glucose from the bloodstream, which requires proper insulin signaling. In the brains of advanced Alzheimer’s patients, insulin receptors are 80 percent less active than those found in normal brains. One of insulin’s jobs in the brain is to stimulate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is involved in learning and memory, and it also stimulates muscle tissue. Deficiencies in acetylcholine are a known marker of Alzheimer’s.

Other research involving diabetes patients who underwent MRIs of their brains clearly shows what this disease can do to the brain:

  • For every 10 years these patients had the diabetes, their brain appeared to be two years older than the brain of a non-diabetic;
  • The higher their average blood sugar level, the more their brain decreased in size;
  • The longer they had diabetes, the greater their risk of dementia; and
  • The brain size of diabetics decreased twice as rapidly non-diabetics. 

Nixing Sugar from Your Type 2 Diabetes Diet Really Does Work

Regardless of what you may have been told, in the large majority of cases, type 2 diabetes is not just manageable; it’s curable. It happens every day when individuals lose weight and belly fat by eating right and exercising. If you are one of the millions in this country with pre-diabetes or diabetes, now is the time to get it turned around.

The costs and suffering from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s are—and will continue to be—overwhelming. Please don’t become one of the victims. Dump the sodas from your type 2 diabetes diet, trash the Twinkies, and use sugar to feed hummingbirds only. Change your life so you can enjoy more of it. People are always asking me what they can do to live forever (or at least for a long time). My question to them is, “How alive are you right now?”

10 Secrets to Beat High Blood Sugar and Diabetes

It’s never too late! These proven tips can help you get off the “sugary slope” and keep your blood sugar balanced, for good. (You won’t believe secret #6!)

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