Dear Pharmacist: What is the No. 1 thing I can do to prevent diabetes? — T.H., Seattle
Dear T.H.: Avoid white! By that I mean white salt, white sugar and white flour. The white flour is particularly offensive because it contains a compound known to harm the pancreas. The pancreas is the gland you need for healthy blood sugar balance because it secretes insulin.
Let me back up to the point where wheat is growing on a farm, before it becomes flour. Special care is taken to till and fertilize the soil. The field was sprayed with various pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals to protect the harvest. About 83 active chemicals are used in pesticides today, even though studies have shown that some cause cancer in animals or humans. Anyway, when the wheat kernels are harvested, workers keep an eye on the storage facilities to make sure everything stays cool and dry because we all know rainy, hot weather promotes fungal growth. Fungal contamination of grains is rather common. Once in you, it's almost impossible to get out.
The wheat kernels get stripped of their "bran" and "germ" layer, a process that removes all the fiber, minerals and vitamins. Oddly enough, this flour may command a higher price than flour left in its natural state. The naturally brown flour will now be whitened using a chemical similar to chlorine bleach. This chemical forms another substance called alloxan, which is known to destroy pancreatic function.
Alloxan is so outstanding at destroying the pancreas that researchers commonly use it in clinical trials to induce diabetes in lab animals. Bleached white flour is almost always contaminated with alloxan. Are you shocked? Are you wondering why? It happens because of strong demand from you, the consumer, who find pastries, buns, biscuits and bread much prettier when they are white. You cast your vote to continue the nonsense by buying white flour goodies!
Combine alloxan-tainted white flour with nutritionally naked white sugar and table salt, like many baked recipes call for, and you have a recipe for diabetes.
In 2008, scientists closely examined how alloxan caused diabetes in animals. This article, published in Diabetologia, was titled "The mechanisms of alloxan- and streptozotocin-induced diabetes." Researchers stated: "These hydroxyl radicals are ultimately responsible for the death of the beta cells, which have a particularly low antioxidative defence capacity, and the ensuing state of insulin-dependent 'alloxan diabetes.'"
Simply put, they are saying that free radicals are released, and these kill pancreatic cells (which secrete insulin and lower blood sugar). The net result of alloxan keeps an animal insulin-dependent. I have solutions in my book, "Diabetes Without Drugs" (Rodale 2010).
This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to DearPharmacist.com.