By Uma Sivanathan

I recently watched a 10-part documentary series called iThrive ( I want to share with you what I learned about the “twin epidemic;” obesity and diabetes.

In Hawai‘i, the rate of obesity more than doubled over the last 15 years. Diabetes rates have almost doubled since 1996. Studies show that obesity rate in children living in Hawai‘i may be twice the national average. Pediatric obesity is increasing rapidly. Those children who are obese, particularly in adolescence, have a much greater risk of becoming obese adults and diabetic.

A representative from Hawai‘i State Department of Health said that to address obesity in our communities, we must focus our attention on childhood obesity.

State Sen. Josh Green recommends mandatory physical education in our schools, taking a look at advertising from soda companies, and providing incentives to live a healthy lifestyle. He said “we have to take a holistic approach to obesity and diabetes.”

The great health concern is that being obese also increases the risk of other serious health conditions, including heart disease and high blood pressure.

Simply put, weight gain is caused when more calories are consumed than are burned off by physical activity.

Humans were designed by nature to eat nutrient-rich foods. Our ancestors sought the richest food as a matter of survival. The difference is their caloric intake was balanced with burning calories while hunting or growing food.

The 2011 Medical Journal states, “We now live in a world where the easiest choice is to remain sedentary and eat large amounts of fat-filled, sweetened foods. Sodas are the single greatest source of added sugar in the American diet.”

Our food environment combined with a lifestyle of sitting at a computer, watching TV or playing video games sets the stage for obesity.

The consumption of high-fat and sugary foods contributes to an internal environment within our bodies causing insulin resistance, and leading to Type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance happens when the hormone insulin cannot deliver sugar (glucose) to the cells of our muscles and liver. Insulin is the key that fits into the keyhole of the cell’s insulin receptors. Normally, the receptors open the door for the insulin and glucose to enter the cell. As explained in iThrive, too much fat in the diet can clog up the keyhole of the cells’ receptors. When insulin and glucose cannot get into the cell, they continue to circulate in the blood-stream, contributing to cellular inflammation.

Inflammation makes it so the cell cannot hear the insulin hormone as it attaches to the cells’ receptor. When the insulin and the glucose have nowhere to go, they spike in the blood stream, causing damage to all organs, including the heart, delicate eyes and brain. Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as Type 3 diabetes. Neuropathy, where the nerves are degenerating faster than normal, is another symptom. One of the first signs of diabetes can be numbness and tingling in the feet. Sometimes, a person finds out they have diabetes after their first heart attack.

Toxins ingested from food, water and our environment also cause our cells to become inflamed. Then, the essential good nutrition can’t get in and the cellular waste can’t get out. The body eventually becomes overloaded with toxins, setting the stage for all chronic health conditions.

Both obesity and Type 2 diabetes are dietary health conditions. Many studies prove they can be prevented and very often reversed by diet and physical activity.

Uma Sivanathan

Nutrients and phytochemicals in plants lower inflammation. A diet rich in fruits, and vegetables cause the fat gumming up the cell’s keyhole to be dissolved. Hawai‘i is the perfect place to eat fruits and vegetables, as we have a year-round growing season.

In choosing to eat for nutrient-density instead of caloric density, we are preventing obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and we can overcome these debilitating health conditions.

The websites and are good resources for those with diabetes.

We are eating to live.

  • Uma Sivanathan is the Founder of Mana‘olana Center for Health and Healing. She can be reached at