Since 1970, the number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) has increased from around 5 million to well over 20 million. Unless Americans get serious about eating healthier diets, exercising, and losing excess weight, we will have over 40 million Americans with type 2 DM within the next 10-15 years.
In response, the drug companies are ramping out more new pills to treat diabetes even as one of the most popular newer drugs (Avandia) was linked to a more than 60% increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). More than 2/3 of those with type 2 DM die from CVD so this is clearly not good.
Antioxidant food supplements like selenium have been promoted as a safer way to improve blood sugar control. A study published in the August 21st Annals of Internal Medicine found a 200mcg selenium supplement not only did not prevent type 2 DM but may actually have increased the risk. Over 7.7 years of follow-up, 58 of the 600 people who took the selenium supplement developed type 2 DM. By contrast, only 39 of 602 subjects taking the placebo ended up with diabetes. Another study in Diabetes Care (July 2007) found that middle-aged women who ate healthier diets were significantly less likely to develop type 2 DM than those who ate more meat and fat and fewer whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Another study in the journal Diabetologia in May 2007 examined various strategies for treating type 2 DM patients. While dietary advice helped, this meta-analysis of 103 earlier studies showed that treatment programs that emphasized exercise were even more effective.
Bottom Line: Health professionals must start telling people with the Metabolic Syndrome they are headed toward type 2 DM, CVD, and an earlier death. It is not due to bad genes or bad luck but is largely a self-inflicted and devastating disease caused largely by poor diet and inactivity and excess body fat. Americans must change what they eat, become more active, and get rid of their expanding bellies rather than hoping some drug or supplement will save them from diabetes. Time to start treating the cause of the disease (poor diet, inactivity, and belly fat) rather than focusing on its metabolic sequelae.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.