Tackling Diabesity With Functional Medicine

By Mark Hyman, MD Chairman, Institute for Functional Medicine Founder and Medical Director, The UltraWellness Center Author of The Blood Sugar Solution

Tackling Diabesity With Functional Medicine

In conventional medicine, you’re either sick or healthy. Functional medicine is fundamentally a new way to think about health and disease. We view health as a continuum from optimal health to hidden imbalances to disease. Along the way, we intervene at root causes and reverse the process. Disease goes away as a side effect of creating health and balance. We treat the whole system, not just the symptoms. We also think of food as a powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease.

When it comes to thinking about and treating diabetes, most conventional doctors have it wrong. Traditional doctors see two distinct problems – diabetes and obesity, but it should be called “diabesity.” Obesity and diabetes are so interconnected, it’s really one disease. Diabesity causes heart disease, strokes, cancer, dementia, depression, infertility, sexual dysfunction and more. Conventional doctors don’t think about that continuum and don’t treat you until you have full-blown diabetes. Not only is it unfortunate, it’s wrong.

Testing for Diabesity


Doctors can and must diagnose the problem much earlier. Two special tests help identify early diabesity:

1. Insulin Response Test

Most doctors focus on fasting blood sugar, which is a late stage and poor indicator of diabesity. Instead, docs should look at insulin – the fat storage hormone. It’s first to go up and causes you to gain belly fat and become inflamed, which leads to a vicious cycle of weight gain and more diabesity.

2. New NMR Cholesterol Test

 For your cholesterol, size matters. This new 21st century cholesterol test measures cholesterol particles in your blood. Most docs are just looking at the total cholesterol number – the weight of your cholesterol – but that’s not full story. In functional medicine, we want to know the number of your cholesterol particles and how big or small they are. You want big fluffy beach ball-like particles. They are protective and safe. Small, hard golf ball-like particles are dense and damage your arteries, causing heart disease. These small particles are caused by diabesity! Most doctors don’t do this NMR cholesterol test but they should. The other tests are outdated and increasingly becoming less helpful.

Treating Diabesity

Most physicians treat the symptoms like high blood sugar or high blood pressure that occur with diabetes. But they don’t treat the cause. Most of the time inflammation causes obesity and diabetes.

We need to treat the causes of inflammation, which in turn causes diabesity. Besides sugar and white flour, food sensitivities like gluten (wheat) and dairy are the biggest offenders, but corn and processed soy can also be triggers. To test if these foods cause problems, eliminate them for two weeks and then add back one at a time. If you gain weight or feel bloated a day after, you’re sensitive. You can also add called PGX before every meal, a super fiber from konjac root and seaweed. It absorbs hundreds of times its weight in water and prevent spikes in insulin. It also helps with cravings and weight loss – needless to say, an important factor in diabesity. 

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