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Carrots May Fight Effects of Gene that Causes Diabetes

Ryan | January 31st, 2013

Diabetic Diet FoodsEating carrots may help people with a genetic predisposition towards diabetes lower their risk of developing the disease, according to Stanford University scientists. In a new update on the science world’s long-running “nature vs. nurture” debate, researchers found that people with genetic variants that have been linked to type 2 diabetes may be able to counteract the effect of the genes through dietary and other lifestyle factors. The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Human Genetics, corroborates a growing amount of medical evidence suggesting that a specially designed diabetes diet and exercise program can be highly effective in controlling symptoms of the disease, and in many cases reversing it altogether.

Beta carotene may be key to diet plan for diabetics

Why are carrots the key element in a diet plan for diabetics? That’s because they contain high levels of beta carotene, which has been found to favorably interact with a specific gene that regulates the body’s production of insulin. Higher levels of beta carotene appear to improve the efficiency of this gene (known officially as SLC30A4) in producing insulin. By contrast, some substances have been shown to inhibit the productivity of the insulin gene. For instance, higher levels of gamma tocopherol, a type of vegetable fat present in canola oils and margarine, are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which people fail to produce an adequate amount of insulin to regulate glucose levels in their body. In reviewing the data from a decade’s worth of studies, the Stanford researchers were hoping to find a genetic “smoking gun” that would indicate a clear genetic basis for type 2 diabetes. Instead, their findings revealed that the causes of the disease are the result of a complex interaction of nature and nurture (genetic inheritance vs. the environment) and that both, but not one exclusively, are responsible for the development of type 2 diabetes.

“The genes themselves may not cause diseases,” explained study author Dr. Atul Butte to Time.com. “It’s the genes with the environment that cause disease.”

Certain nutrients may help in reversing pre diabetes

Numerous genetic risk factors have been discovered for type 2 diabetes, but so have environmental risk factors, including smoking, obesity, high sugar consumption, lack of physical activity, and exposure to pollutants. So which is more influential on diabetes, nature or nature? According to Butte, the two may ultimately prove to cancel one another out.

“What the findings suggest is that if you have a genetic marker now or a predisposition for Type 2 diabetes, all you really need to do is increase the number of carrots you eat to increase your beta carotene, and maybe you can compensate for having that spot in your genome,” says Butte.

Though more research on the subject needs to be done, these early findings provide hope to patients who believed that their diabetes was irreversible, or a foregone conclusion, because of a genetic mutation. Now science is suggesting that a proper diabetes and exercise plan, along with controlling the consumption of certain key nutrients, may help to negate the genetic impetus.

Says Butte, “It’s not easy to lose weight and to change your appetite and what we eat, but it’s a whole lot easier than changing our DNA.”

Expert weight loss physicians develop unique diabetes diet plans

Doctors at the Center for Medical Weight Loss, the largest group of non-surgical weight loss physicians in the country, have successfully treated thousands of diabetes patients with customized diabetes diet plans that emphasize healthy, satisfying food choices and regular physical activity. Even moderate weight loss has been linked in studies with reversing pre diabetes symptoms and helping people who have already been diagnosed with the disease more easily manage their blood sugar.

“We see diabetic patients all the time who lose weight and no longer need insulin,” reports Dr. Michael Kaplan, the founder of the Center for Medical Weight Loss. “When patients lose 5% – 10% of their body weight, it is a given that they will reduce their blood sugar significantly; many no longer need medication.”

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