Comments made by people I’d thought understood why growing and eating genetically modified and other non-organic foods are dangerous to humans, other animals and the planet spurred me to write this post.
“Why should I pay more for organic carrots? They’re not any bigger than the other kind.” – heard at a farmers’ market
“Organic is just a label for getting us to pay more for our food.” – said by an MD
“Genetically modified foods have been tested and are safe to eat.”
“The US government protects the safety of our food supply.”
“GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” (Non-GMO Project, 2016)
Although at least 90% of Americans want labeling, genetically engineered foods generally are not labeled in the US – thanks to powerful efforts by Monsanto and other big agribusiness companies.
Conventionally grown foods are grown using synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, chemicals which get absorbed into the soil and cannot be removed. The purpose of conventional farming is mass production, out of season growing, and creating a longer shelf life. This type of farming uses monoculture. This means crops are often planted over and over in the same place which leads to more insect infestation and disease, and depletes the soil of nutrients which then leads to more fertilizer use. This endless cycle often leads to massive topsoil erosion. It is also argued that conventionally grown foods are tasteless due to all the chemical treating. (Raj, 2012)
Conventionally grown foods are also not labeled in the US and often contain GMOs along with synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Organic foods are grown in nutrient rich soil and are free of synthetic chemicals. They are not treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Organically raised farm animals are free of antibiotics and added hormones. They are not fed GMO’s or other drugs. Organic animals are not allowed to have their genes modified. They are raised in healthier environments, are organically fed, and generally eat a wider range of nutrients than animals in factory farms. Organically raised animals are not bred from a test tube. (Raj, 2012)
GMO Free means not genetically modified or fed feed containing GMOs.
A SUMMARY OF THE ISSUES
SAFETY FOR HUMANS
The only way to avoid consuming the cocktail of toxic chemicals in genetically modified and otherwise commercially grown foods is to eat organic. “More than 600 active chemicals are registered for agricultural use in America, to the tune of billions of pounds annually. The average application equates to about 16 pounds of chemical pesticides per person every year. Many of these chemicals were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before adequate safety testing.
“The National Academy of Sciences reports that 90% of the chemicals applied to foods have not been tested for long-term health effects before being deemed “safe.” Further, the FDA tests only 1% of foods for pesticide residue. The most dangerous and toxic pesticides require special testing methods, which are rarely if ever employed by the FDA. ” (Loux, 2011)
Contrary to Monsanto’s and other GMO manufacturers and supporters’ claims, the pesticides associated with GMO crops are unsafe for humans, other organisms, and the environment.
A primary example is glyphosate, a broad-spectrum, non-selective systemic herbicide, that is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow AgroSciences’ Rodeo and is found in many other herbicides as well.
Exposure to glyphosate has been linked to a host of serious health effects: (Robinson, Antoniou & Fagan, 2015)
Severe liver and kidney damage
Chronic kidney disease
Disruption of hormonal systems, potentially leading to multiple organ damage and hormone-dependent cancer
Developmental and reproductive toxicity, including sperm damage, miscarriage, and premature birth
High Glyphosate levels are now turning up everywhere:
In our blood
In breast milk
In water supplies
“Glyphosate levels have been found to be significantly higher in the urine of humans who ate non-organic food, compared with those who ate mostly organic food. Chronically ill people showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine than healthy people.” (Robinson, Antoniou & Fagan, 2015)
SAFETY OF THE PLANET
Those more than 600 agricultural chemicals the US government has approved for agricultural use are contaminating our environment and destroying the ecosystem:
Polluting the soil and water with toxins
Depleting nutrients from the soil, destroying its fertility
Destroying organisms in the soil necessary for growing healthy crops and animals
Killing and mutating insects, frogs, birds and other wildlife
Organic farming, while avoiding use of these chemicals, supports the tapestry of ecology, achieving eco-sustenance.
“Certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.
“According to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel, it is estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests. The bulk of pesticides (99.9%) is left to impact the environment.” (Loux, 2011)
Organically grown foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods. They contain more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients than commercially grown foods because the soil they’re grown in is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards. “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted a review of 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains and concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic foods crops.
“Further, the study verifies that five servings of organically grown vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage) provide an adequate allowance of vitamin C, whereas the same number of servings of conventionally grown vegetables do not.
“On average, organically grown foods provide: 21.1% more iron (than their conventional counterparts); 27% more vitamin C; 29.3% more magnesium; 13.6% more phosphorus.” (Loux, 2011)
ORGANIC VS FACTORY FARMED ANIMALS
Even aside from the huge issue of the heart breaking, inhumane treatment of factory farmed animals, the meat and dairy products they provide are the foods at highest risk for contamination by harmful substances. For example, over 90% of the pesticides Americans consume comes from the fat and tissue of meat and dairy products. (Loux, 2011)
(I’ll also point out that the corn fed to the factory farmed cow on the right above is almost certainly genetically modified. )
The EPA reports that a majority of human pesticide intake comes from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products because these foods are all high on the food chain. “For instance, a large fish that eats a smaller fish that eats even smaller fish accumulates all of the toxins of the chain, especially in fatty tissue. Cows, chickens, and pigs are fed animal parts, by-products, fish meal, and grains that are heavily and collectively laden with toxins and chemicals.” (Loux, 2011)
The antibiotics, drugs, and growth hormones fed to factory farmed animals are passed directly into their meat and dairy products. “Tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics are used in animal feed every year…. The hormones fed to cows cannot be broken down, even at high temperatures. Therefore they remain in complete form and pass directly into the consumer’s diet when meat is eaten.” (Loux, 2011)
“Between 1985 and 2001, the use of antibiotics in feed for industrial livestock production rose a startling 50%. Today, antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock, poultry, and fish on industrial farms to promote faster growth and to compensate for the unsanitary conditions in which they are raised.
“According to a new report by the FDA, approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals. This means that in the United States only 20 percent of antibiotics, which were originally developed to protect human health, are actually used to treat infections in people.” (Grace, 2016)
ORGANIC TASTES BETTER
Organically grown foods are generally more flavorful and easier to digest than foods treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They’re more environment-friendly too. (Quinn, 2000)
ORGANIC IS ACTUALLY COST-EFFECTIVE
To decide whether it’s worth it to pay more money for organic foods, you have to factor in the additional costs of eating non-organic:
Widespread and ever increasing suffering with acute and chronic illnesses
The financial cost of treating these illnesses
Treatment of bacterial-resistant infections
Subsidies paid to farmers
Egregious treatment of animals on factory farms
Cost of pesticide clean ups
Destruction of the environment
Loss of export markets for US-produced GM products
Organic farming produces nutritious foods that keep us and other animals well instead of making us sick as most of our food supply is currently doing. Organic practices also preserve the environment for the future.
And then there are these additional, hidden costs in figuring how much you’re actually spending for non-organic foods:
“Buying organic food is an investment in a cost-effective future. Commercial and conventional farming is heavily subsidized with tax dollars in America. A study at Cornell University determined the cost of a head of commercial iceberg lettuce, typically purchased at 49 cents a head, to be more than $3.00 a head when hidden costs were revealed. The study factored in the hidden costs of federal subsidies, pesticide regulation and testing, and hazardous waste and cleanup.
“Every year, American tax dollars subsidize billions of dollars for a farm bill that heavily favors commercial agribusiness. Peeling back another layer of the modern farming onion reveals a price tag that cannot be accurately measured but certainly includes other detrimental associated costs such as health problems, environmental damage, and the loss and extinction of wildlife and ecology.” (Loux, 2011)
WHAT IS FOOD?
Having apparently lost the ability to understand the function of food – to provide nourishment that keeps us well, we’ve reached the point of calling everything we put in our stomachs ‘food’.
READ MORE ABOUT GMO MYTHS AND TRUTHS
If you’re interested in learning more about GMOs and the research on them, I recommend this clear, easy to read source of information:
GMO Myths and Truths – A Citizen’s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops and Foods, 3rd Edition. Its authors are Claire Robinson (an editor at GMWatch), John Fagan (PhD in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology, pioneer of genetic testing methods for GMOs, researcher on biosafety and sustainable agriculture, and Director of Open Earth Resource), and Michael Antoniou (PhD in Molecular Genetics and Head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine).
Updated 8/29/2014, 9/7/2015, and 4/15/2016. NOTE added at end of post on 9/6/2015. Last updated 10/22/2016.
In the global diabetes epidemic, rates of new cases are rising rapidly. I hope this post will help you avoid becoming one of them.
Number of People Diagnosed with Diabetes
Millions, by region
Source: IDF Diabetes Atlas, Sixth Edition; Managed Care calculation of percentages using data from The World Factbook, published by the CIA
TYPES 1 & 2 DIABETES: AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
During digestion, most of our food gets broken down into glucose (a form of sugar that’s the body’s main source of fuel), which then passes into the bloodstream. Insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) must also be present in the blood for glucose to be able to make it into our cells to nourish them.
Type 1 diabetes is known to be a serious autoimmune problem of the metabolism. An autoimmune disorder or disease is a result of chronic inflammation in the body’s immune system, causing it to turn against a part of the body – to attack it as if its cells were dangerous, invading pathogens. In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. (WebMD, 2008)
Type 2 diabetes is now also largely viewed as the result of a different type of autoimmune reaction: one in which B and T immune cells cause inflammation in the fatty tissue surrounding organs in the body. The inflammation occurs when rapidly growing fat cells outstrip their blood supply and begin to die off. These dying cells spew out their contents, and macrophages (another type of immune cell) are called in to clean up the dead cells. “The resulting onslaught by the immune system inhibits the ability of the remaining fat cells to respond to insulin and causes fatty acids to be shed into the blood. This sets in motion a physiological cascade that leads to fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and further insulin resistance throughout the body.” (Conger, 2011)
TYPE 1 DIABETES
In Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, the immune system mistakenly kills off pancreatic cells that make the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin. The body’s immune system attacks and destroys these pancreatic cells so they no longer make enough insulin.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10% of diagnosed diabetes in the US.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas usually produces enough insulin but the cells in the body have become unable to make effective use of the hormone, a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin production eventually decreases. So, as in Type 1 diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being properly delivered to the cells in the body where they’re needed for fuel.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity, older age, family history of gestational diabetes, and physical inactivity. About 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Unfortunately, Type 2 diabetes is also increasingly being seen in younger people, even children and teens.
A prediabetic condition indicates the amount of glucose in the blood is above normal but not yet high enough to be called diabetes. Prediabetic people are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
DIABETES STATISTICS IN THE US
Statistics from the American Diabetes Association Report, 2014 show the magnitude of the problem in the US:
PREVALENCE: In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes.
Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes.
UNDIAGNOSED: Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed and another 8.1 million were undiagnosed.
PREVALENCE IN SENIORS: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.9%, or 11.8 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
NEW CASES: The incidence of diabetes in 2012 was 1.7 million new diagnoses/year; in 2010 it was 1.9 million.
PREDIABETES: In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetes; this is up from 79 million in 2010.
DEATHS: Based on the 69,071 death certificates in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death in 2010, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States that year. In 2010, diabetes was also mentioned as a cause of death in a total of 234,051 certificates.
CAUSE OF DEATH UNDER REPORTING
Diabetes may be under reported as a cause of death. Studies have found that only about 35% to 40% of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate and only about 10-15% had it listed as the underlying cause of death.
DIABETES IN YOUTH
About 208,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, approximately 0.25% of that population.
In 2008—2009, the annual incidence of diagnosed diabetes in youth was estimated at 18,436 with Type 1 diabetes, 5,089 with Type 2 diabetes.
Some other diabetes statistics showing the seriousness of the problem:
Below are diabetes prevalence data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of reported cases tripled between 1980 and 2008. The CDC estimates that “the number of Americans with diabetes will range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 by 2050.”
And here’s information from the International Diabetes Federation comparing reported cases of diabetes in 2013 with projected cases by 2035 for countries around the world – an expected increase of 55%.
GUT BACTERIA & DIABETES
Researchers are discovering changes in normal gut bacteria that take place before either Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes turns into a clinical condition. Since we now know that 70-80% of our immune system is located in our GI tract, where digestion takes place, you can see how a serious imbalance in the bacterial make up of the gut microbiome could lead to the development of diabetes in people with a genetic predisposition for it.
“Mounting evidence suggests that the bacteria resident within our GI tract – and the immune response to those bacteria – influence the permeability of the gut mucosa. This idea — which has become to be known as the “leaky gut” hypothesis — proposes that a cycle of dysbiosis, dysregulated immune response, and unintended gut permeability leads to the peripheral host immune system being unbalanced towards a pro-inflammatory response. This in turn is suggested to lead to (some of) the imbalances that are thought to be causative of diabetes and other non-metabolic disorders.” (Moore, 2015)
GUT BACTERIA, ANTIBIOTICS & RISK FOR DIABETES
A team of scientists led by Dr Ben Boursi, a Post Doctoral Researcher in Gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found people who have taken multiple courses of antibiotics were 37% more likely to develop Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The team also found the greater the number of courses of antibiotics, the higher the risk for developing diabetes.
Dr Boursi notes, “Our findings are important, not only for understanding how diabetes may develop, but as a warning to reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatments that might do more harm than good.”
Several studies in humans have shown that early childhood exposure to antibiotics is associated with increased risk of obesity in later life – and obesity has long been recognized as risk for developing diabetes.
There’s also growing evidence that imbalances in the gut microbiome’s composition contribute to the development of both Type 1 and 2 diabetes.
The Boursi team’s future research will focus on identifying the species of gut bacteria necessary to prevent and reverse diabetes, potentially working towards the possibility of transplanting prebiotic and probiotic microbes into the gut as a therapeutic strategy for diabetes. (Arendt, 2015) & (Davenport, 2015)
PREDIABETICS HAVE FEWER & LESS DIVERSE GUT BACTERIA
A research team led by Dr Elena Barengolts, an Endocrinologist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, found irregularities in the composition of the probiotic bacteria in the guts of prediabetic patients: Compared with subjects whose glucose tolerance was good, the prediabetics had fewer and less diverse populations of bacteria living in their gut microbiomes.
There were 116 participants in the study, all African-American veterans. Their ages ranged from 45 to 70. Their intestinal bacteria were measured by stool samples at the start of the study and again 12 months later.
Participants were divided into four groups based on their body’s ability to regulate blood sugar:
Group 1 – Those with stable glucose tolerance (normal)
Group 2 – Those with stable impaired fasting glucose or stable impaired glucose tolerance
Group 3 – Those with worsened glucose tolerance
Group 4 – Those with improved glucose tolerance
The study found that men whose blood sugar control remained normal over the year (Group 1) had higher numbers of beneficial gut bacteria while the men who continued to be prediabetic had fewer beneficial bacteria and higher numbers of harmful bacteria in their guts.
Furthermore, the group whose blood sugar management improved over the course of the year (Group 4) had a higher number of a strain of healthy bacteria (Akkermansia) than the group who had maintained normal blood sugar control over the year (Group 1). (Gray, 2015)
At the phylum level, this study found significant differences in the bacterial composition between Groups 1 and 2: Group 2 (people with impaired but stable fasting glucose or glucose tolerance) had higher levels of Bacteroidetes and lower levels of Firmicutes than people in Group 1.
The Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio was 1.9 vs 0.9 respectively for Groups 1 and 2 and 1.9 vs 1.1 respectively for Groups 1 and 3.
The number of Proteobacteria decreased over the 12-month study period in Groups 2 and 4 compared with Group 1. Proteobacteria are a major phylum of gram-negative bacteria that include a variety of pathogens – such as Escherichia, Salmonella, Vibrio, Helicobacter, and Yersinia. (Wikipedia, 2015)
At the family and genus levels, Group 2 had fewer Prevotella and a higher Bacteroides/Prevotella ratio than Group 1: 5.6 vs 2.7. Group 2 also had fewer Enterobacteriaceae (a large family of bacteria that includes the pathogens Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Yersinia pestis, Klebsiella and Shigella) and more Ruminococcae and Veillonellaceae.
“We speculate that lower abundance of Prevotella may be associated with worsening glycemia, and, conversely, higher abundance of Akkermansia might be associated with improving glycemia, thus corroborating suggestions from previous studies,” the researchers said.
Barengolts notes, “Changes in the gut microbiota occur in the early stage of diabetes development. The gut bacteria signature — the composition and abundance — could be a useful tool in assessing a person’s risk for developing obesity and diabetes.” (Ciubotaru et al, 2015) & (Brown, 2015)
Other studies are currently underway in Italy and China investigating gut bacterial transplants as a treatment for diabetes.
ALTERED GUT BACTERIA PRECEDE TYPE 1 DIABETES IN CHILDREN
A small study followed 33 babies from Finland and Estonia who were at increased genetic risk for developing Type 1 diabetes. Analysis of their stool samples charted changes in the multitude of microorganisms living in their guts.
By age three, four of the children developed Type 1 diabetes. Huge alterations in the gut microbes of those those four children were seen about a year before onset of the disease. As with the men in the veterans’ study, there was a marked drop in the diversity of the overall microbial community. This drop in gut diversity was accompanied by spikes in inflammation-favoring organisms, gene functions, and serum and stool metabolites. These changes in gut microbial levels did not occur in the at risk children who didn’t progress to Type 1 diabetes.
Researcher Dr Aleksandar Kostic, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Biology and Experimental Biology at MIT and Harvard, hopes the study’s results will lead to an early diagnostic test for Type 1 diabetes. (Kostic et al, 2015) & (Norton, 2015)
PREVENTING & TREATING DIABETES VIA THE GUT MICROBIOME?
Bacteria in the Human Gut
Given what we already know about the gut microbiome’s role in keeping the body in a balanced state so it remains healthy, it makes sense to focus on diet and nutritional supplements for preventing and treating diabetes.
For example, we know there is considerable variation among people in the microbes that live in and on us. We also know that an individual’s microbial populations are always changing.
The following is from an easy to read summary of changes in the various human microbiomes from birth through old age. It was prepared by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center (2015). You might want to take a look at it – it provides useful information along with some delightful drawings:
“Before birth, we’re all more or less sterile—we have no microbes. Within a few years, we’re covered in thousands of different species of microbes, and they colonize every millimeter of the body that’s exposed to the outside world. By the time we enter kindergarten, we have vastly different populations living in the different habitats around our bodies. Even as adults and into old age, our microbiota continue to shift.
” … Because so many things affect our bodies’ ecosystems, there is a huge amount of variability in microbial populations even among individuals of the same age. Just like our fingerprints vary, we vary in the microbial species we have as well as their relative abundancies. Our microbes vary with gender, diet, climate, age, occupation, and hygiene. Even differences in our genes influence our microbial populations—indirectly by affecting things like the acidity of the digestive tract, and also more directly through variations in proteins on our cells that communicate with microbes.
“Even with all this variability, there are some trends. Microbial populations differ more among body sites than between individuals. For example, the microbes living on the forearms of two different people tend to be more similar than the microbes on the forearm and ear of the same person. And there are certain species of bacteria that will only live in the gut, others that will live only on the teeth, and so on.”
GENETICS VS EPIGENETICS
We also know this about autoimmune diseases: DNA IS NOT DESTINY
Chronic diseases, especially autoimmune ones, are only 25% determined by genetic inheritance. The other 75% is affected by other factors. It’s a matter of genetics vs epigenetics. You may have a genetic predisposition for diabetes but also have a large say in whether your DNA expresses that predisposition in your body.
“We know from twin studies, from identical twin studies, that 25% of autoimmunity is your genetics, and 75% is from the environment. … So that’s an enormous amount that we have control over and can influence.”
Amy Myers, MD. (Sanfilippo, 2015)
If we know that both the composition and abundance of micro-organisms living in our guts change over the course of a lifetime, shouldn’t it be possible to learn how to make deliberate changes to our gut microbiome – changes that prevent diabetes from developing even if we have a genetic predisposition for it?
TO AVOID OR REVERSE INSULIN RESISTANCE
These are Dr Robert Mercola’s suggestions for turning insulin resistance around (Mercola, 8/23/2015) & (Mercola, 8/27/2015):
EAT REAL FOODS INSTEAD OF PROCESSED ONES
Almost all so-called foods that come in a bottle, can, jar, bag, or box have had sugars added to them, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
EAT FRESH FRUIT INSTEAD OF PURCHASED FRUIT JUICES
Commercial fruit juices are loaded with added sugar.
AVOID “DIET” FOODS AND DRINKS
They promote insulin resistance and other health problems. “The artificial sweeteners saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame decrease function in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in your body, and can induce both gut dysbiosis and glucose intolerance. Research also shows that artificial sweeteners promote diabetes and weight gain by disrupting your gut microbiome. Sucralose (Splenda) was found to reduce beneficial gut bacteria by as much as 50 percent!”
AVOID GRAINS, ESPECIALLY WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS & RYE
Grains turn into sugar in your body, sharply raising your glucose and insulin levels, and contribute to insulin resistance. Many grains also contain gluten, which triggers inflammation in the intestines, leading to a state of chronic inflammation in the body and autoimmune diseases.
Consuming a lot of refined grains (and even whole grains) is also highly inflammatory for another reason: Humans are designed to eat a diet containing a ratio of 1 or 2 parts of Omega-6 essential fatty acids to every 1 part of Omega-3. This ratio is what we get when we eat real, unprocessed, highly nutritious foods – non-GMO veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and pastured animals. Our typical diet now has come to contain 10 to 20 parts Omega-6 to every part Omega-3 – producing a highly inflammatory state in the body. (Kratka, 2011)
“Grains are almost single-handedly responsible for the removal of omega-3 fatty acids in the modern diet…. There have been over 2000 studies done on omega-3 and for good reason: the omega-3s in our diet (or the lack their of) have massive implications on our health. It all boils down to ratios: the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your diet is so crucial, it goes down to the cellular level.” (Kratka, 2011)
Better alternatives to grains are non-GMO almond meal, coconut flour, buckwheat groats, and sweet potatoes. They are much gentler on your blood sugar than grains. Mercola points out that even these healthier alternatives will hamper your body’s ability to heal if you’re already insulin resistant. “Once the clinical signs of insulin resistance have resolved, you can relax your carb restriction.”
Eat fewer saturated and trans fats (unhealthy) and more mono and poly unsaturated fats (healthy). Examples of healthy fats include avocado, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, cheese, raw dairy, organic pastured eggs, raw nuts, grass-fed meats, and coconut oil.
Due to the high percentage of nutrient-poor foods, refined carbohydrates, bad fats, and refined sugars in the Standard American Diet (SAD), along with consumption of multiple OTC and prescription pharmaceuticals, we are far from getting the optimal ratio of 1:1 for Omega-6s (inflammatory) and Omega-3s (anti-inflammatory). The ratio in our modern Western diet is often as high as 20:1, creating excessive, chronic inflammation in the body – and chronic inflammation is a precursor to many diseases.
GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D3
Having a sufficient blood level of Vitamin D is essential for maintaining good health and preventing a wide range of autoimmune and neurological diseases: Type 1 and 2 diabetes, asthma, allergies, cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS, susceptibility to infection (including viral respiratory infections) among them.
Vitamin D3 is vitally important for healthy immune functioning – and most of us are seriously D3 deficient. Unless we work mostly naked outdoors in a sunny climate without slathering our skin with sunscreen, we can benefit greatly from adding a high quality D3 supplement to our daily diets.
Some good sources of Vitamin D3 are:
Exposure of the skin to sunshine (without sunscreen), salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, cheeses, butter, shiitake and button mushrooms, sunflower seeds and sprouts, and high quality supplements.
Guidelines for the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D were updated by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2010 and are currently set by age: For those 1-70 years of age, 600 IU daily; for those 71 years and older, 800 IU daily; and for pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily. This is thought by many as far too low.
Due to a mathematical error, the IOM’s widely cited RDA’s for Vitamin D underestimate the body’s need for it by a factor of 10.
The IOM recommends a Vitamin D serum level of 20 ng/ml but we should actually aim for a blood level of 40 ng/ml, supplementing with whatever amount is necessary to reach and maintain that level. (Mercola, 5/10/2015)
One of my alternative health care providers recommends 5,000 IU/day in the summer time and as high as 10,000 IU/day the rest of the year. (Miller, 2011). I like Metagenics, D3 5000, 120 Softgels (1 2X/day).
Vitamin D serum levels should be monitored with periodic blood tests.
(4/15/2016: I reduced my D3 intake to 5,000 IU/day after my D blood serum level was too high.)
(10/22/2016: A few months ago, I needed to reduce my D3 intake even further – to 5,000 IU/day during the darker months and the same amount every other day during the sunnier months.)
Over 10,000 studies show that prolonged sitting harms your health. 8-10 hours of sitting a day, even if you exercise 30-60 minutes daily and are very fit, promotes dozens of chronic diseases – including obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
“The reason for this is because, at the molecular level, the human body was designed to be active all day long. When you stop moving and sit still for extended periods of time, it’s like telling your body to shut down and prepare for death. As soon as you stand up, a number of molecular cascades occur that promote and support healthy biological functioning.
“For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol — which are mediated by insulin — are activated. Surprising as it may sound, all of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your body weight upon your legs. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuels into your cells and, if done regularly, will radically decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity.
“So, the remedy is simple: Avoid sitting and get more movement into your life. Ideally, aim to sit less than three hours a day. Also consider walking more, in addition to your exercise regimen. In short, rest is supposed to break up activity — not the other way around. This kind of non-exercise physical movement appears to be really foundational for optimal health, and if you’re currently inactive, this is the place to start even before you get going on a workout routine.” (Mercola, 8/23/2015)
Don’t let this be true for you:
NOTE ADDED ON 9/6/2015
I’d asked Warren Fraser, MD, to look over this post. Dr Fraser is an experienced board certified endocrinologist and Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. He sent these helpful comments:
I think your post is very good.
I hadn’t thought of autoimmune diseases as being a result of chronic inflammation, but it makes sense. It’s seems as if more and more disorders are being linked to chronic inflammation. Cardiovascular disease has, and one of the studies I reviewed this week is looking at a drug which reduces chronic inflammation (the drug is already approved for use in Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, now commonly called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) to see if it will lower the incidence of a second cardiovascular event in people who have had one heart attack.
In reference to the TYPE 2 DIABETES SECTION:
The pancreas actually over secretes insulin in the early phases of the disease to combat the insulin resistance. This was quite a surprise to investigators when the insulin assay was developed (late 60’s or early 70’s I think). As you pointed out, insulin production eventually decreases, which may be due to, at least in part, pancreatic ‘exhaustion’ from chronic hypersecretion. High insulin levels are almost always seen in prediabetes (insulin resistance syndrome) and measuring insulin levels is useful in making the diagnosis.
In reference to the section on DIABETES STATISTICS IN THE US:
The increase in new cases may be due in part to a greater awareness of the disorder and more people being tested for it.
I certainly concur that diabetes is under reported as a cause of death. The cause is often attributed to a complication of the diabetes. Back in the 80’s, when Lee Iacocca addressed the annual meeting of American Diabetes Association, he said that he wanted his wife’s death certificate to tell the truth: she died from diabetes.
In reference to the section on GUT BACTERIA, ANTIBIOTICS & RISK FOR DIABETES:
I certainly agree with the harmful effects of excessive antibiotic use.
Again, this is a very good review and my comments aren’t meant to be suggestions to change anything.
– Fraser, 2016
GMO vs NON-GMO FOODS:
In the section AVOID GRAINS, ESPECIALLY WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS & RYE, I’d written “Humans are designed to eat a diet containing a ratio of 1 or 2 parts of Omega-6 essential fatty acids to every part of Omega-3. This ratio is what we get when we eat real, unprocessed, highly nutritious foods – non-GMO veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and pastured animals. Our typical diet now has come to contain 10 to 20 parts Omega-6 to every part of Omega-3 – producing a highly inflammatory state in the body.”
Dr Fraser also asked for clarification on the meaning of “non-GMO”. Here it is with respect to the foods we consume:
The short answer is that NON-GMO plant foods are ones that have not been genetically modified and NON-GMO animals are ones that have not been fed genetically engineered grains or other plants.
GMO foods have been genetically engineered, for reasons completely unrelated to health or nourishment, to withstand heavy applications of potent herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup (a glyphosate-based weed killer). GMOs are created using the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology to inject DNA from one species into another species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that don’t occur in nature or through crossbreeding methods.
Glyphosate causes serious damage to the beneficial microbes living in our guts (our gut microbiome) and is regarded by many scientists as the most important factor in the development of the many chronic diseases and conditions plaguing Westernized societies.
The process of genetically modifying foods is relatively new in agriculture. The first genetically modified seeds for commercial use were planted in the US in 1996. In 2014, 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted biotech crops, with the highest acreage by far here in the US. Worldwide planting of GE crops covered 181.5 million hectares (448 million acres) by 2014.
The Center for Food Safety estimates that about 3/4 of all grocery store products now contain one or more genetically modified ingredients.
England, France, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, China, Indonesia, and more than 25 other countries around the world require GE foods to be labeled so consumers can choose to avoid them. England, Japan, Brazil, Norway, India, Thailand and some other countries have even completely banned some GE food crops.
Monsanto and the other big biotech companies have joined together to spend huge sums of money to make sure these GMO foods remain unlabeled in the US.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has declared genetically engineered food unsafe for consumption. They cited animal studies indicating serious health risks associated with GM foods – “including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM advised physicians to tell their patients to avoid GM foods.
“Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.” (Institute for Responsible Technology, 2014)
Studies of people in the US and Germany have found high levels of glyphosate in human urine, blood, and breast milk as well as in drinking water supplies.
Kostic, A.D. et al. (2015). The dynamics of the human infant gut microbiome in development and in progression toward type 1 diabetes. Cell Host & Microbe, 17:2, 260-273. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25662751