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Nutrition Tips for Diabetes

When the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, as in hypothyroidism and Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome, there can be a domino effect which has the potential to negatively impact many other systems in the body. One of these dominos is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Additional risk factors associated with being diabetic include the development of cardiovascular disease (such as hypertension, heart attack and stroke), vision problems, and kidney disease.

Left untreated, diabetic complications from low thyroid function can be serious and even life-threatening. A number of studies have focused on finding the root cause of this very preventable disease. An important study from 2016 revealed a significant correlation between rising TSH levels (an indicator of hypothyroidism) and an increased risk of diabetes. This study could help physicians lower their patients’ risks of developing diabetes by making it a priority to test blood sugar levels whenever thyroid tests are abnormal.

Many other studies have concluded that your first stage of defense for preventing diabetes is to take control of your diet. Today, physicians and patients alike know that the foods we eat play a major role in the development of diabetes and blood sugar instability. We’ve learned that a diet rich in dietary fiber is critical for effective weight loss. We know that foods with refined sugar, refined carbs, and fructose corn syrup should be eliminated from out diet. We also know that we should eat protein-rich foods such as beans, lentils, red meat and tofu to help support healthy insulin production.

But what about fat? Unfortunately, the consumption of fats and their relationship to diabetes risk has not been as thoroughly researched as sugar and protein. That is, until recently. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has finally shed some light on this subject.

In this study, over 3000 individuals without diabetes were followed for several years. During this time, specific details about their diets were carefully monitored and recorded. This data yielded some very intriguing information about the relationship between an individual’s fat intake and their risk of getting diabetes.

After 4 years, it was found that those who consumed the greatest amount of animal fat, doubled their risk of developing diabetes as compared to those who consumed the least amount. The study also noted that those who consumed a serving of butter and cheese regularly had an increased risk of developing diabetes.

Unfortunately, this study didn’t segregate the types of fats as well as they could have. The fats that were implicated for leading to diabetes were saturated fats. It is already widely known that saturated fats cause inflammation, which we also know is an important risk factor for diabetes (and many other diseases). It would be interesting to see if healthier fats, such as omega-3 fats in fish oil (which are anti-inflammatory), or fats in foods such as nuts, coconut oil, and avocados, were linked with diabetes risk. I have a hunch they aren’t, but would like to see that shown in a future study.

So, if your thyroid function isn’t optimal, there are dietary steps you can take to help prevent diabetes and its domino effects. It’s no secret that our diet plays a major role in the development of diabetes and blood sugar instability. Where fats fit in this equation can’t be definitively stated at this time. However, you need to know that there are good fats and bad fats, so be sure to evaluate what type of fat is in the food you choose. Our bodies need fat to make hormones and cell membranes, so eliminating fats entirely from your diet could end up creating additional problems.

We must make healthy lifestyle and eating choices to help prevent the progression of diabetes. After all, we are what we eat!

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