Dr. P’s Story: Talk to Your Family

I attended a Suppers meeting where we were talking about how planning is essential in practicing nutritional harm reduction, especially while dealing with food-related holiday festivities. During the discussion I observed that the type 2 diabetics were generally assumed to have caused their condition through weight gain and improper eating, while type 1's were “off the hook” because it happened to emerge when most were children, so they couldn't be blamed for their role in developing this condition.

I took exception to the idea that type 2 diabetics “did this to themselves.” In my family we have four generations, that we know of, who have developed type 2 diabetes. While some of these relatives were overweight, most have been slender, or even underweight. Those with diabetes typically started to notice symptoms in their early 50s and subsequently were diagnosed as type 2 in their early 60s. Ironically, one very overweight family member was diagnosed with diabetes nearly a decade later (in age) than some of the thinner ones! So I wanted my sharing at Suppers to stand up for biological individuality, which is what Suppers says is the foundation of this program.

I have learned, from my own quest, that emerging scientific research is showing that even among severely overweight people, some are considered to be metabolically healthy, and are at no higher risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. While visceral fat (around the waist) is more important than body-mass index (BMI) as a predictor of type 2 diabetes, there is also new research showing that, among some families, genetic traits can be identified that seem to predispose one to developing diabetes. And there is even some research showing that obesity may protect some people from type 2 diabetes! Basically, one cannot just look at someone, or what they are eating, and assume that they already have or will necessarily develop diabetes.

People with diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, struggle every day to manage their condition. A large glass of juice or even a simple bowl of oatmeal with raisins can cause dangerous glucose spikes. We have “enough on our plates” (so to speak) already with trying to unlearn what we had been taught about so-called healthy eating, that we should not have to tolerate shaming or blaming (including by one's self) as to how our diabetes developed. There are just too many different factors at play, and science does not yet have the answers.

The good news is that whether or not one has a diabetic diagnosis, certainly the impacts of diabetes or potential diabetes may be able to be minimized, postponed, and managed if people maintain a diet of whole foods matched to their individual needs. This is especially true for those who have a strong family history of diabetes.

I've listed seven things that everyone should consider, including people who may think that diabetes is not their issue.