Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
The chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass., Hyman is the author of five best-selling books, most recently, The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now.
Here’s our interview with Mark Hyman about diabesity:
What is diabesity?
It’s a term I use to describe a process that begins before prediabetes, the continuum from optimal blood sugar balance towards insulin resistance and full-blown diabetes. Insulin resistance is the real cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemic that impacts more than 100 million Americans. Although “diabesity” is made up of the concepts of obesity and diabetes, even those who aren’t overweight can have this problem. It can occur in people who are “under lean” (not enough muscle) instead of overweight, and have just a little extra weight around the middle.
How does insulin resistance develop?
Triggered by too many refined, sugary carbohydrates and beverages, insulin resistance occurs when your cells slowly become resistant-or numb-to the effects of insulin and need more and more of it to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. A high insulin level is the first sign, but unfortunately, most doctors never test this. Rather, they test blood sugar levels, but these rise above healthy levels only after insulin has been elevated for some time. Symptoms may include weight gain around the belly, swings in blood pressure that make you feel anxious, irritable, or tired, and can even cause palpitations and panic attacks. I recommend testing of insulin levels for anyone who has a family history of type 2 diabetes, belly fat or increased waist size, or abnormal cholesterol.
Can we prevent or reverse pre-diabetes?
Diabesity is both preventable and reversible by our lifestyle choices. Whole, real, fresh food that you cook yourself is the most potent medicine, along with reducing stress, increasing exercise, and balancing nutritional deficiencies.Composing the perfect meal is an essential life skill. Your plate should look like this: One-half low-starch vegetables; one-quarter protein; and one-quarter of either one-half cup of whole grains or one-half cup of starchy vegetables such as sweet potato or winter squash. Choose organic food to keep toxins off your plate.
Try Mark’s Almond Butter Honey Spread recipe from Blood Sugar Solution.
Can supplements also help pre-diabetes?
Yes, although they can’t substitute for whole foods and exercise. I recommend a multivitamin, vitamin D3, fish oil, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, chromium polynicotinate, biotin, cinnamon, green tea catechins, and PGX, which helps control appetite. Most people can also benefit from probiotics for healthy digestion.