Diabetes Educator with Unique Worldview Visits Rochester, NY
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Dr. Caroline Trapp greeted me with a big smile and a confident handshake, and in cooperation with Dr. Ted Barnett and Rochester Lifestyle Medicine (RLM), we sat down for a podcast conversation as part of the Ian Cramer Podcast.
Dr. Trapp traveled to Rochester as part of RLM’s Lifestyle as Medicine series of guest lecturers. These monthly presentations available to the public bring in experts on how diet and lifestyle can have profound affects on ones health. Trapp sees patients as a nurse practitioner in Michigan and is also the director of diabetes education for the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, in Washington, DC. Her presentation entitled “From Macedonia to the Navajo Nation: Treating a Worldwide Diabetes Epidemic with Plant-Based Nutrition” captivated the audience with applicable information on diabetes prevention and treatment, and chronicled personal stories of how this chronic disease indiscriminately affects many different groups of people around the world.
According to the American Diabetes Association and CDC, in 2015, Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) affected 30.3 million people, or around 9% of the US population. That trend has been growing at a frightening pace over the past 3 decades, costing the US an estimated 245 Billion dollars, which is more than the total GDP of the country of the Czech Republic, Vietnam or Romania. In just 11 years, from 2004 to 2015, the number of people diagnosed with T2D has doubled!
But Dr. Trapp and RLM encourage people not to fear. This chronic disease is not contagious nor is it inevitable, but is fueled by confusion about the true etiology and dietary cause. So what is fueling this epidemic? As you can hear from her presentation (link coming soon) or her podcast, she and many other medical professionals are basing their clinical decisions on a growing body of evidence that points to dietary saturated fats and cholesterol as the underlying cause of Type 2 Diabetes. Dr. Trapp explained that this fat gets stored in muscle cells and when it does, it wreaks havoc on the insulin receptors. This fat in the muscle cell, or intramyocellular lipid, literally clogs the insulin receptor so that the insulin cannot work properly. If the insulin cannot work properly, then the sugar cannot make its way from the blood stream into the cell which causes the blood sugar levels to rise and given enough time, leads to the diagnosis of diabetes.
Dr. Trapp’s clinical experiences from different cultures around world seemed to share similar narratives. For example, with her work in the American south west with Indian reservations, she noticed that there were definite ethnic and cultural predispositions to diabetes. These findings are corroborated by data from the CDC citing almost 15% prevalence among Native American women vs. 7% among white, non-Hispanic women. She also noticed that there were dietary similarities among populations where diabetes rates are soaring. Interestingly, carbohydrate consumption was not the determining factor for the incidence of diabetes, it was the infiltration of highly processed western foods with copious amounts of sugar, salt and fat that provided the perfect storm for developing insulin resistance and diabetes.
Our video podcast was full of nuggets of information and conveyed feelings of hope, not hopelessness. Although this can be a scary diagnosis, Trapp added that the American Diabetes Association’s statement of T2D being a “progressive disease” is not what she has experienced in her clinical practice. She ended our encounter with a gift that made me smile and giggle- a Pineapple slicer and my very own pineapple. Thoughtful gestures like these along with the time she gave me for our interview, the presentation she provided to the Rochester community and the work she does with the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine encapsulates her character well. We’re very grateful for Dr. Caroline Trapp making her way from one snowy tundra to another and hope that her presentation and the video podcast she recorded helps people prevent or reverse this toothless-paper tiger known as Type 2 Diabetes.