Starving Diabetes

The rise of diabetes in modern society has been noteworthy in its prevalence in affluent countries. 150 years ago, diabetes was a very rare disease among all human populations but now appears to be ubiquitous and has had deadly consequences.

Diabetes leads to your body being unable to process glucose (sugar) for energy, which results in too much sugar being present in your blood, your body systems may become overloaded and ultimately compromised. This can result in cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, hypertension, kidney damage/failure, lethargy, poor blood circulation resulting in foot damage and amputation, skin conditions, and eye damage (cataracts).

Learn Phase

We begin this short exploration with some basics about the disease and inspirational facts that will instill confidence in your ability to manage your lifestyle against the onset of the most prevalent form of diabetes.

The official name, diabetes mellitus, is derived from Greek diabainen “to go through” and the Latin, mellitus, for sweet. Sugar appears to pass through the body, without being used properly. The original diagnosis was tasting the urine of the patient. The sweet taste and dark colour of urine were indicative that the body was “overloaded” with sugar and unable to process it properly.

The word diabetes was not commonly used prior to 1850 but has been rising steadily since, with the exception of the period of the two major world wars.

Diabetes is a condition where the body is either unable to produce insulin (Type 1) or is resistant to insulin (Type 2). Insulin is a hormone that helps activate glucose as a source of energy by the cells in your body.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% of diabetes cases. While there is no known cause, there is evidence that genetics may play a role and consumption of cow’s milk also may play a role. There is no known cure for this condition which is also known as insulin deficiency.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for over 90% of diabetes cases, but in the vast majority of these, the condition is very likely reversible through proper diet and lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is synonymous with the terms of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The over-saturation of sugar causes the body to produce more and more insulin. Eventually, over time, increased amounts of insulin are required to convert glucose into energy, until the body becomes insensitive or resistant to the effect of insulin on glucose. This results in an excess of insulin as well as excess glucose in the body.

Excess insulin creates a biochemical pathway to cancer. Excess sugar in the blood leads to complications in many areas of the body, including the heart, skin, eyes, and legs.

The traditional view is that diabetes is caused by obesity; obesity leads to too many fat molecules in the bloodstream, which block the natural interaction of insulin and glucose. This view puts the onus squarely on the individual to reduce the consumption of fatty foods and to reduce the number of calories. The recommended diet traditionally was low-fat. This view further professes that sugar is simply a source of calorie and as long as you are actively using more calories for energy than you are consuming, then all is fine. 

The research that implicates fat in the insulin resistance process is undeniable, fat does interfere or disrupt the way insulin interact with glucose as an energy activator.

More recently researchers have been examining the properties of different types of fats; the types we eat (digestive fats) versus the types of fats in our body (hepatic/visceral fat versus subcutaneous fat). Visceral fat, the fat that forms around the body’s critical organs, and hepatic fat, the fat that forms in the liver, are much more critical to health risk than subcutaneous fat (fat that lies just below the skin).

In fact, the amount of body fat mass compared to overall body mass, your body fat ratio, is an important metric even though you might be slim.

One of the most noteworthy proponents of an alternative view of the diabetes/obesity epidemic is Doctor Robert Lustig, author of “Fat Chance, beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease”.

Dr. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist, and his explanation of the biochemical pathway of lipogenesis of processed sugar such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup (and 54 other “sugar” foods) is very insightful, especially for parents. There are many recordings of his lectures on this subject matter on Youtube.

The key takeaway is that for the first time in history we are seeing early-onset type 2 diabetes, chronic child obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in children. Processed sugar (fructose) is a lipogenic substance, meaning it stimulates the creation of triglycerides in the body (i.e. fat). This is the hepatic and/or visceral fat that puts the body at high risk for further health complications and leads to metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance).

The peer-reviewed published research on this biochemical pathway is cited here: this should make anyone feel a bit more circumspect about the sugary drink that gets packed in one’s kid’s lunch boxes!

To further support the hypothesis, Dr. Lustig and others established causation criterion to the same statistical standard that ultimately implicated cigarettes in the fight against lung cancer. The peer-reviewed research is also cited here. This demonstrates the concordance of the rise of type 2 diabetes beyond simply the increase in obesity. The only food to provide credible statistical predictive value for the recent decade of increase in diabetes cases is the consumption of processed sugar.

To further inform your understanding of the topic which varies from the traditional views, there is a  biochemical pathway analysis that has unlocked information on different types of digestive fats. This is the emergence of the concept of “Healthy Fats”, e.g. medium-chain triglyceride foods (plant-based whole foods such as coconut and kernel palm oil)  which are processed differently than long-chain saturated fats (found in meat). Science has now definitely tagged trans fats as bad for us and they are even banned by some countries. We know more about the healthy mono-unsaturated fats such as avocado.

There is an ongoing debate about the role and health benefits of saturated fats. For example, MCT foods (saturated fats) can be a useful source of ketone bodies, an alternative energy and preferred energy source for the brain – note that the brain accounts for 25% of total body energy demand.

Finally, we note that both those with lipodystrophy (too little fat due to leptin deficiency) and obesity (too much fat) can have metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance). Insulin is the signaling hormone of diabetes. Obesity is a marker for metabolic syndrome, but obesity does not cause metabolic syndrome. Everyone is at risk for metabolic syndrome: 80% of the obese among us and 40% of the normal weight population have metabolic syndrome. The most obesogenic foods are French-fries and potato chips (sweets and desserts are a distant 5th). As a result, we would be wise to consider “healthy fat” food options such as nuts, avocados, and coconuts rather than getting rid of fatty foods altogether.

Sugar accounts for only about 10% of our obesity problem. But sugar is still impactful for diabetes - there should be no debate about the ill-effects of processed sugar as those risks have been known for years.

Take Action

The key actions for improved self-awareness of your risk of diabetes:

  • Read food labels – become self-aware of how much sugar and processed foods you eat
  • Consider replacing sugary drinks with water or tea
  • Have black coffee rather than sugar-loaded lattes
  • Acquire a taste for red wine as your primary source of alcohol
  • Know your types of fat and choose mono-unsaturated or medium-chain saturated fats
  • Plan your healthy snacks
    • Nuts and Avocados
    • Veggie sticks (vegetables are 80% water)
    • Beans/Peas (e.g. wasabi peas)
    • Water, unsweetened tea
  • Consider intermittent fasting protocols or longer periods of fasting
    • Reduce your eating window to less than 12 hours per day
  • Avoid eating animal rich meals or starchy carbohydrates late at night
  • Periodically do a detox or elimination diet
  • Be active
  • Have a regular routine for exercise
    • Moderate or intense activity is more beneficial to overall body health
    • Daily is best.

Knowledge of the practice of starving type 2 diabetes is becoming more widespread in the medical community. Evidence is found in books like Doctor Jason Fung’s  “The Diabetes Code, Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally”; Dr. Fung also authored “The Obesity Code”.

As you take action, you should notice the following benefits:

  • Fewer cravings, our human body has a natural bio-rhythm for feast and famine
  • More alertness and fewer periods of lethargy
  • More regular and natural bowel movements
  • More energy and higher performance during physical activity (exercise or otherwise)

Glucose is an important source of energy but ketones or ketone bodies are another natural source of energy that can be unlocked when your blood sugar level is low. Ketosis was a very natural state of our hunter/gatherer ancestors. The state of ketosis is when ketones, an efficient energy source for brain cells,  become a primary source of energy. After 8 to 12 hours of postprandial fasting, the human body may naturally turn to ketones as a primary source of energy.

This will happen after your body adjusts to a regular practice of fasting, either 12+ hours daily or more substantive fasts each week or month. In his book “The Fast Diet, the original 5:2”, Dr. Mochael Moselet describes a weekly practice of 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of fasting per week. In my own practice, I seem to manage best with 12-14 hours of fasting each day. This is known as “intermittent fasting”, or simply stated as a restricted “eating window”. Outside of which, I only consume water. I can attest that fasting gets easier over time, so please persevere through the initial period. The benefits are powerful.


There are 3 self-tests that you can use to gauge your progress or measure sustained excellence. Keep in mind, that these are useful self-awareness benchmarks for both your physical and mental states.

Eating window and Autophagy

Monitor and become self-aware of your eating window. Regular fasting is not simply calorie reduction. In the traditional view discussed earlier, it was thought that a calorie is a calorie and that balancing the number of calories consumed versus the amount utilized could be an effective strategy against obesity and diabetes.

Fasting achieves two things:

1. It helps recover the natural biorhythm of feast and famine, which will stop your cravings

2. It allows the body to enter ketosis, the use of ketone bodies, made from fat in your body, as a source of energy.

Another powerful reason for fasting is the natural tendency of the body to repair itself. Doctor Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for elucidating the self-healing process of AUTOPHAGY. Autophagy directly translated means “eat thy self”. One way to think of the biochemical impact of autophagy is that starvation from the usual sources of energy unlocks an adaptation of cells allowing them to detoxify (consume degenerative proteins) and repair themselves. Fasting promotes the process of autophagy.

In layman’s terms: sugar accelerates aging and fasting slows down the aging process (and in some regards even reverses it). Simply eating less each meal is not as beneficial as skipping a meal or two during periods of fasting. 

There is a useful explanation of the research on autophagy, fasting, and detoxification, from the BRIGHT SIDE channel on YouTube “A one-day starvation secret got the Nobel Prize”.

The first self-test that you may wish to consider is to monitor the number of consecutive days that you keep an eating window of fewer than 12 hours. Remember it is when your body is totally starved of its usual sources of energy that promotes autophagy (self-eating and self-rejuvenation) and ketosis (the use of ketone bodies for energy - fat burning). An 8-hour eating window (and 16 hours fast) per day is an option that is quite popular, but you can start with a 12-hour window then expand the fasting period gradually – you may even go onto a periodic fast of even longer durations e.g. 24 to 72 hours fast.


Know your metrics

Many people use body weight as a health metric. This can be unreliable because of the differences in body shapes and natural healthy weigh. Relying on weight as a metric can be unrealistic because the benchmark for you as an individual is based on your specific genetics, body chemistry and physiology. In terms of health factors that drive diabetes, the traditional view espouses weight management and the metric known as BMI (body mass index). This says that normal is best defined by your height, weight, and gender.

We know that 40% of so-called normal-weight individuals are afflicted with metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) in the same way as are 80% of the obese population. So, the real target metric is the amount of hepatic and visceral fat that is in the core of your body.

As you change your diet, increase nutrient density in your meals, shorten your eating window (practice fasting), and add moderately to intense exercise to your routine, other key metrics that you should consider monitoring are those for estimates of fat around your core (your organs).

An easy to measure metric is waist to height ratio. In general, your waist circumference should be less than half your height. This self-test helps you to determine if lifestyle changes are impacting the core. It is in the core, your major organs, and the digestive tract, where your biochemistry is creating the majority of health risk issues.

Another related metric is Body Fat Ratio which can be measured approximately with Impedance scales. These scales use a mild electrical current through your body to determine the level of conductivity within your body mass and depending on the composition of your body mass (fat mass, lean mass, bone mass, and water) your body fat ratio scale reading will change.


Happy health moments

Researchers from Harvard Medical School report that good relationships is the most critical factor for our health, happiness, and longevity. They have been conducting the longest-running medical cohort study for over 75 years.

We all have heard the adage that the wealth of your 5 closest relationships are a strong predictor of your own wealth. Now we have medical research saying that your closest relationships are a credible predictor of your health, happiness, and longevity. So, make your journey a social one! The more you share with your friends, the more learning, discovery, joy, and purpose you will have.

The internet and social media are powerful when used for empowerment. Telling others about your healthy and happy moments and learning about theirs provides powerful shared experiences of self-awareness, education, and discovery.

This third self-test is recording your happy healthy moments –  photos of the meals that you found to be good examples of rainbow colours, nutrient-dense food or tips for starving diabetes or cancer. They might include happy “treats” moments, e.g. a walk in the park with a friend, or a glass of wine with your spouse to celebrate a big project. These are the moments that bring reflection and learning and joy! 

Ultimately, starving diabetes is about replacing the craving for food with the eagerness to show everyone, especially friends and family, who you truly are!

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