LiveSmart: You Are What You Eat

[This piece was written by Jill Abelseth, MD, FACE, Director of St. Peter’s Diabetes and Endocrine Care, St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates]

Everyone is familiar with the expression: “You are what you eat.” In recent years, though, that familiar phrase has been backed up with scientific corroboration. As we have become more sedentary – while increasing our intake of high sugar, high-fat and highly processed foods – the obesity rate, not only in this country but worldwide, has increased dramatically.

Increasing in an almost identical pattern is the incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Certainly, there is a genetic component, but why do people who are thin and then gain excessive weight have an increased risk of diabetes? Researchers and medical professionals have always suspected the types of food we eat may play a role and new scientific evidence explains why.

It turns out that each of us have a unique group of bacteria that line our gut called a microbiome. The microbiome is made up of 100 trillion microbes, which is the same number of cells we have in our entire body. These organisms help in digestion, produce anti-inflammatory chemicals, and help to train our immune system to recognize friend or foe.

Our immune system also “farms” or cultivates the good bacteria in our gut, the ones that keep us healthy. Every person has a different individualized pattern of these organisms living within us. Doctors can determine this by measuring patients’ stool samples and looking at the organisms within.

Unlike our human genome, which cannot be altered, this bacterial microbiome can be changed by the foods we eat. For instance: Just one highly processed fast food meal changes the content of the microbiome to more “bad” bacteria in less than 24 hours.

Research has shown that patients who have obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes have an abundance of similar organisms in their microbiome. When scientists took some of these “bad” bacteria from obese/diabetic mice and transferred them to healthy mice, those mice gained weight and were at increased risk of diabetes. Clearly the microbiome may be causing disease or, at the least, not preventing it.

The obvious question becomes: Can we change our personal microbiomes in order to increase the number of good bacteria and decrease those associated with diseases such as type 2 diabetes? The answer is yes! If we change to a diet from the ground or the trees, not processed, low-fat, and low-simple sugar we will be “feeding “ our microbiome well. In return, it will reward us with good health!

At St. Peter’s Diabetes and Endocrine Care (SPDEC), a multi-disciplinary team of endocrinologists, advanced practitioners and Certified Diabetes Educators are dedicated to helping individuals with diabetes improve their quality of life. The practice provides diagnosis, treatment and long-term care for individuals with diabetes, and other endocrine and metabolic disorders. SPDEC offers the latest diabetes care technology, including insulin pump/sensor download and professional continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) for diagnosis.

For more information or an appointment, call St. Peter’s Diabetes and Endocrine Care at 518-471-3636.

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