How to Live to 110, a guide for all ages on how to stay healthy and live a long life.

Your comprehensive guide to a healthy life

Buy book or eBook

Next: cancer

How to protect against Type 2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and obesity

How we swamp our system with starch and sugars

(Avoiding diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity and damage to your blood vessels)

Glucose is a specific type of sugar that is common in animals and plants. It’s what your brain needs for energy, and your muscles use it too.

For your brain to work properly, you need to have a precise amount of glucose in your blood – approximately one teaspoon in total, which is really very little. After you eat or drink, a sophisticated process stops your glucose level rising too high. Excess glucose is taken into storage in your muscles or turned into fat. This is controlled by a protein called insulin.

The modern diet can swamp this process. A single can of fizzy drink often contains five teaspoons of glucose – that’s five times the amount there should be in your blood. People these days also tend to eat a lot of refined, starchy foods such as bread, potatoes and biscuits. Starch is simply long chains of glucose, so these foods can release more glucose than your body can cope with at one time.

High levels of blood glucose cause harm over time

Over the course of many years, high levels of glucose in your blood can damage the lining of fine blood vessels – especially those in your eyes and kidneys, potentially leading to visual loss or kidney failure. Most of the glucose will be turned into body fat, and too much fat is associated with a whole range of serious diseases.

Fat stored around internal organs such as your liver can be particularly harmful. Too much of this can lead to problems with insulin, and that means glucose levels in the blood get out of control. At worst, this can turn into diabetes, where insulin production virtually stops. This is a dangerous condition.

Diabetes is on the rise

The number of people suffering from this form of diabetes has been increasing dramatically over recent decades. Well over two million people in the UK now have it, although many are not of aware of this. It used to be rare in children, but it is becoming increasingly common. This rise must be due to the changes in Western diet and lifestyle.

It is likely that the high levels of sugar we consume have played a part. The sort of sugar we buy – and which is added by manufacturers to cooked and processed foods and drinks – is made not just of glucose, but also of a second type of sugar, fructose.

Fructose is not handled well by your body, and tends to turn into fat stored around your internal organs – the dangerous type of fat. Sugar is added to an amazing range of food, savoury as well as sweet. A single can of fizzy drink may contain 5 teaspoons of fructose as well as the 5 of glucose.

Some of the things you can do

Be aware of the amount of sugar you are eating and drinking, and cut back where you can.

Watch your waistline. A growing waistline may mean you are storing dangerous fat around your internal organs. See our body check page for details.

Instead of starchy foods such as bread and potatoes, substitute some that release glucose more slowly, such as beans, barley, oats and lightly cooked pasta.

Keep physically active, as this helps the insulin system work more efficiently.

What the book covers

There is a lot more to this important subject than we’ve been able to summarise here. The book explains

Next: cancer

Selected references for the book


Incidence & overview

Zimmet P Alberti K. G. M. M ShawJ

Review Article. Global and societal implications of the diabetes epidemic.

Nature 2001;414:782-

Glucose metabolism

Kelly TN et al

Systematic Review: Glucose Control and Cardiovascular Disease in Type 2 Diabetes.

Ann Intern Med 2009;151:394-403

Hazards of fructose

Kimber L. Stanhope, et al 

Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans.

J Clin Invest. 2009;119:1322–1334

Bray GA

Fructose: pure, white, and deadly? Fructose, by any other name, is a health hazard.

J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010;4:1003-7.

Importance of Glycogen

Hers HG

The Control of Glycogen Metabolism in the Liver

Annual Review of Biochemistry1976;45:167-190

Bergström J Hultman E

A Study of the Glycogen Metabolism during Exercise in Man

Scand J Lab Clin Invest1967;19:218-228

Bollen M Keppens S Stalmans W

Specific features of glycogen metabolism in the liver.

Biochem J. 1998;336:19–31.

Insulin metabolism and Type 2 diabetes

Weyer C et al

The natural history of insulin secretory dysfunction and insulin resistance in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus

J Clin Invest. 1999;104:787–794

Hyperglycaemia damage

Brownlee M

The Pathobiology of Diabetic Complications: A Unifying Mechanism

Diabetes 2005;54:1615-1625

Insulin resistance

DeFronzo RA Ferrannini E

Insulin resistance. A multifaceted syndrome responsible for NIDDM, obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes Care March 1991;14:173-194

Kahn BB Flier JS

Obesity and insulin resistance

J Clin Invest. 2000;106:473–481


Catherine C. Cowie et al

Full Accounting of Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes in the U.S. Population in 1988–1994 and 2005–2006

Diabetes Care February 2009;32:287-294

Boyle JP et al

Increasing pre-diabetes in US

Projection of the year 2050 burden of diabetes in the US adult population: dynamic modeling of incidence, mortality, and prediabetes prevalence

Population Health Metrics 2010;8:29

Reaven GM

Pathophysiology of insulin resistance in human disease

Physiol Rev July 1995 vol. 75 no. 3 473-486

Complications of diabetes

Oxford Textbook of Medicine 5th Edition OUP 2010

13.11.1 Diabetes – Chronic complications

Treatment of diabetes

Glycemic index COMMENT: Promissory Note Page 70 about GI. How much to go in here?

Access to the University of Sydney on glycemic index and data-base of foods

Dairy produce and diabetes

Cho HK et al

Dairy Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Men. A Prospective Study

Arch intern med 2005; 165:997-1003

Liu S etal

A Prospective Study of Dairy Intake and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women

Diabetes Care 2006;29:1579-1584

Whole grain and diabetes

Fung TT et al

Whole-grain intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study in men

Am J Clin Nutr September 2002;76:535-540

Sugar intake

Bowman SA et al

Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey

Pediatrics 2004;113:112 –118

Howard BV Wylie-Rosett J

Sugar and Cardiovascular Disease

A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Committee on Nutrition of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association

Circulation. 2002; 106: 523-527






How to Live to 110: Longevity, living longer and the steps to take for a healthy old age