Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Ridiculousness of the Diabetes Diet

Well, now that the spring semester at UConn is in full swing, and I'm frequently busy spreading the word that skim milk is the dietary solution to everything, I haven't had time to blog much.  And I definitely haven't had time to put together any type of science-intensive post.  But I've had this one on the brain for a while now, and I think it's time to put it to paper.  Or virtual paper.  And this one really fires me up.  Begin rant...

So last semester in my Medical Nutrition Therapy class, we discussed type 2 diabetes extensively.  That's the type that's acquired later in life because of a shitty diet, not the type that you get when you're younger and require insulin injections.  Type 2 diabetes used to be called "Adult-Onset Diabetes", until it started showing up in younger people, and that name sort of went out the window.  I'd rather they kept the name though; it'd be pretty embarrassing to be a 12-year-old and have adult-onset diabetes wouldn't it?  Maybe that would have helped stress to those kids just how god-awful it is that they have diabetes at such a young age.  But that's neither here nor there.

What I want to talk about today is the standard diabetes diet the conventional wisdom folks recommend.  In case you didn't know, diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism.  When you're diabetic, your body stops responding to insulin, the hormone that normally gets those carbs into your cells so they can be used for energy.  Well diabetics can't process those carbs so well.  As a result, the glucose just hangs out in the bloodstream, and high blood glucose is extremely toxic.  Given the fact that diabetics have to deal with this carbohydrate metabolism issue, it would seem to follow that they should reduce their carbohydrate consumption, right?  Nope.  Not according to the conventional wisdom.  In fact, the standard diabetes diet doesn't reduce carb consumption at all, and in some cases it may even suggest more carbs; they simply recommend that you spread your carb intake evenly throughout the day.  Doesn't make any sense does it??  But why on earth would any sane person not recommend a low-carb diet for diabetics?  Answer:  because if you eat fewer carbs, you have to eat more fat and protein.  And increasing your fat would give you heart disease, something that diabetics are at much higher risk for.

The Diabetes Diet:  eat more bread

This, my friends, is what I like to refer to as the fat hurdle.  This is what prevents well-meaning dietitians and health professionals from recommending what would be a perfectly logical low-carb, higher-fat diet to diabetics.  It's the mistaken idea that fat causes heart disease, the one that I've spoken about a million times on this blog (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).  Yes, some fats do contribute to heart disease; trans-fats in Crisco, omega-6 fats in vegetable oils, maybe excessive factory-farmed animal fat.  But that does NOT mean that we can't increase our healthy fat intake... the types humans have been thriving on for thousands of years, like grass-fed dairy fat, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed meat, wild fish, and avocados!  It's as if dietitians want to recommend a low-carb diet (at least I think they do, it's only logical), but they just can't bring themselves to do it.  God forbid we tell anyone to eat more fat! 

When someone has kidney disease, he or she can't handle a lot of protein, so we reduce their protein intake.  When someone has gall bladder disease, or gall bladder removal, they can't digest fats well, so we reduce their fat intake.  So why in the hell do we not reduce carbohydrate intake when someone is diabetic!?!?  That question deserves so many more alternating exclamation and question marks!  I mean seriously, anyone who recommends a high-carb diet to a diabetic is just not thinking clearly.  This fat hurdle must be pretty frickin' high to be clouding our thoughts to such a ridiculous extent.  Someone oughta point them toward this here blog.

My point with this post is obviously not to try and prove my point scientifically; I've done a bit of that already.  In my opinion, one only needs minimal scientific information to understand my point.  When someone is diabetic and has an inability to metabolize carbohydrates, it is only logical to reduce their carbohydrate intake, right??  So, conventional nutrition and medicine world, cut the shit!!  I'm not saying you need to reduce the carbs to zero... 20-30% of total calories would be fine.  But the 50% or more that you're currently touting... that's just damn stupid.  I think it's time to join the folks in the alternative healthcare realm who have been successfully treating diabetics for years with a low-carb approach.  Please, please, please just get over the fat thing so we can all give people the diet advice they really need!


  1. You might want to check out the T2 diabetes "crash cures". Low carb would bring about symptomatic relief but it seems that it is free fatty acids that cause the disease in the first place.

    1. Thanks for the link. Of course, causing diabetes is something completely different. I'll admit I used to blame it on carbs, but I don't think they're to blame per se. To use the analogy again, kidney patients need to consume low protein diets, but that doesn't mean protein caused their kidney failure. So the same goes with diabetes; carbs aren't necessarily the cause. I have heard that free fatty acids play a role, but to me consuming excess calories seems to be a likely cause too. Stephan Guyenet did a great series on the causes of insulin resistance recently...

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  4. I'm totally agreed with your suggestions and it seems that the balance of glucose is most essential part of the treatment if your are suffering from this evil disease.

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