What Causes Diabetes - Research Finds New Possible Origins
New research regarding what causes diabetes has turned the diabetes establishment on its head. Although, don't expect the establishment to acknowledge it just yet! Like all new things, further study and evaluation can take a while to occur.
However, FIVE new theories about the causes of diabetes have been advanced that are as startling as much as they are controversial. In fact, they are a radical departure from what has always been advanced about why people get diabetes.
These five theories have been expertly summarized and discussed in a groundbreaking work by Dan Hurley, called Diabetes Rising, published in 2010. Dan also discusses the incredible rise in diabetes from a condition that affected very few people to the current epidemic.
The new causes are often referred to as the following:
- Vitamin D and Diabetes Theory
- Weight Gain Theory (Accelerator Hypothesis)
- Cow's Milk or Baby Formula Theory
- Dirt or Hygiene Theory
- Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Theory
While any one of these may be the root cause of diabetes, theoretically, some or all of them could jointly be what causes diabetes. Let's take a look at each one to see what all of the fuss is about.
If you are curious to compare the this article to the more established viewpoint concerning the causes of diabetes, check out this article.
Vitamin D Theory
In my opinion, vitamin D and diabetes connection is the most well researched and powerful theory of the five. The basic premise is that a vitamin D deficiency is what causes diabetes. However, problems with vitamin d deficiency don't stop there.
A lack of vitamin D has been linked to causing many other common disorders and diseases including, including colon cancer (and other cancers), heart disease, MS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and various mental illnesses.
Whoa! Have you taken your vitamin D supplement today?
But, why is vitamin D so special? Like almost everything, the exact reason is not known. However, vitamin D is known to be essential for life. In fact, almost every cell in the body needs the compound to function properly.
Some scientists believe that vitamin D regulates the immune system to control autoimmune reactions from getting out of control. Thus, it keeps our immune systems from attacking our pancreas leading to what causes diabetes.
Additionally, it also is thought to help screen out certain bacteria and viruses that can infect your body, again helping avoid the destruction of the pancreas.
Now here is some really interesting stuff. Some scientists believe that if you take vitamin D when you are first diagnosed, it can stop further damage to the pancreas. Wow!
The bottom line is that the results of most vitamin D studies are so remarkable that many scientists believe that further study is not needed. The results are self evident.
What you need to know
Many people think that all you need to do to satisfy your daily quotient of vitamin d is to get a little sunshine. However, the difficulty is that in northern climates this is all but impossible for most people for most of the year.
In fact, this phenomenon (lack of sunshine in northern climates) is how the amazing properties of vitamin d were discovered.
Is it toxic? There is no known toxicity to vitamin D, at least up to the 2000 IU daily amount advocated by some researches. I personally take 2000 IU of d3 a day.
There are two types of vitamin d, d2 and d3. D3 is the more potent.
Incredibly, no government organization has advocated an increase in the RDA of vitamin D, which is currently set at 400IU. This seems irresponsible for a substance that has so much upside and little (no?) downside, not just for treating and preventing diabetes but many other conditions as well.
Normally, on this site, I try to avoid too many platitudes or sensationalism, one way or the other.
However, if you find these thoughts compelling, please get a copy of Diabetes Rising. It goes into much greater detail and could literally change your life. At the very least, it will help you understand the current "state of affairs" in the diabetes world.
Weight Gain Theory (Accelerator Hypothesis)
This new theory suggests that all diabetes types are the same. There is no type 1 or type 2 diabetes. There is just diabetes.
As you may gather, this has not been well accepted by traditional scientists. Nonetheless, there is compelling science to lend support for the theory that this is what causes diabetes.
The Accelerator Hypothesis holds that weight gain accelerates the onset of diabetes in some people. For many, this is true even if it is just a small amount of excess weight.
The excess weight causes two things to happen. First, it causes the pancreas to work harder to produce more insulin. The harder the pancreas has to work, the quicker the cells that produce insulin expire, ultimately leading to diabetes.
Second, when the pancreas works harder it can attract the attention or notice of the immune system. The immune system mistakenly thinks the pancreas is under attack. In turn, the immune system attacks the pancreas to "save it."
The accelerator theory suggests that the precursor to the autoimmune challenge is actually the over worked pancreas responding to the additional weight. This trauma causes the autoimmune system to attack the pancreas.
The theory is that there is a group of people that are genetically susceptible to getting diabetes. How quickly one gets diabetes will depend.
For example, within this predisposed group, some people have very sensitive immune systems while others do not. The sensitive people develop what is traditionally known as type 1 diabetes. Their pancreas ceases to function very quickly after any weight gain or immune system challenge. This holds true even if the weight gain is very minimal.
Turning to the less sensitive genetically predisposed group, it takes more time and more weight before the pancreas ultimately begins to slow its output of insulin and diabetes occurs.
The differences isn't in their condition (type 1 or type 2), it is in the time it takes the condition (diabetes) to manifest itself. Hence, there is really no difference between a type 1 or type 2 diabetic, only the time it takes them to develop diabetes.
How does this theory fit into the huge rise in diabetics,
particularly in developed nations?
The problem in developed nations is that the population is getting more obese at a younger and younger age. Thus, the accelerator theory suggests that this tendency for the population to get heavier faster is a direct cause of the increased rise in diabetes.
This is why you see younger and younger people who develop both type 2 and type 1 diabetes (using the traditional names). The weight gain or accelerator is simply happening much earlier in life.
With this theory, remember that increased weight is only the accelerator to getting diabetes. The person will typically have an underlying genetic susceptibility to getting the condition.
Interestingly, under the accelerator theory, your risk for getting diabetes is also higher if your mother was overweight or even if your grandparents were overweight.
Cow's Milk or Baby Formula Theory
A third intriguing theory about what causes diabetes is the cow's milk theory. Some scientists believe that diabetes is directly linked to the ingestion of complex proteins, such as cow's milk, when we were babies, typically within the first 6-8 months.
Historically, when a baby was born, for at least the first 6-8 months, the baby drank milk from his or her mother. This type of milk is very easy on the digestive system.
During the last century, more and more babies have been fed cow's milk or baby formula based on cow's milk.
Under this hypothesis, ingesting cow's milk, or any other foreign protein, as a newborn (6-8 months) is tantamount to ingesting a toxin. The body simply is not developed enough to be able to handle the complex protein. By ingesting the protein, the body becomes more susceptible to autoimmune disorders, particularly diabetes.
The data on this phenomenon is astonishing, to say the least.
The Dirt or Hygiene Theory
Are you too clean? Would you ever intentionally eat intestinal worms?
Without answering immediately, you may want to consider saying YES to both questions.
In one form or another, scientists have been claiming for decades that an environment that is too clean can cause us all sorts of diseases.
The theory is that if we eliminate too many bacteria and viruses from our living area, then our immune system has nothing to do. As such, it turns on itself causing many conditions such as asthma, diabetes, MS, etc.
The latest incarnation of this theory regarding diabetes is that the immune system has turned on you, causing you to attack your pancreas resulting in diabetes.
About those worms? Oh yes, one scientist actually advocates ingesting a special type of intestinal worm into our body to keep our immune systems busy. The worm does not do any harm at all to your body.
Interestingly, he actually may be right. Lack of intestinal worms may be what causes diabetes or makes it worse. Nonetheless, I haven't tried this therapy yet.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Theory
Who doesn't think that we are surrounded by too many pollutants? Of course the easiest thing to do is simply to ignore it. After all, how many things can one worry about at any given time?
Unfortunately, new research suggests that it is the increase in exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants, particularly in our food, that is leading to a huge increase in diabetes. One study found that ingesting a high amount of pollutants could increase your chances of developing diabetes by 3,800 PERCENT!
These pollutants are typically found in fatty foods such as milk (except skim), eggs, fish, meat, etc. Interestingly, some researchers theorize that it may not be the weight people gain that increases your risk of developing diabetes, but the pollutants that are trapped in the body's fat as a result of the weight gain. By consuming contaminated food, our bodies store the pollutants in our fat, where they continue to damage our bodies.
Research on this theory is still relatively undeveloped. Nonetheless, pollutants as a cause of diabetes, or at least a strongly contributing factor, are something to be watched carefully for further study.
None of the above causes of diabetes are without controversy or doubters. What causes diabetes may be one of these. It may be none of these. Or, possibly, it could be a combination of these theories.
Despite the many questions, I was fascinated to learn about the different studies scientist have been working on and the advancements being made.
Incredibly, despite the clear progress that has been made, most notably with vitamin d research results, very few if any mainstream groups have supported or endorsed the findings thus far.
Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Dan's book today and read more about what causes diabetes and much more.
By Erich Schultz - Last Reviewed June 2011
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Dan Hurley, Diabetes Rising, Kaplan Publishing 2010.