Diabetes May Actually Be Our Fault…

Type 1 diabetes has changed. For hundreds of years it lurked in dusty wards and sanitariums. By and large, those cases were genetically linked to their family history…however short it may have been. Then a strange thing happened. In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, the numbers started to diverge. The genetic linkage seemed to follow only a small portion of those individuals. Cases of children without family history of the disease started to increase. Fast forward 40 years and this deviation has become even more stark. So if it isn’t genetic…it’s cultural. While there are many theories for this, here are some of the top ones:

Too Much Too Soon

Children that are bigger and grow faster are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than those who are smaller and grow more slowly. It is possible that this type of rapid large scale growth stresses the body and instigates the disease. In essence, we may be fattening up our children for the slaughter.

The Hygiene Hypothesis

Research indicates that our living environments have become so clean that the lack of exposure to certain germs and parasites may actually be harmful to us. Conditions like asthma and diabetes maybe the result. In effect, our immune systems are not getting the exercise it needs when we are young.

The Dairy Dilemma

The type of milk an infant is fed might increase the type 1 diabetes risk. Studies show that exposing babies to infant formula containing cow’s milk in the first six months of life may damage their developing immune system. We have all heard the disturbing reports of children starting puberty YEARS before they should.

Not Enough Sun…Son

Countries situated closer to the equator, on average, have lower rates of type 1 diabetes. Research has linked low levels of vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine vitamin,” to increased risk of diabetes. You are much more likely to develop type 1 if you live in Saskatoon or Seattle than if you live in southern California.

The Theory of Everything

Okay, so the “Theory of Everything” is a bit of a downer. Too much modern living is the sum up. We tend to lead more sedentary lives. Our children are getting less outdoor physical activity. We over clean with household cleaners and air purification. We eat genetically modified and biologically unsuited foods. The numbers seems to support a “Theory of Everything.” Diabetes is a first world epidemic. The developing world is slowly catching up as it adopts our modern culture.

So the cause could be one environmental instigator or it could be an entire ecosystem of triggers. Whatever the specific (or combined) cause, scientists agree we are doing this to ourselves. Aspects of our culture are opening the door to diseases that we couldn’t even dream of 100 years ago. The take away for me is that we need to get out more often. By getting outdoors we will get much needed exercise and vitamin D. We will also expose ourselves to a healthy dose of the good flora and fauna our immune systems need. Oh, and of course it goes without saying…we need to look at our food culture.

Lathe Poland is one of the creators of Carb-Loaded a documentary film that examines the causes of the diabetes epidemic.

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