Diabetes is affecting an increasing number of individuals across the globe, most of whom believe they are simply a victim of their genetic makeup and other inevitable factors. While our genes and cultural habits do play a significant role, contemporary research has shown that it is our personal gut microbiome that makes us more or less susceptible to glucose spikes from certain foods, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
The progression of prediabetes to diabetes is not a foregone conclusion.
Prediabetes is defined by high blood sugar levels (HbA1C levels of 5.7-6.4%) that have not yet reached the clinical range of type 2 diabetes. For individuals who have been given this diagnosis (currently around 84.1 million Americans), the natural production of insulin and/or the body’s response to insulin has been affected, creating consistently high blood sugar levels. When dietary habits are not addressed and the condition goes untreated, prediabetes does most often lead to diabetes.
People suffering from diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease, liver failure from diabetic nephropathy, and a litany of other conditions that can greatly decrease quality of life, often making treatment of prediabetes and the management of blood sugar levels a matter of life and death. Prediabetes and diabetes are chronic metabolic disorders and as such affect people differently according to their specific profile. In a world where precision medicine is only starting to gain traction, traditional treatment yields irreconcilable results and similar individuals show vastly different outcomes.
Recently, The American Diabetes Association raised increased concerns over the national and individual costs accrued due to the increasing amount of individuals being diagnosed with diabetes. Nationally, the overall cost of treatment in the US stands at a whopping $327 billion, a 26% increase from previous estimates in 2012. This ballooning cost reflects the increasing number of individuals being diagnosed, but also reflects the rising cost of personal treatment in a highly competitive healthcare industry.
Individuals suffering from diabetes pay an estimated 30% of total costs for medical bills, 30% for prescription medications, 15% for anti-diabetic agents or supplies, and 13% for additional physician visits and personal care. The study also concluded that individuals with diabetes are more likely to suffer from decreased work performance, missed work, and even an inability to work, resulting in financial hardship that can compound the physical side effects, and furthering the collective incentive to find a more effective solution.
With a variety of physical, mental, and social ramifications, early intervention for prediabetes is of vital importance. Recent studies have shown that lifestyle intervention, defined by dietary and fitness changes, gives those with prediabetes the highest chance of reducing blood sugar levels and preventing the development of diabetes. One such study, Evidence of the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes, showed that over 2.5 years the incidence of type 2 diabetes was reduced by 58% after lifestyle intervention, while the more traditional treatments, including Metformin prescriptions and routine care, resulted in a modest 31% and 17% reduction respectively.
According to the New York State Department of Health, 15-30% of individuals who suffer from prediabetes and do not undergo lifestyle changes will develop diabetes within 3-5 years. Additionally, and even more alarming, is the fact that 1 in 4 who suffer from diabetic blood sugar levels are unaware, meaning they are far less likely to make the appropriate changes to reduce the risk of advancement.
Globally, the healthcare industry has taken significant steps to help diagnose prediabetes and diabetes sooner, but traditional pharmaceutical intervention is still the most widespread form of treatment, despite proving to be less effective than changes in diet and physical activity.
All individuals suffering from prediabetes should be given the freedom to reverse their (unnecessarily) doomed path. Given the aforementioned trends, food as medicine is the single most effective approach to preventing the advancement of the condition and managing diabetes.
Researched published in Cell Journal 2015 provides data that shows how personalized diet plans based on an individual’s microbiome can effectively manage blood sugar levels, even in those who have already been diagnosed with prediabetes. Results expose that our bodies have a unique microbiome that responds differently to carbohydrates, sugars, proteins, and fats, as well as other types of nutrients, meaning it’s less about what we eat, but who is eating it.
The revolutionary findings not only unequivocally support the evidence pushing for lifestyle changes, but even strive to supersede existing trends in diet-based interventions.