This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Some people are ‘curing’ their Type 2 diabetes by changing what they eat.
Public health experts have long insisted the key to staying slim is burning more calories than we consume. But no matter how physically active we are, most people gain weight as we age.
Those same experts have long declared that eating fat makes us fat. Fifty years ago, they urged us to embrace a low-fat lifestyle in order to reduce heart disease.
But things didn’t turn out as expected. Low-fat diets now appear to have caused a dramatic increase in diabetes. In 1958, less than 1% of Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes. By 2015, that number had risen to 7.4 %.
Many family physicians have discovered, via harrowing personal experience with their patients as well as within their own families, that while the conventional advice works for some people, it doesn’t work for many others.
In recent years, a small but growing minority of doctors have begun recommending a low-carbohydrate, high-fat lifestyle (also called keto or ketogenic). This is not a deprivation diet. Practitioners are encouraged to slather vegetables in butter, and to consume bacon and chicken wings.
Many are able to ‘cure’ their Type 2 diabetes once they get serious about minimizing their carb intake. (We know diabetes can come and go because pregnant women often develop it temporarily. See below for further info.)
Instead of spending the rest of their lives on medication such as metformin, people are improving their health dramatically by changing what they eat. Instead of avoiding fat, they avoid carbs. This is a lifestyle shift rather than a fad diet. There’s nothing miraculous about it, it just happens to work better for certain people than do other approaches.
DietDoctor.com has compiled a list of physicians who’ve embraced this low carb philosophy. On its website, each doctor’s name and photo is presented. Below, the doctor explains in their own words why they’ve parted ways with mainstream nutritional thinking.
Linda Anegawa, in Hawaii, says: “After a decade of watching patients with chronic disease get sicker with traditional medical advice, discovering the effectiveness of low-carb was a breath of fresh air!”
Blair O’Neill, in Canada, reports: “As an interventional cardiologist for 30 years – and an avid runner and active person – I realized as I aged that eating less and moving more did not work for me or for my patients.”
Mark Cucuzzella, in West Virginia, declares: “As a family physician in the most obese state in the USA, I see the devastation of type 2 diabetes and metabolic disease in almost every hospital patient I see. For six years, I have been using education and a low-carb lifestyle to help these patients get healthier, reduce meds, gain energy, and lose belly fat.”
Navid Mahooti, in Oregon, says low carb, high fat principles “produced such remarkable results in my patients that I completely redefined my scope of practice.”
And Barton Jennings, in Australia, reports that, after adopting a “low-carb, healthy fat lifestyle,” many of his patients “feel better, avoid unnecessary medications and achieve great overall health. My family and I live this way…”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, only 5% of diabetics are Type 1. Because their bodies can’t produce insulin, these people need to get it from an external source, via injections.
Rather than having too little insulin, Type 2 diabetics – 95% of all diabetics – have had so much insulin flooding their system for so long the machinery has broken down. These people are usually overweight because insulin is a growth hormone that instructs our bodies to store fat rather than burn it.
My research has led me to the following understanding:
Minimizing the carbs in our diet therefore seems to be a good idea. Many of us sensibly avoid overdoing the beer (made from wheat, thus producing ‘beer bellies’) and the sweets (sugar & flour).
The problem is that governments and nutritionists continue to recommend multiple servings of other kinds of carbs each day: bread, cereals, rice, pasta, and sugar-laden fruit.
The problem is that we’re still being told to avoid animal fat when there are good reasons to believe our bodies thrive on these fats. Historically speaking, humans have a long familiarity with eggs, meat, butter, and cheese. We’ve been eating those foods forever. On the other hand, margarine and the refined/industrially processed vegetable oils we’ve been advised to use instead of lard (pork fat) and tallow (beef or mutton fat) are historically recent inventions.
One generation’s scientific knowledge can be entirely overturned later. Conversely, hard-earned wisdom is sometimes forgotten, obliterated by fashionable ideas only to be ‘rediscovered’ decades later.
William Banting’s low-carb dietary approach dates back to the 1800s.
The low-carb Atkins diet was developed in America during the 1970s, and gained serious traction around 2000.
Low-carb eating requires willpower but not starvation. Entire aisles in supermarkets are devoted to carb heavy items: breakfast cereal, pasta, rice, cookies, crackers, candy, potato chips – not to mention the bakery section and the sugary juices and sodas.
Some people crave carbs, and report feeling ‘addicted’ to them. Many report that these cravings disappear following some months of low-carb eating. Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams maintains that we have the ability to hack/reprogram our bodies so that we no longer yearn to eat certain foods. He believes this is a more successful strategy than ‘cheat’ days that systematically reinforce our connection to foods we’re trying to avoid.
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Richard David Feinman