Health & Medicine

  • Issue 73 / January - February 2010



    Sugar and the Human Body

    Kelly J. Smith

    In the world we live in today, while great efforts are being made to improve human health, diabetes is a problem that is ever on the increase. Although not yet thoroughly understood, there are a few explanations for the increased rate of diabetes:

    1. Genes and inheritance
    2. Obesity
    3. Lack of exercise

    The diagnosis of diabetes is described as a level of sugar that is above a certain amount in the blood stream. In fact, diabetes itself is the metabolic disorder of three food sources: carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (Cholesterol and especially triglycerides). As healthcare providers we, doctors and scientists, are very much aware that the physiology-that is, the mechanism-of this wonderful sugar metabolism is one of many harmonies existent in the human body. While patients with diabetes seek help from us, our help is limited to what we have learned-and are still learning-from the human body. Thus, the medication we use today are not miracles, but rather a good example of understanding how one of the many mechanisms in body works.

    Since the discovery of insulin in 1921, a hormone that is secreted from the pancreas and the only one to work at lowering the level of sugar in the body (several others increase the sugar level)-the development of treatments for diabetes has been focused on greatly in an effort to better serve humankind. Such developments include tiny, sharp needles and pens to deliver the insulin-known as insulin pens. Currently many alternative insulin delivery methods have been developed-via the skin or lungs-yet none of these are as successful as the human body’s normal program for dealing with a rise in the sugar during stressful conditions and after meals. Despite the incredible efforts and impressive studies carried out on both animals and humans, not every method of diabetes management (treatment) is suitable for every individual. Each person is unique regarding the capacity of their pancreas to generate insulin.

    In the United States, more than 20 million people have diabetes; however this number is well below the actual number of sufferers. Having enough insulin is not the solution to the problem, while resistance to the action of this hormone can limit its efficacy leaving the glucose (sugar) level high. This further suppresses the pancreas’ ability to provide insulin and the remaining glucose becomes toxic to many vital organs, causing several of the following conditions:

    • Heart (heart attack)
    • Liver (fatty liver)
    • Brain (stroke)
    • Vessels (hardening of the arteries)
    • Blood (easy clotting)
    • Feet (gangrene and amputation)
    • Immune system (suppression of the immune system, in turn leading to a tendency to infections, giving the opportunity of germs to invade various parts of the body; in the same way increase of tuberculosis bacteria, yeast infections, pneumonia)
    • Skin (late healing after abrasions or trauma)

    Excess sugar is converted into cholesterol which will further accelerate the detrimental effects to the vital organs (brain, heart, kidney).

    Current suggestions for the management of the problem with sugar are education, better diets, correct and regular exercise, correct medication and careful follow-up. We know that God created cures for every illness. Respecting and thinking of this will encourage many of us to concentrate on solving the problem of diabetes. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, indicates “Eat and drink, but never waste” and “Leave the food table before you are full.” The diet that is recommended for people with diabetes is to eat small amounts of food during the 3 main meals and to add 3 snacks to control the undesirable rise in sugar that occurs after eating a large amount. We are informed that we are full due to the induction of tension receptors in the stomach after the meal, the induction of the brain, and the digestion of food that leads to an increase in the level of sugar in the blood stream… etc. Unfortunately, most diabetics wait for the third mechanism to operate before leaving the table; as a result, they may continue to eat and further increase their blood sugar level, and this may in turn be the reason for early or late complications in diabetes.

    Today, the greatest number of diabetics per population are the Pima Indians living in Arizona. Interestingly, a new molecule that has recently been developed seems to have a preventive efficacy for the development of diabetes and to assist in its satisfactory management, even after the diagnosis of diabetes. This molecule was actually found to be present in the saliva of Gila Monster again that is fairly close to the area where these affected tribes live.

    Kelly J. Smith is a clinical diabetes research scientist in Arizona.

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