The Cuban Diet and Dealing with Diabetes

Torso of a woman with diabetes injecting insulin.

In recent news, a team of Cuban, US and Spanish researchers found that during the 1990s, the Cuban people, on a nation-wide level, had a significant reduction in overall deaths due to heart disease and diabetes. There was also an average weight loss of 5 kg per person in Cuba across the population during the period between 1991 and 1995. What could have caused this?

The Caribbean nation isn’t known for its healthy eating habits, but during the early 1990s Cuba experienced a severe economic downturn due to the collapse of its ally the Soviet Union and an ongoing US embargo on imports.

This led to a considerable drop in the number of calories Cuban people were consuming each day. At the same time, fuel for running cars was scarce and people took to walking or riding push bikes, thus increasing their daily exercise.

I’ve no doubt this would have been a difficult time for anyone living in Cuba back then and the intention of this article is not to make light of this period in their history. It is however, very unusual for scientists to get a chance to study the effects of a change in diet and lifestyle at an entire country level.

In the case of Cuba, it’s possible to say that the majority of people reduced their calorie intake significantly for a five-year period between 1991 and 1995. At the same time they also increased their daily physical exercise levels with the necessity of walking or riding a bike to get around.

The results of this change were found to be a rapid decline in the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, along with an average population wide weight loss of 5.5 kgs.

An overweight man struggling to button his shirt.

Unfortunately, soon after the worst of the restrictions were lifted in 1995, weight gain increased dramatically. Followed, in the decade to come by a huge increase in heart disease and diabetes in Cuba.

In fact, six years after the weight reduction period, diabetes mortality increased by nearly 50%. And by 2010, as fast food outlets and cheap processed food accessibility increased, around 53% of the population were estimated to be overweight or obese.

Diabetes and the Collapse of the American Healthcare System

You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more clear-cut case for more exercise and smaller meals. It’s been estimated that a 5 kg population wide weight reduction would lower instances of mortality due to heart disease by around a third and from diabetes by half.

The question is, does anyone have any good ideas on how to achieve something like this in the USA and other Western countries? Before you say it will never happen, a couple of sobering statistic to consider for you and your family’s future health.

The cost of treating diagnosed diabetes has risen to $245 billion in 2012, from 174 billion in 2007. That’s an over 40% increase in just five years and diabetes now accounts for more than one in every five dollars spent in the massive US healthcare system. At this rate it’s estimated that half of all Americans will be diabetic or prediabetic by 2020, costing the healthcare system $3.35 trillion.

While very little progress is being made scientifically or politically in preventing diabetes, it’s pretty clear that this kind of expenditure on diabetes alone, notwithstanding spiraling rates of many other serious diseases, will cripple if not collapse American healthcare in it’s current form if it continues at this rate.

An overweight woman measuring her waistline with measuring tape.

Dealing with Diabetes

While sharing information like this with your friends can help, each of us is ultimately responsible for our own health (or will have that responsibility forced upon us as affordable healthcare becomes a thing of the past).

If you need to get your blood sugar levels under control, or are already dealing with diabetes then it’s really worth reading what Dr. Gary Levin has to say about treating diabetes. His plan focuses on balancing out your blood sugar naturally and rehabilitating the way your body responses to insulin.

It’s also vital to stop eating so many sugary foods and processed grains. These play havoc with your blood sugar levels and exhaust your pancreas’s ability to produce insulin. To find out more about this important topic read the page on Why Bread Makes You Fat and High-Fat Foods Can Help You Lose Weight.

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