By John L. Boos, L.M.T., N.S.C.A., C.P.T.
As the average American matures, the onset of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus increases dramatically. For men and women alike, it seems to spiral up from the age of 30. Women have a higher incidence of adult onset diabetes. This higher incidence in women is due to two factors. One factor is gender related while the other factor is self induced, due to weight management marketing gimmicks and lifestyle. Never the less, sugar intolerance can be a part of the aging process.
With advanced age, the body gradually loses the ability to take up and productively use sugar from the bloodstream. Like high blood pressure, there are no symptoms until it becomes a major problem. As the average American slows down, exercises less and becomes more inactive, there is an increase in body fat and a loss of muscle tissue (sounds a lot like the youth of America as well).
With the induction of weight loss diets that encourage high fat and high protein foods that severely reduce carbohydrates, an acceleration in the loss of muscle tissue occurs. This is because the main fuel source of the brain (the metabolic regulating system) is blood sugar. Fat is a very poor fuel substitute for the brain but muscle tissue isn’t.
Fat can’t be converted to sugar (blood sugar), but muscle tissue can. The process of muscle tissue reduction is sped with the “fat diet” process of reduced carbohydrates. This is where the greatest weight loss occurs–in the combined loss of fat, muscle and water. The bummer here is that muscle loss (sarcopenia) eventually increases the storage of body fat and reduces the muscles sensitivity to insulin.
Let’s take a look at what is taking place. Muscle tissue is the main user of blood sugar (about 70% of the available amount). The less we use this muscle tissue, the less the muscle will take up the blood sugar (blood sugar intolerance). The greater the blood sugar intolerance, the more sugar in the blood. The more blood sugar, the more insulin needed to be pumped out from the pancreas beta cells. Unlike most other cells in the body, they can eventually burn out from overuse leaving people with an impaired ability to manufacture insulin anymore. This condition is called “adult-onset diabetes.”
According to studies by Dr. James W. Anderson of the University of Kentucky, a diet low in fat and high in fibrous carbohydrates has the opposite effect. It can increase muscle cell sensitivity to insulin within two weeks. The effect was even greater when combined with regular workouts. The research further indicated that doing strength-building exercises can increase the capacity of the muscle even more.
The book Bio-Markers, by Tufts University’s Dr. Bill Evans states, “strength-building exercise is a key to regulating glucose metabolism.” This is true, even when body fat is not lowered according to the same publication. In most cases, if not all, the proper low fat-high fibrous carbohydrate diet with muscle building exercise will lower body fat. A low fat-high fibrous carbohydrate diet will cause an increase in lean (muscle) tissue to body fat ratio. This kind of ratio will increase blood sugar uptake.
Studies are one thing, but I’ve personally witnessed these results numerous times. Most recent has been a relatively new client, Josie, who dieted herself with low carbohydrate diets and no strength-building exercises. With this lifestyle, she gradually lost a great deal of muscle tissue. This contributed to her eventual diabetes. Her blood sugar was 450 after her initial visit to her doctor (70- 100 mg. before breakfast being normal). Her doctor prescribed medication which brought her blood sugar down to 170.
Josie decided to further address the situation. She wanted to give weight training a serious try. Her health was becoming a big concern and she wasn’t getting any younger (she is 58 years old). I recommended a twice a week program.
To make a long story short, let me just say that after 4 months of dedicated training, her blood sugar is under 100, her energy level is much higher, she can now ride a bike again (one of her goals) and she lost 37 pounds. What does this prove? It proves that the studies are correct. Josie must still take her medication, but it’s nice to know that health doesn’t stop at the doctor’s office.
We all have the ability to empower ourselves and take charge of our well being. Thanks to modern medicine and good old proper exercise, Josie has her diabetes under control and is a renewed person. How sweet it is!!