By Dr. Mercola
The latest research out of the University of Missouri should be required reading for the 79 million Americans with pre-diabetes and the 26 million with the full-blown disease. Taken together, this amounts to one in four Americans struggling with diabetes and the vast majority of these cases are type 2.
When diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, many believe their fate has been sealed and all they can do now is “control” it. More than 50 percent of type 2 diabetics are also not even aware they have diabetes, while millions of others are living in a state of insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) that could progress into diabetes at any time.
If someone told you there was a “magic” trick you could do that would almost instantly improve the way your body regulates blood sugar, and also reduce the spikes in blood sugar that occur after a meal (elevations in these spikes, known as postprandial glucose, or PPG, are associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and death), would you do it?
Well there is. It’s called exercise. And now that you know what it is, the next step is up to you …
Want to Prevent or Reverse Diabetes? Exercise!
The amazing thing about exercise is that it exerts its effects very quickly. Sure, you will definitely reap long-term benefits, and exercise is well known to impact chronic diseases, but you’ll also get acute, nearly instantaneous benefits as well. This should be excellent motivation to those of you who are procrastinating on your exercise program, as you don’t have to exercise for a year or six months to experience benefits! New research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that one single session of moderate exercise can improve the way your body regulates glucose and reduce PPG.
It’s instant gratification!
However, the opposite also holds true, meaning slacking on your exercise program or being sedentary will disrupt your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, and this happens within days. There’s simply no way around the fact that your body is meant to engage in regular physical activity. Try to buck this reality and you’re asking for a slew of health troubles.
Why is Exercise the “Silver Bullet” in Diabetes Treatment?
Without exercise you’re unlikely to get this devastating disease under control. It works so well because it is one of the fastest and most powerful ways to lower your insulin and leptin resistance. See, type 2 diabetics need to address the root of the problem, which is NOT your blood sugar levels, as most conventional physicians would have you believe.
As Dr. Ron Rosedale wrote in this classic article, if you follow the misguided belief that diabetes is a disease of blood sugar, you are likely destined for premature death. Taking insulin is one of the WORST things you can do, as it will actually make your insulin and leptin resistance worse over time. Dr. Rosedale, an expert on leptin physiology and one of my early mentors in this area, developed the appropriate acronym — D.I.E. — to illustrate what’s happening in conventional diabetic treatment.
Doctor Induced Exacerbation
Yes, most doctors make diabetes worse and accelerate the death process. I’ve explained the mechanics of insulin resistance and the role of leptin and insulin before, but let’s review it again.
- Leptin is a hormone produced in your fat cells. One of leptin’s primary roles is regulating your appetite and body weight. It tells your brain when to eat, how much to eat, and most importantly, when to stop eating. And leptin tells your brain what to do with the energy it has. Leptin is largely responsible for the accuracy of insulin signaling and whether or not you become insulin resistant.
- Insulin—Sugars and grains raise your blood sugar. When this happens, insulin is released to direct the extra energy into storage. A small amount is stored as a starch called glycogen, but the majority is stored as your main energy supply—fat. Insulin’s major role is not to lower your blood sugar, but rather to store the extra energy for future times of need. Insulin’s effect of lowering your blood sugar is merely a “side effect” of this energy storage process.
- Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance occurs when your body becomes resistant to the hormone insulin. Any time a cell is exposed to insulin it is going to become more insulin resistant. If you eat too many sugars and grains, it provokes insulin surges and every time you provoke an insulin surge it exposes your body to more insulin. Just like walking in a dark room where it is difficult to see, after awhile your vision accommodates, your pupils dilate and you can see much better. Similarly, when your body is exposed to excess insulin soon it no longer responds to it properly and becomes insulin resistant.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to regain insulin sensitivity and reverse insulin resistance — and studies show this benefit can be achieved even without weight loss.
How to Use Exercise for Diabetes Prevention
One of the keys to using exercise to normalize your insulin and leptin levels, and thereby drastically reduce your risk of diabetes, is to do enough of it. There are three important variables with exercise:
- Length of time
Intensity is KEY for an effective exercise regimen, and the beauty of high-intensity, burst-type exercises such as Peak Fitness is that it also significantly cuts down on the amount of time you have to spend exercising. Full instructions on how to properly perform these exercises can be found in this previous article.
Peak Fitness exercises should be performed no more than three times per week, and only take a total of 20 minutes each session. Once you reach your fitness, health, and weight goals you can drop down to once or twice per week as that is all you really need, but most out-of-shape individuals will benefit from three times a week — if you do more it is actually counterproductive as there is not enough recovery time. Once you become very fit and are able to regularly reach your calculated maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) then it really is only necessary to do it once a week as long as you are pushing to your absolute max.
Here’s a summary of what a typical peak fitness routine might look like using a recumbent bike, elliptical machine or treadmill:
- Warm up for three minutes
- Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds
- Recover for 90 seconds by continuing to exercise but at a radically reduced comfortable pace
- Repeat the high intensity exercise phase and recovery 7 more times
Be mindful of your current fitness level and don’t overdo it when you first start out. If you are not in great shape and just starting this, you may want to start with just two or three repetitions, and work your way up to eight. You may need to start with just walking and when you do your 30 second bursts your legs would be moving as fast as possible without running — and your arms would be pumping hard and fast.
If you are using cardio equipment like an elliptical or bike, you don’t need to reach any “magical” speed. It’s highly individual, based on your current level of fitness. You know you’re doing it right when you’re exerting yourself to the point of typically gasping for breath after a short burst of activity.
In addition to Peak Fitness, you’ll want to incorporate other types of exercise to round out your regimen. A truly comprehensive exercise plan would also include strength training, core exercises, flexibility and stretching.
Remember to Address this Other Diabetes Culprit …
Type 2 diabetes is a fully preventable, reversible condition that arises from faulty leptin signaling and insulin resistance. Therefore, diabetes can be controlled or reversed by recovering your insulin and leptin sensitivities. The only known way to reestablish proper leptin and insulin signaling is through a proper diet and exercise! There is NO drug that can accomplish this!
A new meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials involving more than 33,000 people showed that drug treatment of type 2 diabetes is not only ineffective, it’s dangerous as well. Treatment with glucose-lowering drugs actually showed the potential to increase your risk of death from heart-related and all other causes.
So what is the other key to remember in diabetes prevention, aside from exercise?
Your diet can make or break you if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, but unfortunately for the last 50 years or so, Americans have followed the dietary recommendations of a high complex carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet—the exact opposite of what actually works! High complex carbohydrates include legumes, potatoes, corn, rice and grain products. Aside from legumes, you actually want to AVOID all the rest to prevent insulin resistance.
If you regularly consume sugars and grains, your blood sugar spikes will lead to increased insulin resistance, which leads to increased fat storage. The extra fat then produces more leptin. The problem arises when your leptin levels become chronically elevated. At this point, you become leptin resistant—your body can no longer “hear” the hormonal signals telling your brain you’re full and should stop eating.
As your fat stores increase, your weight goes up, and insulin resistance sets in. Now your body has become “deaf” to the signals from both hormones (leptin and insulin), and disease follows — one of which is diabetes. Nearly all type 2 diabetics need to swap out their grains and sugars for other foods, such as protein, green veggies and healthy sources of fat. You will want to take special care to eliminate fructose, which is far more detrimental than any other type of sugar. This is extremely important!
Drinking just one sweetened drink a day can raise your diabetes risk by 25 percent compared to drinking one sugary drink per month, so you really need to evaluate your diet and look for hidden sources of sugar and fructose.
This also means avoiding most processed foods of all kinds, as they are loaded with fructose. You may even need to avoid fruits until your blood sugar is under control. I strongly advise keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, it would be wise for most people to limit fructose to 15 grams or less as it is virtually guaranteed you will be getting “hidden” sources of fructose from just about any processed food you eat.
Following my nutrition plan will help you do this without much fuss, as it walks you through the steps you need to get back on the road to optimal health.