Mark Hyman, MD | How to Eliminate Sugar Cravings
Dr. Mark Hyman on 'The Blood Sugar Solution'
Are we becoming 'the United States of Diabetes'? In this special Q&A with Everyday Health, physician and author Mark Hyman, MD, outlines his plan for fighting type 2 diabetes and obesity through good nutrition and lifestyle changes.
By Mark Hyman, MD
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What can be done about the global obesity and diabetes epidemics? Mark Hyman, MD, a family physician and leader in the field of functional medicine, tackles that pressing question in his latest book,The Blood Sugar Solution. In this special Q&A with Everyday Health, Dr. Hyman talks about the issues involved and how to create both personal and societal change through healthier lifestyle choices.
Everyday Health:The Blood Sugar Solutionincludes a quiz that can help the reader determine whether he or she has "diabesity." Can you explain what that is?
Dr. Mark Hyman:Diabesity, the continuum of health problems ranging from mild insulin resistance and overweight to obesity and diabetes, is the single biggest global health epidemic of our time. It is one of the leading causes of heart disease, dementia, cancer, and premature death in the world and is almost entirely caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. This means that it is almost 100 percent preventable and curable.
Diabesity affects more than 1.7 billion people worldwide. Scientists conservatively estimate it will affect 1 in 2 Americans by 2020, 90 percent of whom will not be diagnosed. I believe it already affects more than 1 in 2 Americans and up to 70 to 80 percent of some populations.
EH:You’ve said that we are becoming the United States of Diabetes. What do you mean by that?
MH:Diabesity is a national health disaster and everyone in this country is or will be touched by it.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in America has tripled since the 1980s. There are now 27 million Americans with diabetes (25 percent of whom are not diagnosed) and 67 million with prediabetes (90 percent of whom are not diagnosed). African Americans, Latin Americans, and Asians have dramatically higher rates of diabesity than Caucasians do. By 2015, 2.3 billion people will be overweight and 700 million will be obese. The number of diabetics will increase from 1 in 10 Americans today to 1 in 3 by the middle of this century.
Obesity (almost always related to diabesity) is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world. Gaining just 11 to 16 pounds doubles the risk of type 2 diabetes, while gaining 17 to 24 pounds triples the risk. Despite this, there are no national recommendations from government or key organizations advising screening or treatment for prediabetes.
EH: What are the major causes of this health crisis?
MH:As physicians, we are trained to offer medication or surgery to solve diabetes (and disease in general), when the real causes include poor-quality diet, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, allergens, microbes, digestive imbalances, toxins, cellular energy problems, and stress. We think that treating risk factors such as high blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure with medications will help. But we don’t learn how to identify and treat the real causes of disease. In truth, diabetes, elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are simply symptoms that result from problems with diet, lifestyle, and environmental toxins interacting with our unique genetic susceptibilities.
EH: What do you think are the biggest myths about treating diabetes and obesity, and how are they contributing to the problem?
MH:As I outline in my book, there are seven myths about diabesity and obesity that keep us sick. These are:
- Diabetes is genetic— it isn’t. While genes may load the gun, diet and lifestyle pull the trigger. Diabetes is almost entirely induced by environmental and lifestyle factors.
- Diabetes is not reversible— it absolutely is. A groundbreaking study showed unequivocally that even people with advanced type 2 diabetes, when the pancreas has pooped out and the insulin-producing (beta) cells are damaged, can recover, and diabetes can be reversed in just one week — through dramatic changes in diet (very low glycemic, low calorie, plant-based diet).
- Prediabetes isn’t a problem until it turns into full blown diabetes.This is just pure hokum. Pre-diabetes is not “pre” anything. It is a deadly disease driving our biggest killers — heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and more.
- Once you start insulin there is no going back.Wrong! With aggressive lifestyle intervention and dietary change, you can reverse diabetes and stop insulin therapy under your doctor’s supervision.
- Lowering blood sugar with medication prevents death and heart attacks.This is a dangerous myth that is actually killing people. Avandia, the world’s number one blockbuster diabetes drug, contributed to the deaths of 47,000 people from heart disease in the first 11 years of its use (these data were hidden from the government and the public most of that time). We have to give up on the hope for the magic pill that will fix our problems.
- Heart surgery and angioplasty are good treatments for diabetics with heart disease.No way! A study in theNew England Journal of Medicineshowed that surgery and angioplasty for diabetics with heart disease work no better than medication in reducing heart attacks and death, and have higher risks.
- Weight loss is necessary for reversal of diabetes— not really. Sure, achieving optimal weight is desirable and a good goal for long-term health, but it is not necessary to rebalance your blood sugar. Perhaps more to the point, the rash of “weight loss surgeries” (i.e., gastric bypasses) do nothing to rebalance the underlying biochemistry that leads to diabetes in the first place. Changing your diet and lifestyle is the real cure.
The problem with these myths is twofold. First, we fail to adequately treat the disease by relying on medication, believing it can’t be reversed or blaming genetics. Second, we create more suffering as a medical community by buying into these myths. If our first imperative is to “do no harm,” we are failing miserably.
The way out of this epidemic is not surgery or pills — it’s addressing the underlying root causes of disease, which are driven by dietary and lifestyle choices.
EH: What’s the most important thing people can do right now to help their diabesity and start living a healthier life?
MH:Food is the most powerful medicine we have, and what you put at the end of your fork is much more powerful than what you find at the bottom of a pill bottle. The most important thing you can do to improve diabesity and start living healthier now is to improve your diet, as I outline in my 10 Rules for Eating Safely for Life.
EH: Finally, what is the Blood Sugar Solution ?
MH:The Blood Sugar Solutionis an 8-week diet and lifestyle change program that provides you with all of the steps you need to rebalance your blood sugar, overcome insulin resistance, and reverse diabesity. It will help you:
- Boost your nutrition
- Regulate your hormones
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve your digestion
- Maximize detoxification
- Enhance energy metabolism
- Soothe your mind
These goals are achieved through a step-by-step weekly system that includes preparing the mind, body, and kitchen for change; getting tested; getting together in community; and basic nutrition education.
I encourage you to read the book and follow the program — it will help you take back your health.
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