Causes of Diabetes

I'm sure you agree that understanding the causes of diabetes, and what lead you down this road in the first place, is extremely important. If you don't, you can't possibly hope to reverse the condition permanently. 


The problem with diabetes is that in its early stages it has no specific symptoms. Most people don't even realize they're developing it until, perhaps, they have a routine test at their doctor's surgery.

So if diabetes runs in your family or you're suffering from frequent episode of low blood sugar or you're wondering about what your diet is doing to you, read on, you'll be thankful that you've spared the time to consider the causes of diabetes.

What is Diabetes?


It all starts with how the body handles glucose, the smallest and simplest sugar molecule. All the carbohydrates we eat - found in fruit, vegetables and grains - are turned into glucose in the digestive system and then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Glucose is essential to life. It's the fuel that all your cells need to produce energy. It powers your movements, your thoughts and, more or less, everything you do. In other words, you cannot live without glucose!

You might think that because glucose is so important to all the cells, it would be very easy for it to gain access to them. Well that's not the case. All our cells are surrounded by a membrane that jealously guards the entrance into the cell and it's very selective. For very good reasons, not everything is allowed to enter.

The Role of Insulin


This is where insulin comes in. After a meal, the body responds to the rise in blood glucose levels by secreting insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream to travel to every cell of your body.

insulin opens glucose channels on the cell


When insulin reaches the cells (see diagram), it lands on insulin receptors on the cell's surface and acts like a key that opens a lock, opening the glucose channels and allowing glucose to gain access to the cell.

So what could go wrong?


Problem No. 1

If the glucose is released slowly, moderate levels of insulin are released and have time to 'think' about where that glucose is needed most and send it there.

When high levels of glucose enter the bloodstream all at once, the body 'panics' as too much glucose can be harmful. To compensate, the body releases huge amounts of insulin, which quickly transfer glucose to the fat stores where it can do no harm, leading to weight gain.


Problem No. 2

In people with type 2 diabetes, there seem to be another problem: insulin doesn't work properly. It is as if the 'lock' has somehow become jammed and the 'key' no longer works. This is called insulin resistance and, in the long run, leads to diabetes.

When the cells don't get the fuel they need and go hungry, it causes fatigue, dizziness and many other symptoms that people normally don't attribute to diabetes... read more about the Symptoms of Diabetes.

All this sugar that remains in the bloodstream becomes toxic, eventually causing cell damage which contributes to aging and furring of the arteries.

Blood vessels will be damaged, which in turn, may cause eye disease, heart disease, nerve damage in the limbs and internal organs and kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy)... read more on the Complications of Diabetes.

So, it's extremely important to find out the causes of diabetes and adopt a strategy that can reverse the problem.


Fundamental Causes of Diabetes


There can be two reasons:

  • Your pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, hence the door to the cells doesn't get opened and glucose cannot enter (type 1 diabetes and later stages of type 2 diabetes).
  • Your pancreas produces enough insulin, but the cells have become resistant to its effects (type 2 diabetes).

    In either case, glucose levels start to build up in the bloodstream, becoming more and more concentrated and eventually it passes through the kidneys and ends up in your urine (which is what they pick up when they examine a urine sample).

By the way, this is the reason why it was given the name Diabetes Mellitus.

It comes from a Greek word meaning "pass through" and mellitus, a Latin word for "honey" or "sweet".

As glucose passes through your kidneys, it carries water along with it, hence the frequent trips to the bathroom.

What follows naturally is thirst. Also as your cells are deprived of fuel, you'll experience fatigue. If your muscles don't have the glucose they need for power, you tire easily.

This is why the main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • fatigue
  • frequent urination
  • thirst

Read more about the signs and symptoms of diabetes.

Main Causes of Diabetes Type 2

Obesity

causes of diabetes

We've seen that when the cells become insensitive to insulin, you tend to put on weight but being overweight and obese is also one of the major causes of diabetes type 2. So it's a catch 22 situation.

How does fat play a role in the development of this condition? The main reason is that body fat releases several substances into the blood - free fatty acids, resistin, leptin, tumor necrosis factor, which have several undesirable effects:

  • They cause cells to ignore the glucose and leave it floating in your blood.
  • They cause the pancreas to produce less insulin.
  • They also reduce secretion of compounds that improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides and inhibit atherosclerosis.

About 80 to 90% of type 2 diabetics are obese. The good news is that achieving the ideal body weight is linked to restoring normal blood sugar in most cases.

The problem is, it's not always easy for people with diabetes to lose weight, as diabetes itself will encourage the body to turn excess sugar into fat very quickly, but we will discuss ways that can make losing weight easier.


Can Genetics Be One of the Causes of Diabetes?

Research shows that even with the strongest genetic predisposition, diabetes mellitus can be avoided in most cases.

You may be born with a vulnerability to diabetes, but you need something in the environment, including diet, to set in motion events that trigger overt symptoms of the disease.

"We know that genetic factors predispose certain people to diabetes. But all of the data suggests that lifestyle factors, particularly diet and exercise, can determine whether those genetic factors actually manifest in the disease."

James Barnard, Ph.D., professor of physiological science, UCLA

It has been discovered that when some ethnic groups more prone to the condition (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Native Australian or New Zelander, Asian American, Pacific Islander) follow the traditional diet and lifestyle of their original culture, diabetes is extremely low. It turns out that these groups are simply sensitive to the Western lifestyle.

Take, for example, the Pima Indians. Researchers discovered that Pimas who live in Mexico and eat a lot of corn, beans and fruits are seldom overweight and rarely develop diabetes. By contrast, the Pima Indians in Arizona eat an Americanized diet that is high in sugar and fat and, no surprises there, they commonly develop diabetes by age 50.

Diet and Lifestyle

There's no doubt that the main causes of diabetes are diet and lifestyle. Lack of exercise, eating processed foods, not eating enough whole foods, high intake of harmful fat and obesity, are all major contributors to type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle changes alone are associated with a 58% reduced risk of developing diabetes in people with impaired glucose tolerance or insulin resistance.

High GI Foods

Eating foods high on the glycemic index and glycemic load scale increases the risk of developing diabetes. These tools measure how quickly carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood sugar.

To find out why this is a problem, follow the link to read more about them.

Inadequate Fiber Intake

Fiber is essential in controlling the rise in blood sugar. Diets with inadequate amount of fiber, as is the case with junk food, refined and processed food, cause blood sugar levels to rise very suddenly becoming serious causes of diabetes.

For example, a review of studies about cereal grains found that people who ate three servings of whole grains a day were 20 to 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate less.

The recommendation is to consume at least 35 g. or more of fiber per day from a variety of food sources, especially vegetables.

Wrong Type of Fats

Consuming the wrong type of fats - saturated fats and trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils, as in margarine, vegetable shortening) - can actually clog up the receptors on the cell membranes, much like jamming chewing gum into a lock.

Conversely, monounsaturated fats, as in olive oil, and omega 3 fatty acids, found mainly in fish, have been proven to improve insulin action.

Low Intake of Antioxidants and Free Radicals Damage

Cumulative free radical damage ages cells and contributes to type 2 diabetes. Diets high in fruits and vegetables improve control of blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing the condition. Especially foods high in vitamin C and E and carotenoids seem to provide antioxidant protection and lower the risk of diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes have higher levels of free radicals, which exhaust antioxidant mechanisms while damaging DNA, proteins and membrane fatty acids. High levels of free radicals, high blood glucose and saturated fat activate inflammatory compounds, increase insulin resistance and impair insulin secretion.

I've discussed free radicals and antioxidants extensively in one of my Newsletters, click on the link to read it.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism may be one of the leading causes of diabetes. According to researcher and author Stephen Land, M.D., many complications of diabetes disappear when thyroid hormone is administered.

Many of the complications of diabetes and hypothyroidism are a result of clogged arteries, which prevent the blood from delivering nutrients and oxygen and carrying off waste and debris.

FURTHER READING:

Many different drugs are used to increase insulin sensitivity and/or increase insulin production, but without tackling the causes of diabetes, and the benefits of these drugs pale in comparison with efficacy of diet and lifestyle changes.

Read how you can reverse diabetes by changing your diet.

Some of the following facts on the effects that diabetes can have on your body can give you the motivation you need to make changes in your diet and lifestyle. Read about the Complications of Diabetes


If you want to read about the Different Types of Diabetes click on NEXT or go back to the Treatment of Diabetes main page to select your next article.


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Simple 3-Step Approach To Totally Reverse Type 2 Diabetics
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