The Dietary Shifts that are Leading to Diabesity

The #1 dietary shift that leads to diabesity is sugar in all its forms.

The average American today eats 150-180 pounds of sugar per year. That’s over half a pound of sugar a day!

We evolved eating 22 teaspoons of sugar per year.(1) So we are no longer eating in harmony with our genes. In the last 30 years our sugar calories increasingly come from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This comes mostly in the form of liquid calories from sodas, soft drinks and sweetened beverages.

In fact, Dr. Walter Willett from the Harvard School Public Health stated at a recent White House meeting on Prevention and Wellness that the two most important factors driving our obesity epidemic are sugar-sweetened drinks (2) and the number of hours of television watched per day.(3) These correlate more with obesity than any other factors in the research.  We need to stop eating (and drinking) so much sugar. It’s killing us.

The #2 dietary shift that leads to diabesity is our low-fiber diet.

As our sugar consumption has increased, our fiber consumption has decreased. We now eat less than 8 grams per day. Yet our Paleolithic ancestors ate 100 grams of fiber per day.(4) This is another indication of how we are no longer eating in harmony with our genes …

Fiber is important because it slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream from our gut and reduces cholesterol. It mostly comes from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans.

Those who eat a refined, processed, diet that comes from boxes, packages, or cans get less fiber than those who eat whole, real foods. The lack of fiber in our diet has enormous implications for our health. It causes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers and many other chronic diseases.(5) In fact, studies show that adding high levels of fiber to the diet is as effective as diabetes medication without any of the side effects.(6)

The #3 dietary shift that leads to diabesity is our epidemic of nutritional deficiencies.

A number of nutrients are particularly important to prevent and treat diabesity. These include vitamin D,(7) chromium,(8),(9) magnesium,(10) zinc,(11) biotin,(12) omega-3 fats,(13) and antioxidants such alpha lipoic acid.(14)

These nutrients are necessary for proper control and balance of insulin and blood sugar. When these are deficient, our biochemical machinery slows down and grinds to a halt. And these happen to be the very nutrients most of us are deficient in.

What’s critical to understand is that the solution to the whole diabesity epidemic can be found at the end of your fork! What you put on your fork is the most powerful medicine you have to correct the fundamental underlying causes of chronic disease and diabesity. That is true for one simple reason: Food is more than calories; it is information. This is what the exciting new field of nutrigenomics is now showing us.


(1) Cordain L., et al. 2005. Origin and evolution of the Western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 8 (2):341-54. Review.

(2) Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet. 2001 Feb 17;357(9255):505-8

(3) Hu FB, Li TY, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Manson JE. Television watching and other sedentary behaviors in relation to risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1785-91.

(4) Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9. Review.

(5) Robson AA. Preventing diet induced disease: bioavailable nutrient-rich, low-energy-dense diets. Nutr Health. 2009;20(2):135-66. Review.

(6) Chandalia M, Garg A, Lutjohann D, von Bergmann K, Grundy SM, Brinkley LJ. Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med. 2000 May 11;342(19):1392-8.

(7) Reis JP, von Mühlen D, Miller ER 3rd, Michos ED, Appel LJ. Vitamin D Status and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in the United States Adolescent Population. Pediatrics. 2009 Aug 3.

(8) A scientific review: the role of chromium in insulin resistance. Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14. Review.

(9) Lau FC, Bagchi M, Sen CK, Bagchi D. Nutrigenomic basis of beneficial effects of chromium(III) on obesity and diabetes. Mol Cell Biochem. 2008 Oct;317(1-2):1-10. Epub 2008 Jul 18. Review.

(10) Chaudhary DP, Sharma R, Bansal DD. Implications of Magnesium Deficiency in Type 2 Diabetes: A Review. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Jul 24.

(11) Masood N, Baloch GH, Ghori RA, Memon IA, Memon MA, Memon MS. Serum zinc and magnesium in type-2 diabetic patients. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak. 2009 Aug;19(8):483-6.

(12) Albarracin CA, Fuqua BC, Evans JL, Goldfine ID. Chromium picolinate and biotin combination improves glucose metabolism in treated, uncontrolled overweight to obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2008 Jan-Feb;24(1):41-51.

(13) Flachs P, Rossmeisl M, Bryhn M, Kopecky J. Cellular and molecular effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on adipose tissue biology and metabolism. Clin Sci (Lond). 2009 Jan;116(1):1-16. Review.

(14) Shay KP, Moreau RF, Smith EJ, Smith AR, Hagen TM. Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Oct;1790(10):1149-60. Epub 2009 Aug 4.