~ Diabetes and Fiber

Type I diabetes, sometimes referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), has both similar and dissimilar manifestations as compared to Type II diabetes mellitus. Although both Type I and Type II diabetes often result in similar disabilities, that is, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, and sometimes organ failure, the causal factors are quite different. For example, Type I diabetes reflects an inability to metabolize carbohydrates caused by an absolute insulin deficiency. This type of diabetes occurs most often in children and young adults as a result of inadequate insulin production in the beta cells of the pancreas.

Type II diabetes generally occurs because of a metabolic failure at the cellular level, a condition spurred by poor diet, obesity, environmental factors, and genetics. Body tissues, such as cell receptor sites, lose their sensitivity. As insulin attempts to deliver glucose into the cell, the "key no longer fits the lock." Blood glucose, barricaded from the cell, accumulates in the bloodstream. Unlike Type I diabetes, insulin therapy is usually not indicated in Type II diabetes because typically these individuals already have too much insulin in their bloodstream. However, after an extended period of excess insulin secretion, the pancreas may lose its ability to produce insulin and a Type II diabetic may then become insulin dependent.

It is difficult to overstate the benefits garnered from fiber in regard to blood glucose control. Eating a diet rich in high fiber foods has spared countless individuals the risks imposed by chronically elevated blood glucose and the rigors of aggressive antidiabetic therapy.

A high fiber diet offers many health benefits, some of which accrue whether the appropriate fiber is selected or not (Hayes 2001). However, therapeutically speaking, fibers are not equal; they have different metabolic dispositions.

The two types of fiber are insoluble (does not disperse in water) and soluble (does dissolve in water). Insoluble fibers are identified as cellulose and many hemicelluloses and lignins; soluble fibers include pectin, gums, mucilages, and some hemicelluloses.

Fibers target different metabolic disturbances. For example, the benefits gleaned from insoluble fibers usually involve the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, promoting bowel regularity, while slowing the breakdown of starch and delaying glucose absorption into the blood. Soluble fibers (the type popularized since the 1980s) slow gastric emptying and the transit of chyme (the semifluid material produced by gastric digestion of food) through the intestines. This function forestalls the quick entry of glucose into the bloodstream. Soluble fibers appear to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce hyperinsulinemia as well. Many of the conditions surrounding Syndrome X, including poor lipid levels and disrupted coagulation factors, are favorably impacted by fiber.
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