The Wheat Belly: Diabetes and accelerated aging
I recently read an excerpt called “Wheat Belly” from the book “Wheat: The Unhealthy Whole Grain”, written by Dr William Davis, MD.Â What I read in this book touched upon a new concept for me in relation to healthy eating for Type 2 Diabetics.
Dr Davis explains how our current supply of genetically modified (GMO) wheat that is prolific within the North American diet actually acts differently within our body than the wheat that our ancestors ate.Â While we tout eating whole grains rather than refined grains and starchy foods (potatoes, pasta, white rice, bleached white flour, etc), Dr Davis explains how even whole wheat has a remarkable affect on raising blood sugar levels.
Typical advice for Type 2 diabetics includes replacing simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, candy, white rice, white bread, pasta, etc) with complex carbohydrates (whole grains).Â All too often, whole wheat is the whole grain of choice, as many diabetics are not educated about other options (ancient grains such as spelt and kamut, quinoa, millet, and black rice to name a few).
Dr Davis shows that the effect of wheat, even as whole wheat, on blood sugar is worse than eating plain white sugar. Glycemic index is a measurement of the impact of a food on blood sugar levels.Â The higher the glycemic index (GI), the higher that particular food raises blood sugar levels.Â A University of Toronto study of glycemic index showed the GI of white bread to be 69 and whole wheat bread to be 72, with sucrose (white table sugar) only had a GI of 59.Â This evidence shows the remarkable blood-sugar raising effects of wheat on the body, with whole wheat having the capacity to raise blood sugar levels higher than plain sugar.
When your blood sugar rises, the pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone that ushers blood sugar molecules into your cells.Â The higher the blood sugar level, the more insulin must be secreted.Â Once glucose enters your cells, the excess is converted to abdominal and deep visceral fat that surrounds your vital organs.Â Constant blood sugar spikes from our wheat-centered diets lead to a strain on the pancreas and insufficient production of insulin.Â When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to manage and control blood sugar levels, Type 2 Diabetes results.
Visceral fat produced by blood sugar imbalance significantly increases your risk for heart disease, cancer, dementia and rheumatoid arthritis.Â This type of fat that surrounds your abdominal organs produces cytokines 24 hours per day which are signalling molecules that trigger inflammation within the body.
Dietary changes can reverse Type 2 Diabetes and related conditions (abdominal obesity, visceral fat, inflammation, glycation, accelerated aging). By removing high glycemic GMO wheat products from the diet, blood sugar levels decrease, appetite slows, insulin levels lower, and less glucose is converted to abdominal and visceral fat.Â When visceral fat is shed, inflammation subsides and the risk for heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory conditions is drastically reduced.
The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends whole wheat, rice, potatoes, corn and pasta.Â All of these carbohydrates have detrimental effects on blood glucose, leading only to further development of Type 2 Diabetes and greater need for medications. By significantly reducing carbohydrates within the diet (especially GMO wheat, white rice, potatoes, corn and pasta) pre-diabetics and Type 2 Diabetics with sufficient pancreatic function remaining can reverse the symptoms of diabetes, and eventually reduce or discontinue their medications provided they stick to the diet.
Diabetes is the perfect example of accelerated aging. A high carbohydrate diet causing elevated blood glucose levels leads to a process called glycation. Glycation occurs when a sugar group attaches onto a protein within the body, leading to the formation of an Advanced Glycation Endproduct or AGE.Â This can occur in the arteries, eyes, kidneys, skin, liver, nerves, and virtually anywhere in the body.Â Everyone has some AGEs, but high levels are a sign of accelerated aging.Â AGEs lead to degenerative conditions such as cataracts, dementia, kidney disease, clogged arteries, saggy/wrinkled skin, and arthritis. Once formed, AGEs are irreversible, but changes can be made to slow AGE production.
AGEs can be measured by a common blood test called HbA1c (Hemoglobin A 1 c). This blood test gives a snap shot of AGE production over the past 60-90 days, so it can be tested every 3 months to monitor progress.Â A lower HbA1c is best and means that blood sugars are controlled, AGE production is minimal, and accelerated aging is not occurring.