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Diabetes

Diabetes is a major problem nowadays. We could rehash all the reasons, but I have other reasons for bringing this up. To be clear, I’m talking about type II. Type one is so different in many ways we shouldn’t lump the two together. Type two is largely lifestyle generated, type 1 you are often born with. There are more distinctions than that, but it is enough for now to say we are talking in this article about type II.

First, there was this article, Health Care Law Targeting Diabetics. Don’t worry, this isn’t a “big brother is going to get you article”. In order for everyone to have health care, we will have to be stricter about taking care of ourselves, and our health care system will be more proactive. I know diabetics who know almost nothing about their disease. The doctor handed them a script and a handful of literature and sent them on their way. I know many others who educated themselves. Your doctor ought to be your primary reference, and in far too many cases, he’s not. This might be one positive result to the new health care law.

Then, there is this tantalizing article, Clues to Type 2 Diabetes Discovered on Mount Everest.¬† The more we learn about how our bodies work, the more we can target treatments. Let’s face it, life’s not fair, some people have horrible diets, and don’t get diabetes at all, or very late in life, and others get it very early. We know that genetics plays a role, being overweight does too, as well as diet. The more we can hone in on the interplay, the closer we get to being able to say to someone what their personal risk factor is, similar to heart disease.

Lastly, there was my experience lately with a diabetic. She told us she could not eat donuts because of it, but went ahead and had hot chocolate. She told us her daughter was diabetic, and she was an expert at “swapping carbs”, that the hot chocolate was her lunch, and that what she had was the equivalent of a sandwich and a beverage. That might work out, as far as her blood sugar is concerned, but it misses the point as far as good nutrition. It is hard if you are diabetic to avoid all sugar. There isn’t a one of us who doesn’t love desert. Not to mention bread and other starches. But outside of the fact that sugar isn’t good for any of us, and that cutting it back means you get more sensitive to it, so less really is more, there is also the question of what are you replacing it with. Food is fuel, and the better your fuel, the better you’ll run. I cringe when I hear of all the crazy things people are doing with their diets- whether it’s cutting carbs completely, no fat, no dairy, no gluten, etc. Those might be fine for a very small percentage of people- the number of actual celiac disease patients is still estimated to be 12%- but for most of us it is self-defeating and short-sighted. Food has things in it besides calories and carbs, that make you run well. Build the body today that you’ll be relying on a decade from now.

Correlation does not Equal Causation

This article from the wall street journal might be misleading. I can’t say it is, since I have not seen the study. It supposedly shows a link between increased red meat consumption and the increase in type II diabetes. Researchers found a link between increased meat consumption, by as little as 1/2 a serving a day, and a greater risk of diabetes.

My question is, did they factor in the greater calories and weight gain¬† that increasing your consumption of any food would cause, since we know that being overweight will lead to greater diabetes risk? Did they separate out the consumption of “real” red meat vs processed, like hot dogs and lunch meat? It stated it was independent of body weight and quality of the rest of the diet, but what does that mean? It is also based on questionnaires, which are notoriously inaccurate.

The trouble with reading an article about a study is that you are getting conclusions twice removed. First, the authors of the study write a conclusion about the facts in their study. They can be drawing incorrect conclusions, or at least be suffering from bias. Then you are getting the conclusions that the author of the article drew from the conclusions of the authors of the study. Without being able to see the original study and taking the laborious amounts of time to go through the data to see if their conclusions are correct, you have to take some of this with a grain of salt. I have read enough arguments over studies to know that “facts” can be created from poor data collection, bias, poor study set up, and more. At least the author of this article did furnish a comment from a detractor of the study, so you have an idea of what other opinions are out there.

This is not to say that I am championing eating red meat in large quantities. Enough studies have been done to prove that less is more when it comes to red meat. However, it does seem counter intuitive to link red meat to diabetes, since it is sugar regulation that is affected by diabetes. I would love to know if they did control for the calorie increase, and how much the participants weighed, since being overweight is a strong factor in diabetes. This is one study I will remain skeptical of until more information is forthcoming.

I also don’t want it to sound like I am poo-pooing research. All dietary research is flawed, since we can’t do experiments in diets on people, it’s unethical. So to make up for the flaws, we have to keep doing lots of research, collecting lots of data, and spending lots of time analyzing and reviewing. Any information is better than no information.

I just had a great thought- what if they asked people to volunteer their information from all those diet/calorie tracking software programs? What a gold mine that would be! Plus, there wouldn’t be the inherent study bias, since the people would be turning over information they had previously gathered for themselves, with no unintended bias of pleasing the researchers.

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