Diabetes, It's Not What You Think It Is
“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
Most of us think that diabetes is a disease of sugar metabolism. We are convinced that the primary cause of type II diabetes is eating too much sugar. Yet, when we look at the data, we see several instances of nations that have reduced sugar intake significantly while watching their type II diabetes rates increase. Both Australia and the United Kingdom had this happen over the period from 1980-2004. Why would this be so? The best explanation comes from understanding what blood sugar is created by. Most people imagine that you eat a meal which pushes up your blood sugar. Then this level gradually declines until your next meal, at which point it goes up again. In reality, blood sugar is normally tightly regulated. The body will keep only a small fraction of the available sugar in the blood stream at a given time, regardless of how recent or remote the last meal was. The liver, when functioning normally, reduces its production of sugar for a short period of time after a meal, then ramps up that production again as soon as the meal sugars are moved into storage as glycogen. While the process itself is very complex, the inputs and outputs are easy enough to understand. In type II diabetes, the primary problem is fat metabolism. When your diet is high in fat or your weight is too high, the high levels of circulating fats in the blood create resistance to insulin in the liver. This keeps the liver from ramping down its own production of sugar. When scientists study type II diabetes in the laboratory, the easiest and fastest way to make any mammal diabetic is to give it a very high fat diet (more than 40% fat). This has been done in rats, mice and monkeys. It has also been done in humans. You probably know some of them. How do you fix it? You get rid of the fat. Just last week I saw a patient who came to see me first in March. At that time, her hemoglobin A1C was 12.3, more than double the high normal level. She had been on drugs for diabetes for years with no real benefit. We changed her lifestyle by putting her on a high glycemic index, low fat diet. Yes, I meant to say HIGH glycemic index diet, it’s not a typo. On the highest glycemic index diet we can think of, white potatoes alone as the source of calories, and with no change in medication, she saw astounding results. Her hemoglobin A1C dropped to 6.4, nearly normal. Her fatty liver resolved. She lost over 30 pounds and feels better than she has in decades. How did it work? Well, we removed the high circulating fatty acids. Her triglycerides dropped from 1100 to 180, so the liver could ramp down its production of sugar. Most type II diabetics can get the same results. We can help, but please don’t try this on your own. If you have diabetes and this is not handled correctly, it can make you very sick. Always consult your physician prior to making these sorts of changes.