A new approach to diabetes recognition and treatment is needed because the conventional wisdom has failed us. America is in the midst of a diabetes epidemic. Over the past 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled, and children are being diagnosed with diabetes in alarming numbers. Diabetes has rapidly emerged as a leading culprit in the epidemic of heart disease that is sweeping the country, and it is a leading cause of amputation and blindness among adults.
The long term consequences of uncontrolled diabetes are severe: blindness, kidney failure, increased risk of heart disease, and painful peripheral nerve damage. Today, most practitioners focus treatment on strict blood sugar control. While diabetes is characterized by excess blood glucose (the form of sugar used by cells as energy), this simplified approach can actually hasten the progression of the most common form of diabetes and does nothing to address the damage it causes.
It is crucial that diabetics (and those predisposed to diabetes) understand the ways in which blood glucose causes damage and take active steps to interrupt these processes. The most notorious process is glycation, the same process that causes food to brown in an oven. Glycation (defined as sugar molecules reacting with proteins to produce nonfunctional structures in the body) is a key feature of diabetes-related complications because it compromises proteins throughout the body and is linked to nerve damage, heart attack, and blindness.
Oxidative stress is also central to the damage caused by diabetes. Diabetics suffer from high levels of free radicals that damage arteries throughout the body, from the eyes to the heart. Once again, it is important that diabetics understand their need for antioxidant therapy to help reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of diabetic complications.
An additional factor that is changing the way diet and chronic disease management is being thought of is new research that has emerged within the past five years showing a link between inflammation and the diseases that are heavily influence by diet. This new research is reinforcing the need to reduce the inflammatory foods in our diets and increase the anti-inflammatory foods.
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