By Suzanne Ridley | with Steve Eggleston
Welcome back to the Pura Nutrients Blog for our ground-breaking book, The Fast Diabetes Solution, a Holistic Formula for Reversing Diabetes and Living a Healthy, Happy Life, by Suzanne Ridley | with Steve Eggleston, and, our life changing Diabetes Recovery Program available inside our Diabetes Recovery Membership. This week, in Blog #4, we focus on the “Twin Cycle Hypothesis” that explains how two concurrent forces combine to cause “the long silent scream” which precedes the arrival of prediabetes and, if not addressed, leads to type 2 diabetes.
Sounds like the pitch for a Vincent Price horror movie, doesn’t it? And that’s because diabetes is diabolical. It lurks in the shadows for years and then, when you’re least expecting it, jumps out of the dark and yells, “I’ve got you!” And it’s able to lurk about unnoticed because it’s a very slow disease process that develops invisibly inside your body, with no major symptoms manifesting for years. But during that time, two deadly processes are secretly at work on your liver and your pancreas.
The two processes are what Professor Roy Taylor calls the “Twin Cycle Hypothesis.” (As regular readers know, Professor Taylor is a firm believer like I am that type 2 diabetes is preventable and reversible for most people by controlling diet and weight. Anyone with diabetes is urged to devour everything he’s written or videoed.) The two cycles are the liver cycle and the pancreas cycle, which when working correctly are like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the dance floor; but when out of whack, they look more like Laurel and Hardy in their twilight years.
In our last Blog #3, we discussed the fatty liver, which is the liver side of the twin cycle hypothesis. As you’ll recall, when someone eats too much and exercises too little over time, the extra glucose enters the liver and then is turned into fat within the liver after glycogen stores are full, becoming dangerous omental (interior) fat. The build-up of this interior fat creates a fatty liver, which because it results from diet and lifestyle is often called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
As excess glucose accumulates in the blood, and omental fat forms inside the liver, there are small increases to the blood’s average glucose level, imperceptible from week-to-week but measurable over time. The pancreas responds by producing incrementally more insulin to handle the extra glucose load, and for a period of years, depending on diet, lifestyle and genetics, things work normally even though the pancreas is being required to produce more and more insulin to overcome a rising insulin resistance. This is the prediabetic phase.
The process varies from person-to-person and body-to-body, with the excess fat being exported from the liver into the bloodstream where it is readily taken up by the pancreas. Here the islet cells steadily become clogged with fat which impedes their ability to secrete insulin. They don’t stop producing insulin altogether, but the cells do become severely impeded. Then as the ability of the islet cells to produce insulin decreases, we see a rather rapid rise in blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetes is diagnosed (remembering that the average pre-diabetic phase starts thirteen year earlier, while the second phase only takes about eighteen months). When this happens, we enter the pancreas cycle. At this point, the treating physician will often prescribe metformin and recommend lifestyle changes. After a procession of other blood glucose lowering drugs fails to work the next step is insulin therapy. This is the diabetic phase.
Dr. Taylor describes the twin cycles like this: “The accumulation of fat in the liver and secondarily in the pancreas will lead to self-reinforcing cycles that interact to bring about type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver leads to impaired fasting glucose metabolism and increases export of [dangerous triglycerides], which increases fat delivery to all tissues, including the [pancreas] islets. The liver and pancreas cycles drive onward after diagnosis with steadily decreasing beta cell function. However…if the primary influence of positive calorie balance [eating too much of the wrong foods in relation to calories burned] is removed, the processes are reversible.”
Put another way, you have two ongoing cycles that are feeding each other in a bad way for your metabolism. As you eat too much of the wrong foods at the wrong times (over time), your liver slowly accumulates omental (interior) fat and your insulin resistance increases. At first, the pancreas steps up insulin production to keep up with rising demand created by the insulin resistance, but then over time the islets become completely clogged, catapulting you from prediabetes to full-on type 2 diabetes. Once the pancreatic cycle gets involved, there is a rapid rise in blood glucose because the omental fat is reducing normal insulin response to food. (This is the eighteen-month process.)
Knowing these cycles and what they need to appear is understanding how to address and stop them. The primary cause is not genetics, contrary to what is sometimes suggested these days. The primary cause is eating too much period and eating too much of the wrong foods at the wrong times. The wrong foods are too much carbs and sugar – processed foods, pasta, bread, desserts, ice cream, cookies, puddings, ketchup, sweet yogurt, soda pop, fruit drinks, etcetera. And unfortunately, it doesn’t take huge overeating over time for fat to accumulate in the liver. A little excess a day adds up and is all it takes since we’re talking years.
But let me clarify the point about the fatty liver developing over a long period of time, because it can happen quickly to some people. One way for adults to fast-track the emergence of a fatty liver is to overeat sugary cereals, soda pop, fruit juices, sweet snacks and desserts, which are loaded with sugar and (in the United States and Britain) high fructose corn syrup. Dr. Jason Fung’s book, The Diabetes Code, tells us that if you consume large volumes of sugar that go straight to the liver and get converted into omental fat, your fatty liver can emerge more quickly. The phenomenon is precisely the one purposefully created in the production of foie gras when geese are force-fed massive amounts of carbs.
The same poor dietary choices that lead to a fatty liver (the fatty liver cycle) are the ones that lead to increased blood insulin levels (the pancreas cycle) and the condition known as hyperinsulinemia. This is the prediabetic part of the twin cycles where the pancreas is producing more (hyper) and more (hyper) insulin to get the job done, but is facing more and more insulin resistance. Since all bodies and systems are slightly different, some people (especially those with family history) are more prone to developing the disease than others. But you know how you feel a little off (you’re unsure still) before you get the flu, there is this stage in pre-prediabetes and prediabetes as well.
Another point of clarification involves fat. I’ve been careful to call fatty liver the accumulation of omental (or interior) fat for a very important reason. Type 2 diabetes can develop in thin-looking people and obese people alike, though it is much more common in the later. That’s because it comes down to where your body is storing the fat (a process which is largely governed by genetics or individuality). Professor Taylor explains that thirty percent of obese people (BMI over 30) are considered metabolically normal, and of these 80% don’t have type 2 diabetes. Their bodies therefore are primarily storing fat subcutaneously instead, giving their recipients big bottoms and thighs.
When we dig down, what we are dealing with is how well a specific person tolerates fat at the level of the liver and the pancreas, which leads to yet a further clarification as the popular press contributes to great confusion in this area. When we talk about fat stored in our organs we are not talking about the animal and other fat that we consume with things like like meat, dairy, butter, and oil. In the twin diseases cycles, we are primarily dealing with the fat created by the body after consumption of carbs, sugar and HFCS. This explains why the most common BMI for type 2 diabetes ranges between 28-29 (30 being the signpost for obesity). Indeed, Dr. Fung recently reported that 36% of newly-diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes presented a BMI of less than 25 (when these people should have BMIs of 21).
At the end of the day, it all depends on a person’s individual “Personal Fat Threshold.” This is a phrase coined by Professor Taylor to take into account the relative side to omental fat accumulation and its relationship to family history. He reports that all it takes is a bit more than one generation for the critical BMI stage – the personal fat threshold in the progression to prediabetes and diabetes – to shift. There has always been an array of BMIs in society – some people being more naturally thin than others – but as a society we are shifting to the right.
In 1980, 36% of adults had a BMI over 25 and only 7% had a BMI over 30. By 2010, those numbers had skyrocketed. 65% (nearly double) weighed in with a BMI over 25, and 25% (nearly four times higher) reported a BMI over 30. The Nurses Health Study (following 120,000+ people with chronic diseases from 1986 – 2006) showed that the increase in BMI from 21 to 24 was associated with an alarming fourfold increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So if you wonder why your rather obese friend has escaped diabetes and you have not, the explanation lies in where you are storing your fat.
That good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You are not doomed to diabetes genetically because the twin cycles churning away inside you can both be stopped – by you. In fact, in the Counterpoint Study, Professor Taylor showed that diabetes can be stopped and reversed in many in a short period of time. He demonstrated this by putting diabetics on a low-cal diet of 800 calories per day (a combination of Optifast and low-cal vegetables with no snacking). Over eight short weeks, the average weight loss was 15 kilograms (2.5 stone or 33.07 pounds). Thus, according to the Professor, a diet at 800 calories per day would achieve the results and show that it worked.
In the first week alone, average blood glucose levels plummeted from 9.2mmol/l to 5.9 mmol/l, and liver fat was reduced by one-third. The liver responds so quickly because the body is turning to the liver to supply the energy that would normally be supplied by food (with omental fat being burned off instead). Then, as the fat in the liver and pancreas decreases, the pancreas starts to produce insulin again, and in Professor Taylor’s study, by the end of the study pancreatic insulin secretion was normal again because “the islet cells [put to rest by the pancreas cycle] had woken up.” Strikingly, he observed, it only took a 0.6gm reduction in pancreatic fat for the islet cells to start working properly again (and producing the spike of insulin normally secreted when we eat).
There is a strong lesson to learn from our close examination of the Twin Cycle Hypothesis. The best approach to leading a diabetes-free life is to eat a healthy diet mixed with regular exercise, intermittent fasting, and other holistic approaches described in our book, The Fast Diabetes Solution, a Holistic Formula for Reversing Diabetes and Living a Healthy, Happy Life, by Suzanne Ridley | with Steve Eggleston available on Amazon. If you don’t yet have prediabetes, no matter what your family history you can avoid it. If you have prediabetes, you can reverse it. And if you have type two diabetes, you can reverse or manage it, thereby adding years to your life.
As I always say, it’s just a matter of making a commitment to living a happy, healthy, disease-free life.
If you’d like more information about what it takes to reverse diabetes and live a life of diabetes freedom subscribe to our free diabetes mini course, or click this link to join our Diabetes Recovery Membership and take part in our Diabetes Recovery Program.