Newsletter 20, March 2009
This issue of the Good Diet Good Health Newsletter includes...
- Diabetes diet - is low fat/high carb or high fat/low carb best?
- Did you know?
- Your successes, requests and questions
- Tell us what you think
- Visit our newsletter archive
- Free resources
1) Diabetes diet - is low fat/high carb or high fat/low carb best?
If you are diabetic then it is more than likely that the advice you have been given revolves around maximising so-called complex or low glycemic index carbohydrates (those that cause your blood sugar to rise fast) and reducing fat in your diet. This is because diabetics have a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which is widely believed to be caused by raised cholesterol levels from fat in the diet.
However, studies increasingly show that the fat-raises-cholesterol-and-causes-heart-disease theory is wrong, and that carbohydrates rather than fat cause the damage that leads to heart disease. So why is it, then, that low carbohydrate diets are not recommended to diabetics? The fewer carbohydrates that diabetics eat, the lower their requirement for oral hypoglycemic drugs or insulin to normalise their blood sugar levels. Why encourage carbohydrates when it is the carbohydrates that are not only the immediate problem, but the main cause of the long term complications of diabetes, as well?
The trouble is, it takes many years for long-held beliefs to change in medical and government health advice circles. This is especially the case where these beliefs are constantly reinforced by the drug companies and agricultural and food manufacturing industries, who have much to lose should healthy eating advice change from the status quo.
Nutritional medicine experts such as Dr Richard Bernstein, Dr Robert Atkins and Weston Price have long maintained that type 2 diabetics can often be cured and taken off their diabetes medications completely by following a low carb diet, but they have largely been ignored by mainstream medicine. Now, however, the weight of scientific evidence supporting what they have been saying is fast becoming overwhelming. Although this is unlikely to translate into official changes in dietary advice for diabetics for some time to come, many diabetics may now feel there is sufficient information on the issues around low fat versus low carb diets for them to make their own informed choice about the diet they should follow. It is important, though, to carry out any changes in diet in consultation with your doctor, as you may need to reduce or even stop your insulin or other diabetes medications.
If you or someone you know is diabetic, particularly type 2, and you want to know more about recent advances in understanding about using low carb diets in diabetes, there are some useful links to start you off on my information and support page (scroll down the Reference, Research and Articles section to the ninth entry Nutrition and Metabolism Society).
Remember: it's your body, and your right to make an informed decision on how to deal with your diabetes. Challenging what your doctor or other sources of dietary advice say and seeking out the information you need can be daunting. But perhaps the following might help spur you into action:
Dr Bernstein, diabetes doctor and a diabetic himself, writes in Diabetes Health of his belief that the only way to keep insulin levels down and blood sugars normal is to reduce fast-acting carbs such as bread, pasta and sugar. He says that the American Diabetes Association does not support this approach because they maintain that 'diabetics are either too stupid or lazy to follow it'. He also suggests there is another institutional problem with normalising blood sugars via a low carb diet: doctors' fears of having a patient die from hypoglycemia, for which they could be sued. So doctors might prefer to keep their patients' blood sugars unnaturally high. If they die of heart attacks, or of other disease, as often happens, they won't get sued for that.
Dr Mary Vernon, co-author of 'Atkins Diabetes Revolution' says on her website that she used to tell her diabetes patients what she had been told to tell them in medical school but it wasn't helping. This made her wonder whether the advice was wrong, so she went back and looked at the biochemistry. This reminded her of a fact which has long been known, but which often gets forgotten. Insulin's primary job is to store fat and block fat burning. What her patients were doing on their high carb diets was to make large amounts of insulin, store fat very effectively and gain weight hand fast. So she started advising them to eat low carb and they lost weight and improved their blood sugar levels tremendously. The news got around and soon she started getting referrals from other physicians whenever they had patients with metabolic problems.
A low carbing diabetic who contacted me recently told me:
"I get so cross that all my current ills are due to the high carb low fat diets that the doctors had me following. I followed them to the letter but my diabetes etc got steadily worse with all the nasty complications. Every time I had a blood test I was told I was not in control, I told them I followed the eating plans their nutritionalist gave me but they just basically called me a liar! Now I am low carbing and suddenly the blood test that shows how well your control is over a 12 week period came back at 6, it seems 5 to 7 is normal. I told them I am low carbing and proud of it and the nurse shocked me to the core by saying "I thought so, it is the only way you could get those results!". So they do know it works but they still push the high carb low fat diets!"
And here's what another diabetic told me about her success with a low carb diet:
"I was a Type 2 diabetic but two years ago the hospital were very worried about my blood sugars and said in 3 months time if things did not change I would have to start insulin shots. I said hold on as they said losing weight would help. I knew that in the 70s the diet had worked but I did not stick with it. This time I started at the same time that I got a new man in my life. He has been supportive and a carb guru counting up everything and being strong when I felt like bingeing. I had the tests done at the end of the three months and they kept me on the tablets... 3 more months and a stone of weight loss my tests came back in the high normal range and was taken off tablets and was then on diet control. Just this week I went in for my checkup test results and absolutely every reading was in the mid to low normal ranges. Including cholesterol... don't eat fat they say!!! I thrive on it! No cream or butter they say... that is my sweeties!!! and I came from 18.7 stone to just 14.10 this morning and I did not diet over Christmas. I go off the diet about every six weeks or for a special holiday or occasion. Yet I am right back on it and with the weight loss, the nil diabetes tests, and a new wardrobe about every six months, I find my energy level is higher and I love to walk. I have CFS and S.A.D.D. and the weight loss has helped in every aspect of my life and I do mean every aspect."
2) Did You Know?
Did you know:
- Apple peel contains three-quarters of the beneficial dietary fibre in the apple
- Apple peel also contains most of the natural antioxidants responsible for apples' anti-cancer effects
- Apple peel can also be contaminated with pesticides, so wash apples well or better, get organic ones.
3) Your Successes, Requests And Questions
This is your spot. Whether it's your dietary success story, a request to cover a particular topic in a future newsletter or a question you would like answered, we would love to hear from you. Please do contact us.
Here is a question we answered recently:
- Q My husband is diabetic and has no gall bladder. So he needs the low GI diet but cannot tolerate a lot of beans and hard to digest vegetables. Is there a solution for this?
- A I should make it clear that I am not a medical person and cannot therefore advise on what your husband should eat or not. However, I do read very many books and medical papers on the subject of nutrition and diets and hope I can point you in the right direction so that you can check things out for yourself.
Firstly, I think you are right to say that, as a diabetic, your husband needs a low GI diet. By this I mean a diet focusing on foods which don't cause his blood sugar to spike. This could be a so-called low GI diet, but it could equally mean a low carb diet.
The gall bladder makes bile which is what helps to digest fats. As I understand it, you just have to be careful with fatty foods for a while but then your body begins to adjust. I imagine your husband would have been given some information about this when he had it removed?
Beans are a food that many people find they do not tolerate well, but then again I think it's something you can build your tolerance up to. I was not aware that many other vegetables are particularly hard to digest - as far as I know, it's more a question of getting used to having more fibre moving through your gut than not being able to digest them (unless your husband has some extra digestive problem, such as coeliac (common in diabetics but very often undiagnosed) or low stomach acid etc.)
Anyway, you don't have to eat beans at all on a low GI diet if you don't want to. It's perfectly acceptable to get all your protein from meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. Vegetables and salads should be an important part of anyone's diet (unless they have a specific problem with them) but you can still do a low GI (or low carb) diet without eating large quantities of them if you really have a problem with them. Have you had a look at the low GI (and the low carb) menu plans on my site? These will give you an idea of whether your husband would feel able to tolerate a low GI (or low carb) diet.
By the way, if your husband has a problem with the 'bulk' of vegetables, have you tried juicing some of his vegetables, so that he gets the nutrients without the bulk?
Let me know what you think and feel free to ask further questions.
5) Tell Us What You Think
Your opinions matter to us. If there is something you particularly like or don't like about our newsletter or website, please let us know.
6) Visit Our Newsletter Archive
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7) Free Resources
With best wishes for your continued good health
Founder Director, GoodDietGoodHealth.com
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