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A Worrisome Global Report on Diabetes – Growing Link Between Gut Health and the Epidemic?

global report on diabetes, hand getting a diabetes finger prick under the word diabetes

The global report on diabetes is not an attractive one. In the world today, over 422 million people suffer from diabetes. In the U.S., one out of every three people with Medicare is diabetic. Overall, one of every 10 in the nation has the disease. The global report on diabetes indicates these figures are likely to increase in the coming years. Without question, there is a need for effective diabetes treatment and prevention solutions. The leading causes of the disease may be far different than what experts first thought. Many consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and health organizations don’t want to acknowledge the direct link between diabetes and diet, gut health and lifestyle choices.

By all accounts, the global report on diabetes supports that the world is facing a diabetes epidemic. And, I am sure many endocrinologists are learning in surprise that it could be the microbes in our guts that are possibly the main cause of this increase.

More Than a Gut Feeling – Looking to Diet as Diabetic Treatments

In the world today, roughly two-thirds of all adults are either overweight or obese. Unfortunately, this is a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices, primarily. Some physicians have recognized that these types of personal choices are not ideal where the global report on diabetes is concerned. If we want to halt the rising number of diabetics, then we must choose a new way of eating and not simply rely on new medications.

Interestingly, the rising global report on diabetes is linked directly to our diets through our guts. The average person has about six pounds of “healthy” bacteria in the guts called microbiome. While genetics, age, and antibiotics can influence our microbiome, our diet is the biggest influence. Also, depending on what we eat, our microbiome changes and so does our risk for diabetes.

In essence, two major groups of gut bacteria exist in our microbiome. One group called Bacteroidetes is involved in digesting proteins and carbohydrates. The other group is called Firmicutes and they help digest fats. But depending on these organisms, some produce toxins that cause inflammation of various cells. And in turn, this can either increase or decrease our diabetic risk. The reason the global report on diabetes is rising is mainly due to poor diet (and poor microbiomes).

Are Carbs the Culprit for a Rising Global Report in Diabetes?  – Apparently Not

For decades now, the cause of the rising global report on diabetes points towards too many carbs consumption. Assumedly, excess carbs and sugars have been thought to rapidly convert to glucose with resultant high sugar levels and insulin overload. But researchers are now finding that it isn’t the carbs and sugars that are causing the rising global report on diabetes. Instead, it is meats and other foods that are the problem.

Weight loss surgeons who perform bariatric surgery for obesity have found interesting associations. For individuals on carbohydrate diets, an inverse relationship between diet and diabetes has been noted. But a direct link between a meat-based diet and diabetes risk has been found. As a result, the rising global report in diabetes is now believed to result from meat-based diet choices among other poor lifestyle decisions.

What does this indicate about our microbiome? Quite a bit, actually. Researchers have noted that switching from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet can alter a person’s microbiome within a few days. And patients receiving weight loss surgery, which bypasses portions of the gut, have remarkable hormonal changes in their microbiome. In fact, in many receiving the surgery, their pancreas began making insulin much better, reducing diabetic risk five-fold. Though much still needs to be learned, the global report on diabetes and the food we eat is highly relevant.

infographic about the link between eating processed food, gut health, and having diabetes.

infographic about the link between eating processed food, gut health, and having diabetes.

The New Diabetes Treatment Approach – Eliminate Processed Meats and Foods

Notably, meat-based diets increase the risk of diabetes by altering our gut health. But even more important are the types of meats we choose to eat. Processed meats, like bacon, cold cuts, sausage, and deli products are among the worst. According to the World Health Organization, one serving of processed meats a day raises the risk for diabetes by 51 percent. It’s little wonder why diabetes treatments are being developed preferentially over other drugs.

In the U.S. today, medications for diabetes treatment topped the list of pharmaceutical advertisements. Over $725 million was spent last year on the promotion of diabetes treatment medications. Without question, current healthcare approaches must change in order to overcome the existing diabetic epidemic. But it will require more than simply a new pill or public service announcement. In order to reduce the rising global report on diabetes, there is a need to avoid processed foods.

There are a few immediate steps that can be taken to help improve your gut health. The first is to adopt a plant-based diet. This does not mean giving up meat protein completely, but it is wise to eat a diverse amount of veggies, whole grains, and legumes. These are prebiotics and feed the bacteria in your gut and provide a more varied and healthier mix of bacteria. Other examples include garlic, onion, raw apple cider vinegar, asparagus, leeks, and jicama.

According to Dr. Ruchi Mathur, director of Anna and Max Webb and Family Diabetes Outpatient Treatment and Education Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, “Diabetes and obesity are both associated with less diversity and less redundancy in the gut microbiome.”

Innovative Research to Guide Different Diabetic Treatment Approaches

At the present time, clinical research is driving new insights into how diet affects obesity and diabetic risk. For example, microbiologist Christoph Thaiss at UPenn suggests gut bacteria might account for the dieting yo-yo phenomenon among the overweight. And many other startups are exploring the link between the microbiome and health.

  • Microbiotica – This affiliate of Genentech has received over half a million in support to explore the link between the gut microbiome and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Kaleido Biosciences – This biotech company has received $107 million in series C funding support to evaluate links between gut bacteria and metabolism.
  • Axial Biotherapeutics – Another innovative startup exploring the connection between microbiome and brain disorders.

Tackling the Global Report on Diabetes Through Better Healthcare Models

Better diet and lifestyle choices could prevent the vast majority of cases of diabetes. Studies show that these interventions work. As noted, it only takes a few days for us to change our microbiome with a healthy plant-based diet. But, on average, it requires a commitment of at least three years of sticking to such a diet for real success. By developing models that help individuals eat better and avoid processed foods, the global report on diabetes can improve.

Fortunately, innovative health companies are exploring new healthcare models to tackle this specific issue. A healthy diabetes treatment approach can evolve from better access to health information to involving patients in their treatment.

  • Parsley Health – This innovative healthcare company has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Members pay $150 each month and gain comprehensive, holistic healthcare with extended, relationship-building experiences with doctors. Rather than simply writing a prescription, physicians explore every aspect of patients’ lifestyles to identify non-medication solutions. As a result, Parsley Health prescribes 86 percent fewer prescriptions. And, most importantly, health outcomes are much improved. This has tremendous potential for reducing the diabetic epidemic identified in the recent global report on diabetes.
  • TAVHealth – While many healthcare systems pay little attention to the social determinants of health in a serious way, TAVHealth does. What are social determinants of health? These include income factors, housing, transportation, access to food, and other social needs that facilitate health. For many with diabetes, these may interfere with proper prevention and diabetic treatment. TAVHealth, however, utilizes a digital platform to connect social services in the community with healthcare providers to better monitor these issues. By creating a more comprehensive patient record of health services, TAVHealth may also positively impact the global report on diabetes.
  • Oak Street Health – Similar to Parsley Health, Oak Street Health is striving for a more values-based model of healthcare. The company only sees Medicare patients and assumes all the risks and costs of their care. But their approach is unique. Oak Street physicians spend twice as long with patients as the average medical visit. And they explore holistic care addressing all options including diet and exercise. This type of model has great potential for better diabetic treatment and prevention, particularly in aging populations.

Hope for Improving the Future Global Report on Diabetes

New research clearly indicates that our gut health matters when it comes diabetic risk and diabetes treatment. If we are to improve the global health on diabetes, then we have to focus on diabetic treatments on diet and lifestyle and not simply on medications. By better understanding this crucial area of health, we can make tremendous progress in improving the global report on diabetes moving forward.

Bold businesses realize this fact, and many are investing heavily into innovations that could reverse current trends. From new health models that engage individuals to active research in this field, hope does exist. With these types of business commitments, the promise for a healthier society remains alive and well. And that includes a society with a declining number of diabetic cases.


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