When thinking of type 2 diabetes and its causes, the condition is often associated with a poor diet or a sedentary lifestyle.
But science is discovering data on a lesser-known factor that appears to be very important in the development of the disease: stress.
“In my clinical practice, stress is the most decisive factor in the outcomes of type 2 diabetes that we see in people,” says Victor Montori, endocrinologist and principal investigator of the Mayo Clinic’s Research Unit on Knowledge and Evaluation in the USA.
During his career, this Peruvian-born doctor has dedicated himself for more than twenty years to studying diabetes, but also how to improve health systems to provide quality care to patients.
In recent years, he says, people are discovering how stress contributes to the worsening of type 2 diabetes, in which blood glucose, or sugar, levels are too high.
“Chronic anxiety has a neuroendocrine effect that elevates blood sugar. By being more stressed, you’re likely to store more fat around your waist, which makes diabetes more difficult to control,” explains Montori. .
As he comments, there are many scientific studies that have found a strong link between worries, stress associated with complex life situations, and the development of this type of diabetes.
One of the clearest, he says, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and was based on monitoring three groups of people from a vulnerable community in the US.
“The first group kept their conditions, the second had the possibility of moving to an area with a better quality of life, much less dangerous, and the third, in addition to moving to that better place, was helped to achieve that,” says Montori.
And he continues: “In the end, what happened to the health of the people was analyzed and only the third group moved. They also saw sharp reductions in depression, obesity and diabetes. This, without educating them or giving recommendations on how to live, but simply changing to a less stressful environment where there was no shot in the night, would induce metabolic changes.
like in caves
The way mental states contribute to type 2 diabetes has to do with failures in the hormonal system, the doctors explain.
“When there is a victim, the body’s response is something we learned in the caves. Basically, when faced with a threat from a tiger or any other animal, our hormonal system shuts down because we need to reproduce. We don’t need them, we just need them to survive. But in today’s life one is in a permanent state of alert. We live with permanent pressure on people’s normal physiology,” he says.
Thus, the body reacts with a hormonal imbalance, adds Montori. And it makes diabetes appear or it is more difficult to treat. “For some reason this is a condition that is more common in urban than rural areas, more prevalent in communities because inequalities increase and it tends to accumulate more among people who are less likely to have access to development and medical care.” experience discrimination and poverty”.
Doctors stress one point: Healthy eating and physical exercise are still important for preventing and controlling the disease.
“We tell patients that trying to lose weight, being physically active for at least 150 minutes a week, and reducing foods high in carbohydrates and fat reduce the risk of developing diabetes,” they say. She adds: “But it’s important to find an activity that helps manage stress, and use that instead of overeating or drinking.”