News from the American Diabetes Association 77th Sessions:  The Link between Diabetes, Heart and Liver disease, Alzheimer’s and Cancer

Going to a conference with 17,000 people is not exactly my cup of tea but conferences are imperative to staying up to date with research so down to San Diego I went.

I won’t bore you with all the research technicalities but rather give you the bottom line which is more interesting that you may think.

More than a few of the talks highlighted the link between diabetes, heart disease, gut issues, liver disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s (which is now referred to as type 3 diabetes).  You may have been taught they are separate, when in actuality they may be one disease.

The link or driver? Insulin resistance.

When the body has a carbohydrate intolerance it starts to affect multiple areas in your system.  The gut starts to develop problems whether it is IBS, SIBO, colitis or GERD.  Your liver takes the extra sugar/starch that is not being digested and stores it, resulting in fatty liver.  Your pancreas secretes more insulin to try to utilize the extra carbohydrate that is not digested, which creates inflammation.  Over time this can create burnout in your pancreas leading to type 2 diabetes.  Increased insulin in the system over time can increase fat deposition and tumors ( certain cancers).  All of these things increase predisposition towards plaque in the arteries or brain.

Although quite complex the bottom line is really simple.  If you follow a lifestyle that matches your genetics or biomarkers it can lower or eliminate many disease processes.  The research is still new but it is coming.

What are biomarkers?

 Short for biological markers, they are blood tests that show whether your body is sensitive to carbs (and the level of sensitivity) or fat.  Biomarkers are a window into what could become in your body rather than what is.  Almost every talk I went to was showing how these markers give insight into a disease process. A few physicians I work with in Los Angeles measure them but unfortunately they are few.  Since one needs to be educated on how to read and interpret biomarkers they can be dismissed as not necessary.

What are the take home messages from these findings?

  1. Keep your gut healthy and find out the balance of what type of diet you need to follow – the specific percentages of carbohydrate, protein and fat
  2. Make sure you get your ZZZ’s of 7 hours sleep. Just 3-4 nights of sleep deprivation significantly increases insulin resistance causing an inability to digest and utilize starches/carbs. Better sleep is highly correlated with lowered insulin resistance.
  3. Exercise daily since it is “regenerative” medicine. One researcher referred to exercise as a “polypill” meaning you will not find a single pill that replicates all the ways exercises changes your genes, creates neuroplasticity in your brain (increased brain cells), and a greater hippocampus volume (increased memory in the brain).

Although the messages of diet balance, getting your rest and exercise are what you know to be true there are even more reasons to pay attention to these healthy behaviors – and that is worth fighting the crowds for.  Health behaviors of sleep, exercise and diet balance may be boring but they are essential elements that support you from the inside out.