The science behind ProLongevity
It is estimated that 50 per cent of US adults are either diabetic or prediabetic, and other Western countries are not far behind. Type-2 diabetes is an extremely serious condition which is associated with high blood-pressure, and even amputations. You can be confident about the ProLongevity service because it is run exclusively by qualified health-professionals.
Why is type-2 diabetes on the rise?
In short: Food. Junk food and sugary foods are bad for you. The body can only process limited amounts of sugar in one go, and the entire bloodstream can only handle one teaspoon- that’s a tiny amount in 8-pints of blood. If you ingest more than that, blood-sugar levels rise. This is associated with numerous health problems, such as:
Insulin resistance: A diet which produces persistently high sugar levels will lead to permanently raised insulin. This, in turn, leads to more and more food being stored as fat rather than being burned as energy. Bizarrely, the fatter you get, the hungrier you become.
The liver is responsible for converting the carbohydrates and sugars in your diet into fat for storage. Your insulin pushes the fat produced by the liver into the fat cells. But eventually the fat cells become full and the fat accumulates in the liver itself and the liver becomes inflamed. This is so-called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Finally, the excess fat spills over into the pancreas and blocks the beta cells from producing insulin. This is when you develop the symptoms of type-2 diabetes.
Did you know?
At least 4 million people in the UK suffer from type 2 diabetes, and double that figure have pre diabetes, meaning that 12 million people at least suffer from a diabetes related condition.
At least 10% of the NHS’s spend goes on treatment.
Many studies have shown a link between high sugar levels and cardiovascular disease. This is true in both diabetics and non-diabetics. Some studies that show that post-meal spikes - not just average or fasting sugar levels - are the key indicator.
The fact that cancer cells grow using sugar is well established. The causes of cancer are many and complex, but it is clear that raised insulin encourages cell growth. Given that cancer is out-of-control cell growth, it seems logical that there is a link. Also, raised insulin levels push sugar into cells, and cancer cells needs extra energy because they are growing so rapidly.
There is a well-known link between dementia and type-2 diabetes. In fact, some people have taken to calling dementia "type-3 diabetes". If you are diabetic or prediabetic, you are at radically increased risk of developing dementia. If you can control the diabetes, you can reduce your dementia risk accordingly.
Women with raised insulin and insulin resistance are at risk of PCOS and struggle to get pregnant. Why? The raised insulin in turn raises the level of the male hormone testosterone (yes, women have testosterone too). This often causes acne, male-pattern hair growth – for example on the face – and inhibits ovulation, which affects fertility.
The sugar rollercoaster
When you eat carbohydrates and sugars your body breaks them down to glucose. When your sugar levels rise, insulin is produced, which pushes the sugar out of your bloodstream and into your fat cells. When your blood sugar and insulin levels fall you start to get hungry again. People often feel tired and get “brain fog” when they are in this low blood-sugar state.
Eat, spike, crash; eat, spike, crash. Many people are spending their lives on this sugar rollercoaster.
The alternative to this never-ending cycle is to keep your blood-sugar levels low and balanced. When you're balanced, you experience consistently high energy levels and can easily lose weight. And since you no longer get the sugar crashes, you have increased focus, improved mood and your food cravings vanish.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, people often concentrate on the calories they consume and “burn”. But this image does not reflect the way the body really works. The body consumes energy all the time, even when it is “resting”. Also, everyone’s biology is different. Some people simply have a “faster metabolism” than others, and use calories more quickly.
The typical Western diet is rich in carbohydrates and sugar, so your body is mainly burning glucose for fuel. This fuel pathway is regulated by three main hormones: insulin, ghrelin and leptin. Understanding these hormones helps explain the problem of spiking and crashing sugar levels.
Other things to consider
Insulin, the storage hormone.
When you eat carbohydrates your body breaks them down to glucose, a sugar. This makes your blood-sugar levels spike. Insulin is then produced, which removes the sugar from your bloodstream and into your cells. Raised insulin causes weight gain irrespective of your calorie intake or expenditure. At higher insulin levels, your body stores more energy as fat and burns less. This is why the adage "eat less and move more" simply doesn't work.
Ghrelin: the hunger hormone
Ghrelin is named the "hunger hormone", because it causes you hunger and cravings. It also conserves energy, for example by decreasing heat expenditure in your body. High-fat meals reduce ghrelin for several hours, so you feel fuller for longer, whereas high carbohydrate meals reduce ghrelin levels for a much shorter period. The ghrelin level then rises much higher than it was before eating. You therefore feel hungrier sooner following high-carbohydrate meals.
Leptin: the energy hormone
Leptin is secreted by the fat cells when they are full. It does the opposite of ghrelin, ie, it increases energy expenditure and makes you feel full so that you stop eating. But when your diet is full of carbs and sugar your insulin becomes permanently raised in an effort to control the blood sugar. The excess insulin tries to cram ever more fat into your fat cells (a bit like blowing up a balloon). So now your insulin and your leptin are both permanently raised and working against each other instead of in harmony. The cells become “resistant” to the instructions the hormones are trying to give. This leaves you permanently hungry even though you have eaten plenty.
If you consume lots of fibre in your diet this speeds up the transit of food into the small intestine. The presence of food stimulates PYY release, which also increases satiety and thus reduces appetite. So, the alternative to eating lots of carbs, which spike insulin and ghrelin and cause cyclical hunger pangs, is to eat a high-fat diet. Then, instead of storing more and more fat in your fat cells, you burn it. Quite simply, fat doesn’t make you fat.
Low-carb diets can resolve the problem of high glucose, insulin and ghrelin levels by switching the body from burning sugars as fuel to burning fat. It is a total myth that saturated fats, which are found in meat, dairy products and coconut oil, are bad for you. Researchers have found no link between eating saturated fat and heart disease, strokes or diabetes. Quite the reverse, in fact.
Personalised Diets and The Microbiome
Avoiding prediabetes and diabetes is about more than simply avoiding sugary foods. The body is a very complex organism and each person's metabolism is unique. ProLongevity gives you power by finding out what foods cause your blood-sugars to spike, which helps you understand your body and what foods you should eat to help you live healthy for longer.
It is increasingly clear that people’s different responses to foods are the result of their unique gut microbiomes. The term "microbiome" refers to the trillions of bacteria and other bugs living in your gut. When you are born, you take the microbiome from your mother and then over the years it evolves with the food you eat, your lifestyle and your environment.
In fact, it's continually changing, so if you take a strong course of antibiotics you'll kill a portion of it, and if you consume a wide range of different foods you'll expand the diversity of it. The microbiome impacts many things including weight gain, what foods suit you, allergies, insulin sensitivity and potentially many more aspects of your life.
There's a lot of interesting research right now on how it impacts your mental health too. Here's an article from the BBC on that concept: How bacteria are changing your mood.
How can ProLongevity help?
The case for reducing sugar intake is overwhelming. Only people who understand the problem and have the time, inclination and self-discipline to monitor their sugar intake closely may consider that they have their bodies under control.
But many of us, even if we suspect that certain foods may be bad for us, find it hard to decline them if we are eating out at a friend's house or in a restaurant. Well, we might do better if we are convinced it is doing us harm.
If you are interested in improving your general health then it is very likely that you will benefit from the ProLongevity service, which gently steers you in the right direction with a minimum of effort on your part. It is constantly with you and all you have to do is to take a couple of seconds to record sugar level readings via your mobile phone and the sensor that we attach to your body, which you will hardly notice once it is attached.
You keep a diary record of your food and drink intake and we can note which of them causes spikes. From there it is a simple decision to exclude or reduce certain specific foods and drinks from your diet and really enjoy those that do you no harm.