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Unveiling the Power of Food: Healing, Disease, and the 'Food as Medicine' Philosophy

Hippocrates, the great philosopher said: 


“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 


There is so much wisdom in the science of food as medicine. As much as we wouldn’t feed our plants soda pop, our body is the same-it is full of cells, fed by what we nourish our body with. 


You literally are what you eat!


avocado on plate

Our country has never been so ill, or so obese, with diabetes in the top 10 health conditions and rising rapidly. Why?


Because the Standard American Diet leads to The Standard American Diseases, which lead to The Standard American Medications, advertised to you on The Standard American Media, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical companies. 


In a world where a doctor recommends introducing only 1 food at a time to your new baby, yet pushes multiple injections with dozens of harmful chemicals into them on the same day, our health future is in trouble.


Though many patients are convinced of the importance of food in both causing and eliminating their health problems, many doctors' knowledge of nutrition is rudimentary. They have a handful of hours of nutrition training in medical school. Most feel much more comfortable with drugs than foods, and the “food as medicine” philosophy of Hippocrates has been largely neglected. 


The association between fat and insulin resistance is now widely accepted–so-called ectopic fat accumulation–the accumulation of fat in places it’s not supposed to be, like within our muscle cells. But not all fats affect muscles the same. The type of fat–saturated or unsaturated–is critical. Saturated fats like palmitate, found mostly in meat, dairy, and eggs, cause insulin resistance, but oleate, found mostly in nuts, olives, and avocados may actually improve insulin sensitivity. What makes saturated fat bad? Saturated fat causes more of those toxic breakdown products and mitochondrial dysfunction, and increases oxidative stress, free radicals, and inflammation, establishing a vicious cycle of events in which saturated fat-induced free radicals cause dysfunction in the little power plants within our muscle cells, which causes an increase in free radical production and the impairment of insulin signaling.


Fat cells filled with saturated fat activate an inflammatory response to a far greater extent. This increased inflammation, along with eating more saturated fat, has been demonstrated to raise insulin resistance through free radical and ceramide production. Saturated fat has also been shown to have a direct effect on skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Accumulation of saturated fat increases the amount of diacylglycerol in the muscles, which has been demonstrated to have a potent effect on muscle insulin resistance. It doesn’t matter if the fat in our blood comes from our own fat, or from their fat.


You can take muscle biopsies from people and correlate the saturated fat buildup in their muscles with insulin resistance.


While monounsaturated fats are more likely to be detoxified or safely stored away, saturated fats create these toxic breakdown products, like ceramide, that cause lipotoxicity. Lipo- meaning fat, as in liposuction, and toxicity. This fat toxicity in our muscles is a well-known concept in the explanation of the trigger for insulin resistance.


Saturated and trans fats contribute to the progression of other diseases, like autoimmune diseases, cancer, and heart disease, but they can also cause insulin resistance, the underlying cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. In the human diet, saturated fats are derived from animal sources while trans fats originate in meat and milk, in addition to partially hydrogenated and refined vegetable oils.


That’s why experimentally shifting people from animal fats to plant fats can improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity was impaired on the diet with added butterfat, but not on the diet with added olive fat.


We know prolonged exposure of our muscles to high levels of fat leads to severe insulin resistance, with saturated fats demonstrated to be the worst. But they don’t just lead to inhibition of insulin signaling, the activation of inflammatory pathways, and the increase in free radicals. 

So do those eating plant-based diets have less fat clogging their muscles and less insulin resistance too? 


Researchers have found significantly less fat trapped in the muscle cells of vegans compared to omnivores even at the same body weight. They found better insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar levels, better insulin levels, and, excitingly, significantly improved beta-cell function–the cells in the pancreas that make insulin in the first place. They conclude that eating vegan is not only expected to be cardioprotective, helping prevent our #1 killer–heart disease–but that veganism may be beta cell protective as well, helping also to prevent our seventh leading cause of death–diabetes.


I remember as a cardiac ICU nurse, telling a cardiology doctor that our patient really needed whole food plant based nourishment to get his diabetes and heart disease reversed. He stopped and looked at me and said “I hear there is good research data supporting that.” So research is needed to tell you that fruits and vegetables are healthy for you?


Health is not found at the end of a syringe; it is found by supporting the body with healthy nutrition. 


I have helped clients in my whole body healing holistic Heart Health Accelerator cardiac wellness program to reverse diabetes, reverse heart disease, reverse GERD, all by using tactical strategies in nourishing their body, and mind. The proof is in the lab work. The key:


Supporting the whole body. Disease processes are a whole body issue. They do not start in the organ affected. Heart disease does not start in the heart, and cholesterol is not the bad guy. 


But more on that another time! Here is a recent shot video I did about the link between diabetes and heart disease: 



Per Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org, the best diet for diabetes is a whole food plant based diet. Here is an excerpt from the link below:


Diets centered around plants, emphasizing legumes—beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils—whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and discouraging “most or all animal products…are especially potent in preventing type 2 diabetes,” and as a little bonus, “have been associated with much lower rates of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer.” And not just preventing type 2 diabetes, but treating it as well. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that the “[c]consumption of vegetarian diets is associated with improved [blood sugar] control.” But, how much improved?


Here’s one of the latest trials


The effect of a strictly plant-based diet centered around brown rice—it was done in Asia—versus the conventional diabetic diet on blood sugar control of patients with type 2 diabetes: a 12-week randomized clinical trial. For the diabetic control diet, they set up food exchanges, and calculated specific calorie and portion controls, whereas on the plant-based diet, people could eat much as they want—that’s one of the benefits. The emphasis is on food quality rather than quantity, and they still actually lost more weight. But, even after controlling for the greater abdominal fat loss in the plant-based group, they still won out. Those that stuck to the healthier diet dropped their A1c levels 0.9 percent, which is what you get taking the leading diabetes drug—but, of course, only with good side effects.


And, more plant-based diets are not just effective in the prevention and management of diabetes, but also its complications.


One of the most devastating complications of diabetes is kidney failure. This shows the decline in kidney function in eight diabetics in the one or two years before switching their diets. They all showed this steady, inexorable decline on a fast track, to complete kidney failure and dialysis. But then… they switched to a special supplemented vegan diet, and their kidney decline was stopped in its tracks. Imagine if they had switched a year or two earlier!


Most diabetics don’t actually end up on dialysis, though, because they die first. “Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of premature mortality” among diabetics; that’s why plant-based diets are perfect. “There is a general consensus that the elements of a whole-foods plant-based diet—legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of [processed] foods and animal products—are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. Equally important, plant-based diets address the bigger picture…by simultaneously treating cardiovascular disease [our #1 killer]” along with obesity, high blood pressure, lowering inflammation. And, we can throw cancer in the mix too—our #2 killer. The bottom line is that “the case for using a plant-based diet to reduce the burden of diabetes and improve overall health has never been stronger.” 



The control of blood sugar with medication has proven to be unsustainable and may actually exacerbate obesity, making us insulin resistant, making us put on more weight, creating a vicious cycle. It is almost like the medications are causing the disease process to move on in perpetuity! Isn’t medical error the third cause of death in our country and wouldn’t prescription medications prolonging instead of solving our illness attribute to this?


(Hmmm…where else have I mentioned this dilemma in relation to cholesterol and statins??) 


It’s like your cells are a husband after a long work week and his wife (the pancreas) starts giving him his “Honey-Do” list (shooting out multiple streams of insulin) for work that needs to be done around the house this weekend. He grabs his beer, settles into the recliner with his dog on his lap and tunes out all “Honey-Do” conversation to watch the football game! Honey-Do Resistance = a form of Insulin Resistance. He is the cell, ignoring the insulin (list) from his wife the pancreas!


There’s got to be a better way, and here it is:


Dr. Greger goes on to explain that instead of starving oneself by eating less food, what if we instead just eat better food? Eating a diet that emphasizes all-you-can-eat greens, lots of vegetables, beans, some whole grains, nuts, and seeds, at least 90% plant-based. So, at least one big salad every day—like a pound of raw greens, veggie-bean soup, a handful of nuts and seeds, fruit at every meal, a pound of cooked greens, some whole grains, but no refined grains, junk food, or oil, and a restriction on animal products.


Thirteen diabetic men and women sticking to this diet for an average of seven months. How’d they do? Hemoglobin A1C is considered the best measure of blood sugar control. Below six is normal, non-diabetic, but the official American Diabetes Association target is to get diabetics at least down to 7. And anything above seven is uncontrolled diabetes. Here’s where they all started out after having diabetes for an average of more than seven years. Then, they started plowing in the plants: months 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.  After about seven months, their average A1C dropped from a diabetic 8.2 down to a non-diabetic 5.8. The majority dropped down to normal, and this is after dropping most of their medications.


Now, this was a pilot study, just a handful of people, no control group, and included only people who could actually stick to the diet, a retrospective case series, considered one of the weakest forms of published evidence. However, the magnitude of the effect they found indicates that a high nutrient density diet can be very effective for some people.


And let’s not forget about the bouncer in the club, which is our our cell that prevents insulin from coming in and bringing glucose into the cell-His name is “Saturated Fat.”


The association between fat and insulin resistance is now widely accepted–so-called ectopic fat accumulation–the accumulation of fat in places it’s not supposed to be, like within our muscle cells. But not all fats affect muscles the same. The type of fat–saturated or unsaturated–is critical. Saturated fats like palmitate, found mostly in meat, dairy, and eggs, cause insulin resistance, but oleate, found mostly in nuts, olives, and avocados may actually improve insulin sensitivity. What makes saturated fat bad? Saturated fat causes more of those toxic breakdown products and mitochondrial dysfunction, and increases oxidative stress, free radicals, and inflammation, establishing a vicious cycle of events in which saturated fat-induced free radicals cause dysfunction in the little power plants within our muscle cells, which causes an increase in free radical production and the impairment of insulin signaling.


Fat cells filled with saturated fat activate an inflammatory response to a far greater extent. This increased inflammation, along with eating more saturated fat, has been demonstrated to raise insulin resistance through free radical and ceramide production. Saturated and trans fats contribute to the progression of other diseases, like autoimmune diseases, cancer, and heart disease, but they can also cause insulin resistance, the underlying cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 


Shifting people from animal fats to plant fats can improve insulin sensitivity.


Insulin sensitivity was impaired on the diet with added butterfat, but not on the diet with added olive fat.


Prolonged exposure of our muscles to high levels of fat leads to severe insulin resistance, with saturated fats demonstrated to be the worst. But they don’t just lead to inhibition of insulin signaling, the activation of inflammatory pathways, and the increase in free radicals. They cause an alteration in gene expression, leading to a suppression of key mitochondrial enzymes, like carnitine palmitoyltransferase–which finally solves the mystery of why those eating vegetarian have a 60% higher expression of that fat-burning enzyme. They’re eating less saturated fat.


So do those eating plant-based diets have less fat clogging their muscles and less insulin resistance too? There hasn’t been any data available regarding the insulin sensitivity or inside-muscle cell-fat of those eating vegan or vegetarian, until now.


They found better insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar levels, better insulin levels, and, excitingly, significantly improved beta-cell function–the cells in the pancreas that make insulin in the first place. They conclude that eating vegan is not only expected to be cardio protective, helping prevent our #1 killer–heart disease–but that veganism may be beta cell protective as well, helping also to prevent our seventh leading cause of death–diabetes.


My clients are reversing diabetes, getting off medications and they still enjoy their favorite foods like a steak or corned beef hash and eggs. How is that possible? What else is going on? 


Come along and learn more in my Heart Health Accelerator Cardiac Wellness Program in the link below!



Join others like yourself and make new friends in our rollicking Group Zoom calls. Here, you have a built in support network, and you are never treated as a number.


mary yuter signature


Mary Yuter, RN

Heart to Soul Cardiac Wellness, LLC

Certified, Whole Food Plant Based Nutrition

@hearthealthaccelerator

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