'The Worst Epidemic of the 21st Century'

More than 100 million people in the U.S. currently have diabetes or prediabetes.

Worldwide, nearly 450 million people have diabetes. And those numbers have soared in recent decades.

Some experts are calling the diabetes epidemic "the worst epidemic of the 21st century."

For years, I've talked about the simple ways to prevent and combat diabetes. And now there's another to add to our list...

I've recommended fiber from natural sources to help with digestion. But it turns out, fiber doesn't just keep you regular.

Researchers from Rutgers University-New Brunswick recently found a connection between the type of bacteria in our guts and controlling blood sugar.

Longtime readers know we've touched on gut bacteria many times. These bacteria affect everything from our mood to our immune system. And now they could play a role in preventing and fighting diabetes.

You see, one thing our gut bugs do is break down carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids work to regulate hunger as well as fight inflammation.

And in prior studies, we've seen an association between these fatty acids and diabetes, but we weren't sure how this worked until now.

The six-year study looked at two groups of folks managing their blood sugar with a drug called acarbose. All of the participants followed a standard diet, but half of them added fiber (such as whole grains) and prebiotics. Prebiotic foods encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in our guts.

After three months, those who took the fiber and prebiotics had a larger drop in their blood-sugar levels. Their fasting blood glucose (a good measure for diabetes) also dropped, and they lost more weight than the standard diet group.

But the study went a step further. Researchers examined the types of bacteria in the guts of the participants. They found that 15 types of bacteria respond to fiber to better form the short-chain fatty acids. Higher levels of these types of bacteria corresponded with better results in the fiber group.

Adding healthy fiber to our diets could help our gut bacteria regulate our blood sugar and help control diabetes.

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It's important to remember, not all fiber is good for you...

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. If you experience constipation or digestion issues, you should cut back on insoluble fiber. It leads to bloating and gas.

On the other hand, we already know soluble fiber helps fight spikes in blood sugar. One study in the New England Journal of Medicineshowed the difference between high- and moderate-fiber diets. Those on a high-fiber diet had a 10% lower level of sugar in their blood compared with those on a moderate-fiber diet. In this study, high fiber meant 50 grams of fiber per day – the equivalent of about 11 apples and moderate fiber meant 24 grams a day – the equivalent of about five-and-a-half apples.

And the Joslin Diabetes Center, the leading source for diabetes research, adds that the key was soluble fiber, not insoluble. That's what helps keep blood glucose under control.

If you want to get started adding fiber to your diet, do it with whole foods instead of supplements.

A 2000 study from The Lancet found that people who took a common fiber supplement, psyllium, actually saw an increase in precancerous colon tissue – called polyps. To learn more about detecting polyps and taking care of your colon, check out our latest video on colorectal cancer.

Getting fiber from whole foods does not have this same effect. It's much safer to simply add rich sources of soluble fiber to your diet.

Several common foods with loads of soluble fiber include:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Blueberries
  • Root vegetables
  • Beans

I also recommend eating plenty of probiotic-rich foods as well. Some of my favorites include kimchi and yogurt (just make sure to get plain, sugar-free yogurt and mix in some fruit for sweetness).

Making simple changes to your diet like these along with exercise will keep your blood sugar – and your whole body – healthy.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 13, 2018