Those poor polar bears, they can't catch a break.
Not only do they have to contend with melting ice caps, but the constant Coke guzzling puts them at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to problems like erectile dysfunction and limb amputation.
Of course, bears don't really drink soda, but a scathing video satire of the portly polar dwellers by the Center for Science in the Public Interest called "The Real Bears" has recently gone viral, cautioning against the dangers of excess sugar consumption and poking fun at Coke's marketing tactics at the same time.
But what if you already have Type 2 diabetes? The first step is to optimize medications to jump-start treatment quickly, said Dr. Tim Church, a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. And it's never too late to cut back on sugar intake, but it turns out that exercise is a much more critical component of fighting this life-threatening condition.
After that, "It's all about physical activity," Church said. "Our studies have shown the power of getting active. It makes sense because diabetes is the failure of the body to regulate sugar. And skeletal muscle is the biggest consumer of sugar in the body."
"Exercise is the most effective therapy for Type 2 diabetes, period," agreed Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician-researcher and expert in exercise physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. "If people with Type 2 diabetes start to exercise and lose just a little bit of weight, it is incredible what it will do in terms of improving glucose control."
Tony Sekulich, 42, is a television writer in Toronto. Last year he was feeling low in energy, he couldn't concentrate on his work, and he'd developed a rapid heartbeat. Compelled to visit his doctor, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Sekulich's fasting blood glucose level was 310 mg/dL. The normal range is 72-108 mg/dL. His doctor echoed Joyner and Church, telling Sekulich that exercise was the most important thing he could do to treat his condition, and Sekulich took it to heart.
"I was so out of shape that at first I would go for only 5-mile bike rides," he said. His diet changed too, but not dramatically. He replaced soda with water, ate more fruit and simply ate less. He also started taking the drug Metformin.
"After a few weeks, I built up stamina on my bike, and added in some swimming too," said Sekulich. Coupled with the dietary changes and drug therapy, a month later his fasting glucose had dropped to 155 mg/dL, and the target for most patients with diabetes is below 126 mg/dL, so getting better. "My doctor was surprised I'd turned it around so fast."
Joyner asserts that, for treating Type 2 diabetes, getting active "is twice as effective as drug therapy." This doesn't mean not to take the meds, which both he and Church support using, but it puts in perspective just how critical getting sweaty is to lowering blood glucose. Couple dietary changes with exercise for what Joyner called a "synergistic effect" to control diabetes. Church used that exact same phrase.