What Are Obesity and Diabetes?
Michelle Obama, in her capacity as First Lady, launched her “Let’s Move” campaign in 2010 in hopes of bringing awareness as well as solutions to the American silent epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes.
The reality is that currently one in every three children in the United States is obese, or severely overweight.
Along with obesity is diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, a chronic condition connected to obesity and traditionally identified by high levels of glucose in the blood or high blood sugar.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 is insulin-dependent diabetes also known as juvenile onset diabetes and related more to autoimmunity
- Type 2 diabetes is a non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes and is usually related to obesity
Both obesity and diabetes in children are currently on the rise in the United States.
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Obesity and Diabetes
Your child’s pediatrician will likely tell you your child’s obesity problem may be due to:
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy eating patterns
- Possibly an endocrine disorder
- Genetic factors due to family history
Obesity is determined by Body Mass Index (BMI), which indicates how much body fat your child has.
One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so pediatricians usually suggest a calorie-based diet with more physical activity.
In certain situations, adolescents may be prescribed the medication Orlistat, which prevents the absorption of fat in the intestines; however, the long term risks are unknown.
For severely obese adolescents, surgery may be an option if the child’s weight poses a greater health risk than the surgery.
In the case of Type 2 diabetes, the cells in your child’s body do not respond to insulin, and therefore, glucose levels build up and create a condition known as insulin resistance.
In other words, the sugar levels get too high for the body to handle.
Your pediatrician will explain that your child ate too much sugar, got fat, developed Type 2 diabetes and long term management is the only option.
Metformin, a sugar-lowering medication, is often administered but there are nasty gastrointestinal side effects to deal with.
A hemoglobin A1C test is customary every 3 months to monitor sugar levels.
On a daily basis, traditional finger prick tests for sugar levels or continuous glucose monitoring is the regular routine.
Your pediatrician will probably suggest a diabetic meal plan which consists of 50% to 55% carbohydrates, 30% to 35% fat and 10% to 15% protein and exercising every day.
Another Way to Think About Obesity and Diabetes
Researchers now know that the missing link to the traditional obesity and diabetes thinking is the hormone leptin.
Leptin regulates blood sugar because it is responsible for controlling appetite and fat storage and for telling the liver what to do with its stored glucose.
The brain and liver are also extremely important in regulating blood sugar especially in Type 2 insulin resistant diabetes.
Traditionally, doctors believed that too much sugar led to obesity and diabetes, but today researchers have discovered a correlation between increased leptin levels, which are pro-inflammatory, and brain hyperactivity.
This means that the body may have an abnormal response to leptin which can lead to obesity.
The only real way to establish proper leptin and insulin signaling is through diet.
A diet that is designed to incorporate good fats and control spiking levels of blood sugar by avoiding carbohydrates and sugar can modulate leptin and insulin levels.
It is interesting to note that fructose is the leading cause of childhood obesity today.
If your child consumes a diet that is consistently high in sugar and grains, over time the body becomes “sensitized’ to insulin and requires more and more of it until the body becomes insulin and leptin-resistant and eventually diabetic.
Obesity and Diabetes Checklist to Start
Make dietary changes:
- Eat whole foods
- Buy organic foods
- Remove all GMO foods
- Remove all fast and processed foods
- Remove all foods with:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial ingredients
- With an elimination diet, remove potentially inflammatory foods such as:
- Strictly limit:
- Refined salt
- Refined carbohydrates
- Consider implementing the Feingold diet
Include plenty of good quality fats, such as:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Wild salmon
- Organic chicken
- Organic turkey
- Grass-fed ghee
- Essential fatty acids from:
- Cod liver oil
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Evening primrose oil
- Borage oil
- Walnut oil
- Krill oil
Remove vegetable oils such as:
Include plenty of high-quality proteins with every meal, such as:
- Pasture-raised eggs and chicken
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild-caught fish
Heal the gut with special diets that focus on removing grains and reducing sugars, fructose and starchy carbohydrates, such as:
- GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) diet
- Leptin diet
- Paleo diet
- Modified Atkins Diet (replaces the Ketogenic diet)
Learn more about healing diets and foods
Add fermented foods and probiotics daily:
These will keep the gastrointestinal system and microbiome healthy and strong which in turn will keep the immune system strong.
- Eat kefir yogurts
- Eat fermented vegetables
- Eat umeboshi plums (very alkalizing)
- Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated
Some good probiotics are:
- Gut Pro
- Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics
- Garden of Life
- Klaire Labs
Use herbs, foods, essential oils and natural supplements with your practitioner’s guidance:
- MCT coconut oil
- Zinc: Zinc deficiency is associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. Take zinc picolinate daily with a meal.
- Trace minerals
- Chromium picolinate
- Chromium GTF
- White kidney beans
- Vitamin D3: It is extremely important to maintain optimal Vitamin D3 levels with diabetes
Avoid food before bedtime:
A primary cause of night-waking is a drop in blood sugar.
Food, especially carbohydrate-rich food, before bedtime can cause a drop in blood sugar in the middle of the night.
Be sure that all meals include plenty of fat, fiber and protein.
Increase physical activity:
Have your child do sports or physical exercise daily and limit the amount of television and computer time each day.
Eat dinner together as a family:
Eating as many meals as possible at home can reinforce healthy eating habits.
Children pay attention to what you as a parent do on a consistent basis, so be sure to model how enjoyable it is to eat healthy food.
Make sure your child gets enough sleep:
Insufficient sleep and sleep that is not in sync with the body’s circadian rhythm can cause stress on the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands not only respond to stress by producing adrenaline, but the cortisol produced by them also controls the body’s circadian rhythm.
Many studies have shown that high levels of cortisol lead to excess weight gain.
Therefore, have your child go to bed on the earlier side.
You’ll know when you’ve hit your child’s bedtime sweet spot when they wake up full of energy in the morning, usually between 5:30am and 6:30am.
Normalize serotonin levels:
Low levels of serotonin can lead to hunger and sweet cravings as well as sleep issues.
Test neurotransmitter serotonin with Neurosciences Laboratories.
Optimize Your Child’s Thyroid Levels
Low thyroid activity is typically linked to excess weight gain.
Have your child work with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath who can test and optimize thryoid levels.
Test Leptin Levels
A key to understanding your child’s excess weight may be leptin levels.
Have your child work with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath who can test and optimize leptin levels.
See a homeopath or naturopath:
These practitioners can can treat obesity and diabetes naturally with supplements and homeopathy to help keep leptin levels down.
Hypnotherapy can help with over-indulgence, comfort food and emotional eating.
Still Looking for Answers?
Sources & References
Adebayo, O., et al. The changing face of diabetes in America. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2014;32(2):319-27.
Banerjee, S., et al. Ayurveda in changing scenario of diabetes management for developing safe and effective treatment choices for the future. J Complement Integr Med. 2015.
Basic, M., et al. Obesity: genome and environment interactions. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol. 2012;63(3):395-405.
Bipartisan Policy Center. Lots to lose how America’s health and obesity crisis threatens our economic future. Washington, D.C.: Bipartisan Policy Center,; 2012.
Bradford, B.L., et al. Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Type 2 Diabetes. Science. 2005 Jan 21;307(5708):384-7.
Carlson, J.A., et al. Dietary-related and physical activity-related predictors of obesity in children: a 2-year prospective study. Child Obes. 2012;8(2):110-5.
Choquet, H., et al. Genomic insights into early-onset obesity. Genome Med. 2010;2(6):36.
Classen, J.B. Review of evidence that epidemics of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes/metabolic syndrome are polar opposite responses to iatrogenic inflammation. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2012;8(6):413-8.
Cortese, S., et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, iron deficiency, and obesity: is there a link? Postgrad Med. 2014;126(4):155-70.
Desai, J.R., et al. Diabetes and asthma case identification, validation, and representativeness when using electronic health data to construct registries for comparative effectiveness and epidemiologic research. Med Care. 2012;50 Suppl:S30-5.
Hao, J., et al. Mitochondrial nutrients improve immune dysfunction in the type 2 diabetic Goto-Kakizaki rats. J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Apr;13(4):701-11.
He, C., et al. Targeting gut microbiota as a possible therapy for diabetes. Nutr Res. 2015.
Hinzmann, R., et al. What do we need beyond hemoglobin A1c to get the complete picture of glycemia in people with diabetes? Int J Med Sci. 2012;9(8):665-81.
Kogut, S.J., et al. Evaluation of a program to improve diabetes care through intensified care management activities and diabetes medication copayment reduction. J Manag Care Pharm. 2012;18(4):297-310.
Kong., A.P, et al. Diabetes and its comorbidities–where East meets West. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013;9(9):537-47.
Laron, Z. Interplay between heredity and environment in the recent explosion of type 1 childhood diabetes mellitus. Am J Med Genet. 2002;115(1):4-7.
Levi, J., et al. F as in fat how obesity threatens America’s future : 2012. Washington, D.C.: Trust for America’s Health; 2012.
Ly, N.P., et al. Gut microbiota, probiotics, and vitamin D: interrelated exposures influencing allergy, asthma, and obesity? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011;127(5):1087-94; quiz 95-6.
Magrone, T., et al. Childhood obesity: immune response and nutritional approaches. Front Immunol. 2015;6:76.
Noland, R.C., et al. Carnitine insufficiency caused by aging and overnutrition compromises mitochondrial performance and metabolic control. J Biol Chem. 2009 Aug 21;284(34):22840-52.
Pacal, L., et al. Parameters of oxidative stress, DNA damage and DNA repair in type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2011;117(4):222-30.
Power, R.A., et al. Carnitine revisited: potential use as adjunctive treatment in diabetes. Diabetologia. 2007 Apr;50(4):824-32.
Pulgaron, E.R. Childhood obesity: a review of increased risk for physical and psychological comorbidities. Clin Ther. 2013;35(1):A18-32.
Rector, R.S., et al. Mitochondrial dysfunction precedes insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis and contributes to the natural history of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in an obese rodent model. J Hepatol. 2010 May;52(5):727-36.
Renteria, I., et al. [Factors affecting oxidative damage in obese children: an exploratory study]. Nutr Hosp. 2015;31(4):1499-503.
Rosa, J.S., et al. Altered inflammatory, oxidative, and metabolic responses to exercise in pediatric obesity and type 1 diabetes. Pediatr Diabetes. 2011;12(5):464-72.
Sanchez, M., et al. Childhood obesity: a role for gut microbiota? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(1):162-75.
Shen, W., et al. Protective effects of R-alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine in MIN6 and isolated rat islet cells chronically exposed to oleic acid. J Cell Biochem. 2008 Jul 1;104(4):1232-43.
Sreekumar, R., et al. Skeletal muscle mitochondrial dysfunction & diabetes. Indian J Med Res. 2007 Mar;125(3):399-410.
Tuomi, T., et al. The many faces of diabetes: a disease with increasing heterogeneity. Lancet. 2014;383(9922):1084-94.
Vaarala, O. Is the origin of type 1 diabetes in the gut? Immunol Cell Biol. 2012;90(3):271-6.
Vaarala, O. Gut microbiota and type 1 diabetes. Rev Diabet Stud. 2012;9(4):251-9.
Bolin, K., Cawley, J.H. The economics of obesity. 1st ed. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier JAI; 2007.