Everything we do is based on science and data. Here, we dig a little deeper into the science behind our programme, and discover how it’s transforming the health of people all over the UK and beyond.
Type-2 diabetes: a global epidemic
Over 12 million people in the UK suffer from type-2 diabetes or prediabetes, with global cases rapidly heading towards 500 million people. Within just 50 years, diabetes has gone from an extremely rare disease, to a worldwide epidemic so catastrophic that it makes the devastating impact of COVID-19 look like a walk in the park.
The consequences are significant. Type-2 diabetes is an extremely serious condition that can lead to heart disease, blindness, dementia, amputations and some cancers. At least 10% of the NHS budget goes on treating the disease. And yet, science shows us that the condition is entirely preventable.
Why is type-2 diabetes on the rise?
In short: food.
We all know that processed and sugary foods are bad for us. But did you know that your entire bloodstream can only handle one teaspoon of sugar in one go?
That’s a tiny amount. If you ingest more than that, your blood-sugar levels will rise. And this is where the problems begin.
How can the food you eat lead to type-2 diabetes?
A high-carb, sugary diet that produces persistently high glucose levels will lead to permanently raised insulin. This leads to more and more food being stored as fat, rather than burnt as energy. Bizarrely, the fatter you get, the hungrier you become.
Your liver is responsible for converting carbohydrates and sugars into fat for storage. Your insulin pushes the fat produced by the liver into the fat cells. But eventually, the fat cells become so full that the fat accumulates in the liver itself, causing it to become inflamed. This is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Finally, the excess fat spills over into the pancreas and blocks your beta cells from producing insulin. At this point, you will develop the symptoms of type-2 diabetes.
Related conditions: the high price of a high-sugar diet
Beyond type-2 diabetes, high blood glucose levels can lead to a whole host of preventable health problems:
There is a well-known link between dementia and type-2 diabetes. So much so, that dementia has become known as ‘type-3 diabetes’. If you are diabetic or prediabetic, you are at radically increased risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you can control the diabetes, your risk of dementia will dramatically reduce.
Many studies show a clear link between high sugar levels and cardiovascular disease. This is true in both diabetics and non-diabetics. Some studies show that post-meal spikes — not just average or fasting sugar levels — are the key indicator.
It’s a well-established fact that cancer cells use sugar to grow. The causes of cancer are many and complex, but it’s proven that raised insulin encourages cell growth. Given that cancer is out-of-control cell multiplication, it seems logical that there is a link. Also, raised insulin levels push sugar into cells, giving cancer cells the extra energy they need to fuel their uncontrolled growth.
Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOS)
Women with raised insulin and insulin resistance are at risk of PCOS and may struggle to get pregnant. This is because raised insulin raises the level of the male hormone testosterone (yes, women have testosterone too!). This often causes acne, male-pattern hair growth — including growth on the face — and inhibits ovulation, which affects fertility.
Your body on sugar
The typical Western diet is rich in carbohydrates and sugar, leading to a cyclic pattern of sugar spikes and subsequent crashes.
The Sugar Rollercoaster
When you eat carbohydrates and sugars, your body breaks them down into glucose.
When your blood glucose levels rise, insulin is produced. The insulin pushes the sugar out of your bloodstream and into your liver where its converted to fat. Ultimately the excess fat is forced into your fat cells.
When your blood sugar and insulin levels fall, you feel tired, unfocused, and hungry. “hangry”
Eat, spike, crash; eat, spike, crash. Many people are spending their lives on this endless sugar rollercoaster.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, people often believe they just need to eat less and move more. After all, if you burn more calories than you consume, you’re bound to burn away excess body fat, right?
Actually, no, not necessarily. To understand why, let’s delve a little deeper into the hormones involved in the sugar rollercoaster — insulin, ghrelin & leptin
Insulin, the storage hormone
When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose - a sugar. Insulin is produced to remove the glucose 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 by decreasing heat expenditure in your body.
High-fat meals reduce ghrelin for several hours, so you feel fuller for longer, whereas high carbohydrate (or high sugar) 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; 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, leaving you permanently hungry, despite having eaten plenty.
How do we stop the sugar rollercoaster?
The alternative to this never-ending cycle is to keep your blood-sugar levels low and balanced.
When your blood sugar is balanced, you experience consistently high energy levels and can easily lose weight. And as you no longer experience sugar crashes, you have increased focus, improved mood, and your food cravings vanish.
So, how do we achieve this?
The answer lies in a low-carb, high-fat diet.
A diet high in fat and fibre speeds up the transit of food into your small intestine. The presence of food stimulates Peptide YY release, which also reduces your 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.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but a high-fat diet will cause your body to store less fat and burn more. 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.
Put simply: fat doesn’t make you fat.
Creating a plan that works for you
The case for reducing sugar intake is overwhelming. However, avoiding type-2 diabetes isn’t just a case of switching carb-rich foods for high-fat alternatives. This is because the body is a very complex organism, and each person's metabolism is unique.
It is increasingly clear that our different responses to foods are the result of our unique gut microbiomes — the trillions of bacteria and other bugs living in the dark recesses of our gut. Over the years, your microbiome evolves with the food you eat, your lifestyle and your environment. It impacts many aspects of your biology, including weight gain, how you react to foods, allergies, and insulin sensitivity, as well as impacting your mental health.
So, how do you know which foods your microbiome responds well to, and which to avoid?
How can ProLongevity help?
When it comes to diet, so many of us have good intentions. But without a clear understanding of what’s happening in your body, eating ‘right’ becomes a guessing game of trial and error.
ProLongevity puts the power back in your hands. Through our scientifically-proven programme, you’ll discover which foods cause your blood-sugars to spike, and which do you no harm. We call it “Precision Nutrition”
With this knowledge, you can make simple choices that help you lose weight and reduce serious health risks, all while feeling fuller for longer.
To find out more about how ProLongevity can transform your health, book a free consultation with our specialists today.