Diabetes is on the rise worldwide, but Solano County residents have a special reason to be concerned: we have the highest rate of the disease in California. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10% of our residents have been diagnosed with Diabetes. Northbay Healthcare's Deborah Murray, M.D., says, "Diabetes is on the rise everywhere as diets become westernized with refined carbohydrates. Diabetes is an epidemic—50% of adults will have diabetes when they die." She explains that Solano County may have a higher rate of diabetes due in part to an ethnically diverse population genetically predisposed to the disease.

Genetics alone do not tell the full story. "It is the food," says Dr. Murray. Type II diabetes is a combination of genetics, diet and lack of exercise. It used to be called adult onset diabletes but now we are seeing it in 4 year olds. If you are genetically predisposed and you are overweight, you will get it. The fatter you get, the more insulin resistant you become.” Unfortunately, type II diabetes is often silent until it is out of control. "By the time you get diagnosed, you've probably already had it for 10 years, along with complications such as eye disease, kidney disease and nerve disease.”

Lifestyle and culture also play a role. We eat on the fly, we eat with cell phones to our ears and we eat while multitasking—even sit-down meals are rushed. Dr. Murray recently spent 3 weeks in Italy, eating “tons of pasta,” but didn’t gain an ounce. “The difference is that in Italy people are more social when they eat. They take their time. Portions are smaller. Conversation is an important part of the meal so that food is consumed more slowly. Here, we eat too fast for our bodies to properly digest the food. I have patients who have moved back to Europe, India and other countries because here, they can’t control their diabetes. They have found that when they return to their native countries, their diabetes improves.”

The French also eat less and enjoy meals more because meals are part of an important social ritual. Food is savored; focused attention is given to appearance, texture, smell and taste. In the article about the French Paradox in Psychology Today, “Rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food,” March 2009, Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., points out that American serving sizes are 25% higher than in France, and that eating slowly and mindfully ensures a flavor burst with each bite so that fewer bites are necessary.

What does Dr. Murray recommend to prevent type II diabetes? "Don't eat white food: potatoes, rice, white pasta and white bread. Eat whole grain foods, but make them a small part of your diet. Don't even get me started on soda—we should ban it. The chemicals in diet soda make us hungry and we eat more. And exercise for 30 minutes every single day; it's critical.

Dr. Murray lives with her husband on a large powerboat in the marina, which they have taken all the way to Alaska and back. She served in the Air Force for 23 years before joining the Northbay Healthcare staff in 2006, where she specializes in diabetes and thyroid disorders. When asked about the best and worst things about living on a boat, Dr. Murray replied, "The best thing is feeling like I'm on vacation every day. The worst is that there's no hot tub."