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Approaching the Tsunami: An Integrative Approach to Reversing the Diabetes Epidemic

I have written extensively on the type II diabetes epidemic the world is currently up against. For some background information, check out my previous posts:

Remember, approximately 200 years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar per year because it was a luxury item. Today, the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year, which is about 1 cup of sugar per day (NH DHHS-DPHS, 2014). Ultimately the extremely high consumption of heavily processed foods containing sugar in the Western world has been the primary driver of today’s diabetes epidemic. The truth is our bodies have never evolved to process 150 additional pounds of sugar per year.  Excess sugar consumption causes way more than just diabetes, as referenced here:

Excess sugar consumption is a big driver of excess calories consumption since sugar increases appetite and not feeling satiated.  There are increasing studies also clearly demonstrating that excess animal protein consumption, in the form of dairy products, red meat, poultry, eggs, and fish, are also bigger drivers of the diabetes epidemic.   There is an increasing movement to address the root cause of diabetes by better educating people on shifting to a whole food plant-based diet without added sugar and processed foods.  

Health care providers are often ignoring the severe micronutrient deficiencies diabetic patients suffer. I want to address key micronutrients diabetic patients need in combination with diet therapy in order to effectively help reverse their disease. 

Anyone who knows how I practice, knows that I love magnesium. Pokharel and colleagues (2017) found that half of the patients with diabetes have low magnesium levels because of the following reasons: 

Think of magnesium as a cell stabilizer since it is critical for cell functioning.  

The older one is with pre-diabetes, diabetes, and high cholesterol, the more likely they are to have severely depleted stores of magnesium and hence, poor cell functioning (Pokharel et al., 2017). This is why magnesium retention is so crucial for healthy aging. 

The foods high in magnesium are dark, leafy green vegetables, of course!  As always, magnesium supplementation is meaningless without dietary change though. 

Magnesium is not the only mineral associated with glycemic control in type II diabetes. Low zinc status is also associated with poor glycemic control in people with uncontrolled type II diabetes (Bandeira et al., 2017). These individuals were nonsmokers, non-alcoholics, and had no other chronic disease that may have affected their zinc status. Their low zinc status was inversely correlated with a high blood sugar level.  Like magnesium, zinc is critical for cell functioning. Zinc protects the pancreas’ beta cells which produce insulin from oxidative damage.   It also stabilizes the insulin hormone (Bandeira et al., 2017). 

It’s clear that poor mineral status can negatively affect glycemic control in diabetes. Both the zinc and magnesium studies separately point out that supplementation, respectively, has been shown to improve glycemic control.  Supplementation should be considered routinely in addition to dietary interventions for diabetes prevention and treatment.

Determining "optimal" levels of mineral intake can be complicated, even under the best of conditions. It is wise to approach the issue as one of constant refinement (as opposed to "Okay, the deficiency is now solved" proposition). 

I recently spoke with a non-diabetic client with a strong family history of diabetes regarding her recent ask to her primary care doctor to have her micronutrient levels checked.  She was curious since she had heard that these deficiencies can dramatically increase one’s risk of developing diabetes. Her doctor refused to check her blood micronutrient levels, insisting that because she wasn’t “malnourished”, these tests did not need to be run. This was a huge disservice to the patient. Learning about these micronutrient deficiencies could have not only helped this person take proactive steps to actively address these deficiencies, and  decrease her future risk of developing diabetes and high cholesterol. 

The truth is most doctors do not run micronutrient tests because it’s not standard of practice. They also do not have the training to address what is going on at a cellular level. This is why SF Advanced Health offers a wider range of Special Diagnostic Tests through a partnership with local provider Genova Diagnostics and Great Plains Laboratory. 

This partnership is giving Advanced Health’s healthcare providers broader, and more effective, options to help our patients on their path to lifelong wellness. These tests have already helped us treat patients with a variety of conditions, including diabetes, with a very high success rate.


Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concern.  We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plan—a plan that removes a lot of the common food items that are making them sick and supplementing with key micronutrients they are lacking.  To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.


Bandeira, V. d. S., Pires, L. V., Hashimoto, L. L., Alencar, L. L. d., Almondes, K. G. S., Lottenberg, S. A., & Cozzolino, S. M. F. (2017). Association of reduced zinc status with poor glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 44, 132-136.

Nutrition and Health Promotion | New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services | Division of Public Health Services (NH DHHS DPHS, 2014). How Much Sugar Do You Eat? You May Be Surprised! Health Promotion in Motion. Retrieved from: 

Pokharel, D. R., Khadka, D., Sigdel, M., Yadav, N. K., Kafle, R., Sapkota, R. M., & Jha, S. K.  (2017). Association of serum magnesium level with poor glycemic control and renal functions in Nepalese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.   Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome Clinical Research and Reviews, 11(1).  S417-S423.

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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