07 August 2012

Diseases of Civilization - India

About diabetes in general:
Diabetes: the body is unable to use the carbohydrates circulating in the blood for fuel.
Symptoms: hunger, frequent urination.
Type 1 diabetes (childhood diabetes): the pancreas is unable to produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes): this disease is linked to excess weight and characterized by an insensitivity to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a result of chronically elevated sugar levels in the blood. It can be improved by the adoption of a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates.

I would like to emphasise again that in a low fat diet, the fat is usually replaced by carbohydrates. The less fat (meat, fish, eggs, butter...) in the diet, the more carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, beans, sugar...) are consumed, and vice versa.

2000 years ago, Indian populations' access to sugar, flour and rice became easier, these items were regularly shipped from New Guinea. Hindu physicians noticed that diabetes was a result of indulgence in these foods. Diabetes was considered as a disease of the rich.

In 1907, British investigators had reported that diabetes was among "lazy and indolent rich".
" There is not the slightest shadow of a doubt that with the progress of civilization, of high education, and increased wealth and prosperity of the people under the British rule, the number of diabetic cases has enormously increased."
                                           - Rai Kolas Chunder Bose, University of Calcutta

Physicians also noticed that "the Hindus, who were vegetarians, suffered more that the Christians or the Muslims, who weren't."

In Bengal, people transitioned to a more European lifestyle, and that's where they suffered most of diabetes. Their diet consisted of flour, rice, pulses and sugar. As Havelock Charles (president of the Medical Board of India) reported: "10% of Bengali gentlemen" were diabetic. In comparison, he only found 8 cases of diabetics among the 76,000 British officials working in India, or 0.01% of them).

It's also worth mentioning the Indian immigrant population in the region of Natal (South Africa). In 1950s George Campbell (head of the King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban) reported that these people were working on sugar plantations, and 70% of them were living below the poverty line. The incidence of diabetes was extremely high. The average calories consumed was 1,600 calories. This is almost "starvation wage", yet they "were enormously fat and suffered from undoubted diabetes proven by blood tests."

Cambell blamed the high quantity of sugar in their diet. Here again is an example that the number of calories has nothing to do with obesity. It is rather the type of food and its metabolic effects that are important. High sugar/carbohydrate will rise insulin levels, this in turn will tell the cells to store fat.

A genetic predisposition cannot explain either the high incidence of diabetics, Their number in the Natal region was much higher that the number in India (their country of origin).

Robert McCarrison a nutritionist from Northern Ireland, founder of the National Institute of Nutrition in India, he was one of the leading proponents of the idea that a diet rich in flour and sugar, devoid of essential nutrients, is the cause of these diseases of civilization. He explained:
"Amongst isolated populations far removed from the refinements of civilization, I never saw a case of asthenic dyspepsia, of gastric or duodenal ulcer, of appendicitis, of mucous colitis, or of cancer."
When he compared the physical health of different populations in India, he reported that the populations of the North are "strikingly superior to that of the southern , eastern and western races". This Northern diet consisted of milk, butter, vegetables, fruits, meat and wholemeal flour. Sugar and refined carbohydrates were absent from this diet.

Today, the number of diabetics is still in increase all over the "civilized world". The pattern follows the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. The only way to stop it, is to lower our intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates and replace it with food with more nutrient content: meat, fish, egg, butter, vegetables... little fruit... especially if you already have a chronic disease. Our staple food should not be carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, sugar...).

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