Diabetes Bullshit

10 11 2010

I’m not a doctor, and have no academic qualifications to give nutritional or medical advice. However, I maintain that most people who have such qualifications give shitty advice. The typical advice given to pre-diabetic and (type II) diabetic patients is severely flawed. One day, I was talking to a co-worker and learned that he has type II diabetes. I was absolutely floored to learn that he’s “not allowed” to eat red meat or anything with a lot of fat (or maybe it was saturated fat). The only basis for this I can possibly imagine is that statistically, diabetes and heart disease go hand-in-hand, and it is commonly though erroneously believed that diets high in saturated fat cause heart disease. This erroneous belief is called the Lipid Hypothesis. The main problem with advising diabetic or pre-diabetic patients to avoid fat is that doing so can realistically only be achieved by eating carbohydrates, and carbs are what cause the problem in the first place. In the long term, diets high in carbohydrates cause the pancreas to frequently secrete a lot of insulin. Insulin does the important job of preventing blood sugar from getting dangerously high by telling the cells of the body to convert sugar in the blood to fat for storage. Over time, frequent high levels of insulin cause insulin resistance in the body. When insulin resistance reaches a certain threshold, a person has type II diabetes. Once a person has insulin resistance, it becomes more important for them to restrict their intake of carbohydrates because the body is less able to deal with them, and dangerous blood sugar levels become possible.

Now, let’s look at some bullshit. First we have 12 Common Diabetes Myths from MSNBC:

Myth #1: People with diabetes can’t eat anything sweet.

Relax—despite what you may have heard, a piece of cake or a couple of cookies won’t cause a health crisis. In fact, sweets can be eaten in moderation by people with type 2 diabetes, if eaten as part of a healthy meal plan and combined with exercise, according to the American Diabetes Association.

I would not trust the American Diabetes Association. I associate them with the American Heart Associate, known for endorsing carb-heavy grain products like Cheerios. Anything that raises blood sugar is potentially dangerous for a diabetic.

Myth #2: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

No, chocaholics aren’t destined to develop diabetes. The disease is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. And the high level of sugar in someone’s bloodstream is not the same thing as the refined stuff you buy in bags from the supermarket. That said, being overweight can increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and eating a lot of sugar can pack on the pounds. If your family has a history of diabetes, eating healthfully and exercising regularly is recommended to keep everyone’s weight in check. For those who already have diabetes, those same things will help them manage the disease.

This is complete bullshit. Eating sugar causes diabetes. It’s not “the” cause, and eating some specific amount of sugar will not necessarily cause the disease, but dietary sugar requires insulin production which can lead to insulin resistance. What motivation does MSNBC have to lie about this? What else can I think?

Myth #3: People with diabetes must eat a special diet.

A healthy diet for someone with diabetes is the same as a healthy diet for anyone else. How does that look? A wholesome meal plan is based on whole-grain foods, lean protein, vegetables, and fruit. Such a diet is low in fat (particularly saturated and trans fat), salt, and simple sugars.

This is semi-bullshit. It is far more important for diabetics to watch what they eat. A non-diabetic can’t go wrong on a diet fit for a diabetic, but you can get away with a lot more when your metabolic system still works. As to the content of a “wholesome meal plan”, I argue that it is not necessary that a diet be low in fat at all. Saturated fats are not bad, though trans fats are. Whole-grain foods are recommended because, as I said above, avoiding fat necessitates carb consumption and complex carbs are less bad than simple ones, because they take more time to break down into glucose, so the spike in blood sugar is less severe. If you avoid grains and limit carbs (perhaps be eating tasty animal fats), you shouldn’t have to worry about this.

Myth #4: You can catch diabetes from someone else.

Who believes this?

Myth #5: There’s only one dangerous kind of diabetes.

Or this? Most people have probably heard of type I and type II diabetes, so they know there are at least two. They’re both dangerous.

Myth #6: Only people with diabetes need insulin.

Or this? Type I diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to secrete insulin, thereby rendering survival difficult for the patient without insulin therapy. I learned this as a kid, so I assume people know this and if you know this you know that we all need insulin. I was shocked to learn that people with type II diabetes are sometimes treated with insulin, but that’s another story for another time.

Myth #7: Nothing can be done to prevent diabetes complications.

At this point I think they’re just making up myths. If doctors make any recommendations at all it’s implied that following them will cause an improvement, prevent complications, or at least slow down the worsening. However, conventional recommendations and insulin therapy do not help.

Myth #8: Only overweight people get diabetes.

You don’t have to be fat to have diabetes, but obesity and type II diabetes are caused by the same thing.

Myth #9: People with diabetes shouldn’t exercise.

Do people believe this? I’ve read that small amounts of exercise can reduce insulin resistance, which is a very good thing.

Myth #10: People who follow their treatment plan never have high blood sugar readings.

This might be true if their treatment plan didn’t include “eat carbs.”

Myth #11: It’s possible to have “just a touch” or “a little” diabetes.

I disagree, or agree, whatever. One can be diagnosed as pre-diabetic and diabetes can be more or less severe. It’s really a matter of how severe your insulin resistance is.

Myth #12: People diagnosed with diabetes are doomed.

With the pitiful state of medical ignorance, this is mostly true.

If you want to hear this stuff from an actual physician, please check out the blog of Michael R. Eades, M.D.