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How Diabetes and Obesity are Ravaging America Today

How Diabetes and Obesity are Ravaging America Today

DO YOU FEAR for your health or feel exhausted all the time? Are you overweight? Or do you just have too much belly fat? Do you suffer from diabetes, monitor your blood sugar all the time, have serious blood sugar and insulin imbalances, or have elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels? If so, you may find this remarkable story of one my patient’s very interesting.

One evening, after a lecture in New York, a man approached me about becoming my patient. He was rotund, with a round, ruddy face, a booming voice, and a gentle manner. Everything about him was large — his appetite, his belly, and his heart.

Sam was nearly 60 years old, and his love of everything big was waning as he felt the encroachment of death. As we talked, he described years of feeding his fat, drinking a pint of heavy whipping cream every night before bed to keep his weight up.

In the end, the big presence that Sam’s 300-plus pound corpus gave him was not worth the infirmities he suffered. He was diabetic. His insulin was over 200, normal is less than 20. He also had dangerous cholesterol levels, angina, sleep apnea, a sluggish thyroid, and was doggedly fatigued, short of breath at nearly every step, had nasal congestion, swollen legs, dry skin, and yeast grew all over his body.

Sam may sound like a hopeless case, but the truth is that everything Sam had done to his body he did himself and could undo. I told him that if he did everything I suggested he would lose weight, feel better, and all his symptoms would go away.

Enthusiastic, though somewhat skeptical, he left my office determined. Three months later when I spoke to him again, he lost 30 pounds, had more energy, his nasal congestion was gone, his fluid-filled, swollen legs were better, and all of his cravings were gone — he never felt hungry, and he found the program I prescribed to him easy to follow.

Fourteen months later I saw him again and repeated his blood tests. I was shocked when he weighed in. He had lost 110 pounds without being on a strict deprivation diet. He simply changed his eating and his lifestyle. His diabetes was CURED. His blood sugar dropped from 130 to 74 (greater than 126 fasting denotes diabetes). His HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides were normal without any medication. And he was exercising vigorously three to four times a week.

After a lifetime of uncontrollable appetites, Sam finally found balance and health without suffering. Yes, he changed his diet and lifestyle, but he was able to continue taking pleasure in food. Most importantly, he looked and felt twenty years younger.

Whether you are suffering from a little extra weight around the middle or you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance or even type 2 diabetes, the fundamental underlying biological causes of ALL of these conditions are the same.

Now, I know Sam’s story is an extreme one. You may or may not be suffering from problems as severe as those he faced. Even so, I’m sure you can relate to some of what Sam experienced if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, have problems with your blood sugar, or have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes …

You may feel twenty years older than you are, and, deep down, you may even be terrified by the possibility of additional health complications like heart disease, stroke, dementia, nerve damage, blindness, and amputation or even cancer. Like so many others that suffer with this condition, you just want to live a normal life and get back some of your energy and vitality; you want to turn back the clock and reverse your diabetes …

You can do that. I know most people are skeptical when a doctor tells them they can reverse diabetes, but you can have the same experience Sam did, and you don’t have to suffer or starve to make that happen.

Many Names, One Disease — Defining Diabesity

You may be one among millions of people who are suffering from a health problem that is now epidemic in our country. Your doctor might have diagnosed you with one of many seemingly different diseases. He may have said you have:

    • Insulin resistance
    • Pre-diabetes
    • Metabolic syndrome
    • Obesity
    • Syndrome X
    • Adult onset diabetes
    • Type 2 diabetes

What he likely didn’t tell you is that ALL of these conditions are basically the same thing—just with varying degrees of severity. The underlying causes of ALL of these conditions are the same. And because they are all the same condition, the treatment for all of them is also the same.

That is why I have set aside these conventional diagnoses in place of a new name that more accurately defines the health problems you may suffer from. That term is diabesity.(i) Diabesity is the condition of metabolic imbalance and disease that ranges all the way from mild blood sugar imbalance to full blow diabetes.

Whether you are suffering from a little extra weight around the middle or you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance or even type 2 diabetes, the fundamental underlying biological causes of ALL of these conditions are the same. This is what I’ve discovered in over 20 years seeing thousands of patients.

Diabesity, in its various forms, affects over 1 billion people worldwide. It is a massive global problem, and our current approach to prevention and treatment is obviously not working because millions more are affected every year in a dramatic increase of a condition that was once very rare.

Diabesity is also the leading cause of most chronic disease in the 21st century.(ii) Those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease (iii), (iv), stroke, dementia(v), cancer(vi), high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney failure. Nervous system damage also affects 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes and can lead to a loss of sensation in the hands and feet, slow digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome, sexual dysfunction, and other nerve problems.

So this is VERY real and VERY serious for those who suffer from the condition. Given all of this, one would think the questions on everyone’s mind would be: Why is this happening? What has caused this diabesity epidemic? Why are our current approaches to treating the problem failing so miserably? And what new approaches could we take that would more effectively treat the problem?

Few in medicine today are asking these questions, yet their answers are disarmingly simple.

The Problems with Diabesity Treatment — Symptoms, Not Causes

The reason our current approach to treating diabesity fails is because it focuses on treating the symptoms or risk factors of the disease rather than the causes. All of our attention is on treatments that:

    • Lower blood sugar (diabetes drugs and insulin)
    • Lower high blood pressure (anti-hypertensive drugs)
    • Lower cholesterol (statins)
    • Thin the blood (aspirin)

But we never ever ask the most important question: Why is your blood sugar, blood pressure, or blood cholesterol too high and why is your blood too sticky and likely to clot? Put another way: What are the root causes of diabesity?

Answering that question must be the focus of our diagnosis and treatment of this disease if we are going to solve this global epidemic.

In truth, diabetes, elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are simply downstream symptoms that result from problems with our diet, lifestyle, and environmental toxins interacting with our unique genetic susceptibilities. These are the real causes of diabesity. Unfortunately, few are taking the time to treat them.

Using medication or surgery to treat symptoms like imbalanced blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the other complications of diabetes is like mopping up the floor while the sink overflows.

In medicine today we have a choice. We can continue to mop up this overflow, or we can deal with the source of the problem and turn off the faucet—that is, treat the root problems that are causing your illness. In this three-part blog series, I am going to show you how to turn off the faucet so you can heal from your diabesity and achieve optimal health.

The real solution for diabesity is a comprehensive diet and lifestyle program. And in this series of three blogs I am going to teach you how you can integrate such an approach into your life to heal from your symptoms. I will show you why conventional treatments typically fail, what you can really do to treat diabesity, and explain how healing the 7 key underlying systems in your body is the real solution to the problem.

By following this system you may see many of your lifelong health symptoms evaporate in a matter of weeks or even days in some cases, and you may — for the first time — achieve vibrant health.

Now I’d like to hear from you …

Do you believe you can be healed from diabesity?

Have you tried conventional medical treatments? How have they worked for you?

Are you ready to try a radically new approach that may help you heal once and for all?

Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD


(i) This term was first coined by Shape Up America, former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop’s foundation.

(ii) (National Diabetes Fact Sheet 2007)


(iv) Lakka HM, Laaksonen DE, Lakka TA, Niskanen LK, Kumpusalo E, Tuomilehto J, Salonen JT. The metabolic syndrome and total and cardiovascular disease mortality in middle-aged men. JAMA. 2002 Dec 4;288(21):2709-16.

(v)Ott A, Stolk RP, van Harskamp F, Pols HA, Hofman A, Breteler MM. Diabetes mellitus and the risk of dementia: The Rotterdam Study. Neurology. 1999 Dec 10;53(9):1937-42.

(vi)Key TJ, Spencer EA, Reeves GK. Symposium 1: Overnutrition: consequences and solutions Obesity and cancer risk. Proc Nutr Soc. 2009 Dec 3:1-5.

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (26)

  • I have an allergies to all statins they make my body ache after 1 week of taking them, my cholesterol is high but my sugar is under control. I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, my family all have high cholesterol and reactions to the statin, I like to hear from you and try something different without so many pills. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks

    • Hi Anita,

      Thank you for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. Questions regarding conditions like these cannot be answered in a responsible manner via the Internet, but if you wish you can locate a practitioner of functional medicine in your area see the “Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner” link at the Institute of Functional Medicine website:

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • I am overweight/obese – I had thyroidectomy in 1982 and thyroid regrew so in 1986 I was treated with radio-active iodine to kill off thyroid and have been on thyroid replacement ever since. In 1999 I stopped smoking and put on 14kg in about 21 days and have not been able to get the weight off again since. I have followed dieticians advice and managed to lose a maximum of 3 kg in a month. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 4 years ago and the battle to lose weight (mainly belly fat) has been on ever since. I am on medication for High Blood Pressure. My GP is willing to help supervise any suggested diet/exercise program which will help me lose the excess weight. I find that Dieticians seem to know about diabetes but not ANYTHING about how a lack of thyroid affects the system. I was looking for a Nutrition related eating plan which would help me lose weight with full recognition of my circumstances. Your program seems to be very much what I am looking for.
    Is there anyway that your program could be available to me here in Australia? Do you need any further info to make a decision?

    Laurie H, Australia

    • Hi Laurie,

      Thank you for your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. You can definitely follow Dr. Hyman’s book, The Blood Sugar Solution, in Australia. In fact, we highly recommend that you do! You can also sign up to work with Dr. Hyman’s nutrition coaches. They can help guide you through the 6 week’s and support your goals (with full understanding of your concerns about your thyroidectomy).

      To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.
      In Good Health,
      The Nutrition Team

  • hello- I am a woman who got diagnosed with Bipolar in 1996 and have gained about 200 lbs in that time- up and down- I usually was treating different issues separately- psychiatrist for bipolar, and eating specialists for the weight problem. I learned all about calories and fat from “experts” and BAD food- and then I learned about Whole foods and processed foods- with a different level of understanding. but I have not been able to lose any weight. I have tried to decrease JUNK- but I flip flop. Sometimes I cave in and eat the pizza because my body craves the refined starch- almost as if I can’t rest until I get it. I try to eliminate sugars- in fact, I tried doing your detox, but honestly- I didn’t do it the right way- and I was not able to go beyond about 5 days of maybe 90% compliance. I’m totally dependent on my coffee- because the meds I take make it virtually impossible to feel awake without coffee or caffeine of some kind. I find myself Fighting all the time- to do the best I can, and advocate for whole health. I work for a nonprofit that advocates for whole health. I know there are solutions. I do not have the money to pursue full out treatment- Texas doesn’t have many functional doctors- none in my insurance. I usually get overwhelmed. and don’t know how to focus. I don’t think this is all emotional- it might be chemical/ blood-sugar related? I would love to HEAL. I believe that is possible. I believe God will bring me through this- and I can at the very least lose 200 lbs – eventually. I get so scared about detoxing off of caffeine, sugar, carbs, etc all at once- I usually try to do it very “strict” and then fail. and binge. I don’t know how to start. Lately, I get so tired- throughout the day- I just feel wiped out tired- my body aches with fatigue- and I continue to fight. my moods go up and down based on my energy level- I always fight to stay UP-
    I have the Blood Sugar Solution book, I have the 10 Day Detox, I have the UltraMind- I don’t know how to begin….I need a support group. I need a coach. I need to really deal with all the freaky feelings that happen when I detox- I’ve never met anyone who knows how to deal with going through the tunnel- when a mental illness has been “diagnosed”- – I don’t know how to not end up in a hospital and I am not willing to go through all that trauma again- so I try to go slow- slower than usual. and be patient. but I’m not making any progress. I’m actually gaining weight lately. I don’t know why. It scares me!

  • Dr. Hymam I take 1 or 2 pills for my diabetes and I walk 2-3 miles every morning and i went from 260 pds to 208 pds at age 59 now age 60 and i eat several tiny meals a day with plenty of lemon water and will be off diabetes meds within 1 yr. my high blood pressure though is another story. I have had that for 25 yrs and is in my family history. However with continued exercise and great eating habits of only good food for diabetics i should be on possibly a couple of bp pills for rest of my life. Sincerely, Marc Pasetsky

  • I am cured…..lost nearly 90 pounds and enjoy life….feel 28 years younger. I can do what the 35 year olds can do and love life. Looking forward to the next 30 or so years! I am going to be 62 in a few months! Make change and enjoy. I don’t need a “health care plan”, I do what is good for me….limit carbs, avoid processed food, no HFCS, limited sugar, just good plain food! I eat meat, nuts, fermented foods, lots of seeds, tons of veggies and limited fruit! Yummy! My life style IS my health care plan!

  • Yes, i am one that reversed diabetes through diet. Last year i was admitted to the ER after a nurse at CVS tested my blood sugar and it was 580. The trick for me was to get off all carbs and stimulants. I tested every food i ate to see how my body responded, and only ate what nourished me. After one year doing this, i feel better than when i was 20. I am 45 now and am grateful of this new life before me. There was a rough few weeks of wanting to eat crunchy carbs during emotional issues but i used EFT to get me thru it and now my life is rich with meaning. Leaving the mind altering carbs behind allowed me to live and take good care of myself. I will never go back to eating processed food that is genetically altered. I have an organic garden and need much less food now that i am eating freshly picked nutrients. Life is really beautiful when you arent controlled by garbage marketed as food. The only supplements i take are digestive enzymes, iodine and pancreas support, no meds ever. My blood sugar remains below 120 and i feel good, think clearly, and am a size 5.

    • Hi Tracy,
      Thank you for sharing your inspiring story!
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • I have always been fat. I’m now 50 with type 2 diabetes (no medications), fatty liver, intertrigo and other various itches over my whole body. I also have chronic back pain making it hard to exercise. On MS Contin daily.I can’t reach to cut my own toenails or put on shoes (except slip ons), as well as other areas I can no longer reach.
    Relations with the husband have diminished and we have separate rooms (I cant be in a hot and soft bed as my back and legs ache more)
    I’m on the verge of crying all the time. The whole POOR ME routine !!
    Having said that, I have cut out nearly all sugar and processed foods in the lasty few months. 11 kg down and stuck there. I am eating much healthier, more veges and fruit. Eating dates and nuts.
    Almond milk or low fat lactose milk.
    Oh, and I am on a very long waiting list for gastric sleeve surgery. If I don’t die first.

  • Will not give up pop or sugar foods even though have a natural doc near. Just takes more insulin and hard to breathe, and cant excercise due to lung breathing problem due to a previous surgery.Is there any suggestions befor tataking another stress test soon as another stint may be necessary due to clogged arteries again? Help, thanks the Simer family still cares

  • Hello There,
    How I schedule an appointment to see dr Hymen?
    Thank you in advance for your time.

  • Hi, Dr. Hyman. My health nightmare began immediately following a routine surgery. Less than two weeks after my gall bladder was removed, I began experiencing many auto immune symptoms. Really mysterious stuff that no doctor in my area can help me with. Even though I have hashimoto’s and am hypothyroid, I feel worse when I take my thyroid meds. I *did* have a complete remission for nearly a year, but slowly became sick again. My current diagnoses are hashimoto’s, fibromyalgia, and psoriatic arthritis. My fatigue is often through the roof, it’s my worst symptom. This has been going on for close to 12 years. I would love to get my life back.

    • Hi Christine,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.

      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to:
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

    • Hi Andy,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • I was diagnosed with insulin resistance 12 years ago, and at that time I was 100 pounds overweight. Oddly, I wasn’t eating junk food, never touch soda, nor was I eating much sugar. I was however raised on pasta (I’m Italian) and I found out I have massive food allergies (wheat, rye, corn, sugar cane, dairy, soy, all forms of lettuce, brewers yeast, beef, chocolate and coffee bean). I was also tested for Wilson’s Thyroid Syndrome, and was diagnosed with that. The doctor put me on Armor Thyroid and Cytomel and I quit eating the foods I was allergic to. I exercised like a maniac and lost the 100 pounds. It took 2 years, which I found odd. After a couple of years, I went through a horrible divorce, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease (she was never a smoker), and I went through years of long-term stress. I highly suspect much of my issue has been stress-related because the weight came back on. It’s been tough on all fronts. I know what you’re saying is true, and I try to follow your program, but because of financial challenges, it’s been difficult. Now, of course, I realize that I don’t assimilate carbs well at all, and I try to completely stay away from them. Because of finances, sometimes that’s tough. I’ve also noticed that when I don’t eat them, I seem to get hungry quicker. Not sure why that’s so, but it is. For example, if I happen to make a green drink (veggies in my bullet) for breakfast with protein powder, I am hungry within a couple of hours. I am fully committed to beating this. Thank you for all you do and for all you share.

  • Hello Dr. Hyman,

    My boyfriend is a type 1, insulin dependent diabetic. He suffers with nueropathy, is legally blind, hypo hypothyroidism, sleep apnea and has uncontrollable blood sugar sugar levels. He has no energy and sleeps too much at night and naps a good part of the day away. Is there anything he can do to improve his condition? His quality of life is very poor and it brings me down because I have not been able to help him. His Dr. never told him how to manage his diabetes with diet and he doesn’t even see an endocrinologist, just a general Dr. to manage his condition. Thank you very much.


    • Hi Jamie,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide your boyfriend the proper care he needs we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.
      Wishing you both the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • I’ve been diagnosed with insulin resistance, borderline diabetic, & hypothyroidism. I’ve also been told by my doctor that there was nothing I could do about these or about my metabolism. I cannot accept this.

  • Do you support the plant based diet which eliminates all oils, avocado, meats/fish, etc. in favor of Veggies and Fruit?

  • I have been diabetic since age 36 and have never been able to control my blood sugar. Now taking 80 u of lantus at bedtime and 15 u of apidra with every meal. I have been to counselors ,food coaches and explored Numerous different eating plans all without success. I have atrial fib, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol . Now at the age of 62 my knees are beginning to hurt and I continue to grasp at straws to try to help myself feel better. I am convinced that conventional medicine cannot help me. Recently began exploring a plant based lifestyle. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Judy,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • 84 years old, 5’10”, 295lbs. Been the same for ten years. Take several meds for hypertension, cholesterol, and peripheral neuropathy. Eating more or less moves my weight plus or minus five pounds which is probably attributed to water retention. Total knee replacement. Energy down significantly. Added ten inches to waist and six inches to coat size. I eat little more than my wife who remained the same size for the last 25-30 years.