It’s a serious question. What IF sugar doesn’t cause diabetes? I know, everyone in the world “knows” that diabetes is a functional breakdown of the body’s ability to effectively utilize and remove excess sugar (Glucose) from the blood stream, but does that mean that sugar is at the very root cause of the disease?
Isn’t that basically like saying, “The house obviously burned down, but what caused it? Well, it was simply a case of too much fire”. Is that logical? We know that the fire burned the house down, but who or what started the fire? Isn’t that the more important question?
The modern view of diabetes has been that the body loses it’s ability to clean an ever increasing amount of glucose from the blood, because cells throughout the body become resistant to an ever increasing amount of insulin in the blood. The glucose has nowhere to do, and therefore builds to toxic levels in the blood. The cycle continues, until the person becomes a full-on Diabetic and loses the ability to consume carbohydrates without the aid of medication.
Too many carbohydrates, especially of the refined variety, over a long period of time, leads to insulin resistance, which leads to obesity (usually, but not always), and then to diabetes. It all sounds logical, neat and plausible, but it may well not be correct at all.
Have you ever heard of the Randle Cycle?
“The Randle cycle is a metabolic process involving the competition of glucose and fatty acids for substrates. It is theorized to play a role in explaining type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
The mechanism involves malonyl-CoA and its inhibition of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT1). Glucose oxidation produces citrate which can be converted to malonyl-CoA by acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC1 or ACC). Malonyl-CoA then can bind to and inhibit one of several tissue-specific CPT1 isoforms. CPT1 is a transporter of long-chain fatty acids at the outer mitochondrial membrane that regulates the rate-controlling step for fatty acid oxidation. Thus, increased glucose oxidation inhibits fatty acid oxidation via malonyl-CoA, which can then be utilized as a substrate for fatty acid synthesis.
In other words, cells flip back and forth between two different sources of fuel, which can consist of either glucose, or long chain fatty acids. It is a constant flux, but in the presence of large amounts of long chain fatty acids, glucose will be refused entry, and vise versa. What are long chain fatty acids? Well, unsaturated fats are long chain fatty acids, and that includes our favorite polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats, like the vegetable and seeds oils that have “saturated” our food industry over the last hundred years or so. Since the S.A.D (Standard American Diet) is overly full of PUFAs, many people are living in a near constant state of turning glucose away from entry into their cells, in order to allow the PUFAs to be burned for fuel. In my opinion, it’s easy to see how such a process could easily become the true starting point for insulin resistance…..the real catalyst that starts the house fire if you like.
This whole mechanism is also one of the reasons that fructose has earned such a horrible reputation recently:
Vegetable Oils With Fructose or Alcohol
These toxic foods are particularly dangerous in combination. We discuss this mix of toxins in the book (pp 56-59).
If you feed lab animals high doses of polyunsaturated fat (either omega-6 or omega-3 will do) along with high doses of either fructose or alcohol, then fatty liver disease develops along with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for obesity, and it’s not very difficult to induce obesity on these diets.
Both sugar and vegetable oils are individually risks for obesity:
- Stephan did a nice post a few years back, “Vegetable Oil and Weight Gain,” discussing a couple of studies showing that both rats and humans get fatter the more polyunsaturated fat they eat.
- Dr. Richard Johnson and colleagues did a review of the evidence for sugar (fructose) as a cause of obesity in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a few years ago. 
What the animal studies show us is that when fructose and vegetable oils are consumed together, they multiply each other’s obesity-inducing effects.” – Paul Jaminet, from the Perfect Health Diet Blog
Fructose in combination with PUFA is bad news, but fructose by itself shouldn’t present an issue. However, it seems that PUFAs either by themselves, or in combination with sugars are almost equally bad news for the human body.
What if sugar doesn’t cause diabetes?
What if PUFAs are actually the cause of metabolic syndrome and diabetes? What if sugar was essentially the innocent bystander? Sure, once a person HAS diabetes, sugars becomes a very large part of the problem, but is that the fault of the sugar? I don’t believe so.
PUFAs build up in fat reserves over time, which serves to exacerbate the whole issue, because many diabetic people are also overweight. However if a person completely avoids PUFAs, given enough time, it’s possible that they could systematically replace all of the PUFA stored in fat tissue, with much more friendly saturated fats. Given this reasoning, it seems entirely possible that if a diabetic person were to simultaneously eliminated all PUFAs, and starchy carbohydrates from their diet for a period of several years consistently, they could fundamentally reverse Type II Diabetes……for good. Maybe that’s precisely why so many Paleo Diet practitioners have been able to reverse their diabetes, even though modern medicine doesn’t believe
that it is possible to do so without drugs.
I think that PUFAs should be excluded from everyone’s diet. Maybe it would help to turn the tide on diabetes, and also stop everyone from blaming an entire macronutrient category (carbs) for the creation of diabetes. It doesn’t start with carbs, it just ends with carbs.
Check out article for more info on the dangers and misconceptions of PUFAs.
Hopefully you now understand a little more, why I say that “The Devil is in the PUFA”, because I think that is where he lives.
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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
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