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Learn how to 'Take Control of your Diabetes Risk'

Dr. John Whyte joins New Day to talk about his new book, and the facts you need to know to reduce your risk of diabetes. #newdaynw

Medical experts call it a U.S. epidemic, and its numbers are on the rise. More than 34 million Americans have type 2 diabetes — that’s one out of every ten, and 88 million have pre-diabetes. Many more are unaware that they do. More than 1.5 million people are diagnosed in the US every year, and deaths are on the rise. There’s the potential for one in three Americans to have diabetes if we don’t turn things around.

Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer of WebMD, joined New Day Northwest to talk about his new book, "Take Control of Your Diabetes Risk," and offer practical solutions that can reverse diabetes or stop prediabetes in its tracks. 

In addition to adopting a healthy diet, and minimizing sugary drinks, alcohol, and processed foods (which can include a lot of added sugar), Dr. Whyte looks at some new approaches and busts some myths, including:

  • You don’t need a massive diet overhaul. Plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian diets, and Keto diets can help regulate blood sugar — which, when it’s too high, causes diabetes and complications — but they aren’t easy. His book outlines healthy eating plans and recipes that anyone can incorporate into their lives.  
  • Some exercise is not better than nothing. It isn’t enough to do 15 minutes of walking twice a week. To reverse diabetes, you need to hustle through your workouts, burn a sweat, and exercise for 150 minutes per week (30 minutes a day).
  • Some supplements can help; others don’t make a difference. The supplements that are advertised as “cures” aren’t, and most supplements don’t help, but there are a few that do, such as chromium and alpha-lipoic acid, which can improve glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. 
    • For the most part, you need to focus on whole foods rather than supplements.
    • One supplement showing promise is chromium — might help metabolize carbs and fats. Taking 200 micrograms a day could help slightly improve blood sugar levels in people with poor blood sugar control. Another is omega-3 fatty acids — or fish oil supplements. It may offer some protection for your heart given the impact diabetes has on your blood vessels. Vitamin D and its role in reducing inflammation might delay the progression of prediabetes as well as help those with type 2 get blood sugar under better control.
    • Cinnamon — which is technically a spice — just has not proven to be useful. Researchers tested taking a cinnamon pill vs placebo — found no effect on Hba1c or blood sugar. You don't need to throw it out — continue to use it on oatmeal in the morning, but don't think it's going to help get rid of diabetes.
  • Why it’s worth learning to like kefir, sauerkraut, and Greek yogurt. The largest concentration of microbes resides in the gut, where they have a direct impact on blood sugar levels, inflammation, body fat, and insulin sensitivity. Fermented foods can promote a healthy gut, along with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.   
    • All carbohydrates turn into sugar. But there are different kinds of carbs. The ones Dr. Whyte suggests you avoid since they tend to spike your blood sugar include:
      • most breakfast cereals
      • white rice
      • potatoes
      • bread
      • fruit-flavored yogurts
      • cakes and pastries (donuts, muffins)
    • Foods that people think are healthy but have a high glycemic index (rice flour, a gluten-free diet, etc): Foods with a high glycemic index that people think are healthy include rice cakes, most crackers, most packaged breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, white rice, whole wheat bread, and California sushi rolls. They are like eating a sugar cube. 
    • Gluten-free diets can have a high glycemic index. Gluten-free processed foods, such as bread, cookies, and pasta, are typically even higher GI than wheat-based versions of the same food. And most processed gluten-free foods have less fiber than foods with gluten.
  • The need to manage stress and get quality sleep most nights. Lack of sleep and too much stress mess with hormone levels and can promote increases in blood sugar.
  • Gut health: It's all about the gut nowadays. All the different microbes play a direct role in blood sugar levels. Some work with us to control insulin release while others wreak havoc on metabolism, possibly even causing prediabetes. When bad bacteria slip past our gut's protective barrier, they cause inflammation, affecting numerous hormone levels including cortisol. It turns out that many people with diabetes tend to have lower levels of beneficial microbes in their gut. This is one reason why we need to eat a lot of fiber in our diet — our gut bugs love fiber. When our gut bugs get hungry they tend to eat at the gut lining, causing "leaky gut", leading to inflammation and a host of other issues, and making it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. Fermented foods like kimchi and even gouda cheese also help.
    • And occasional probiotics can keep your gut — and your blood sugars — at a healthy level.

 Although some cases of diabetes are genetic such as Type 2, family history contributes to less than 15% of cases. Lifestyle is the most important factor in preventing this disease and Dr. Whyte is committed to encouraging Americans to take a serious look at our daily habits. 

Segment Producer Suzie Wiley. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.