Type 2 diabetics are overweight to begin with and, as you have learned, being overweight is the significant causative factor in diabetes. Because insulin therapy results in further weight gain, how could giving more insulin or oral medication to force the already overworked pancreas to produce more insulin be a good thing? A vicious cycle begins that usually causes diabetics to require more and more insulin or other medications as they put on the pounds. On their initial visit to me, patients often report their sugars are impossible to control in spite of massive doses of insulin, which are typically combined with oral medication. These patients are significantly overmedicated but are still overweight and eating unhealthfully. It is like they are walking around with a live hand grenade, ready to explode at any minute.
Excess insulin in the same environment as excess weight, high cholesterol, hypertension, and inflammation from inferior micronutrient exposure promotes hardening of the arteries, which will eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that high levels of insulin in the blood promote hardening of the arteries even in nondiabetics. In diabetics, the effects of excess insulin are even worse. In a study of 154 treated diabetics, blood vessel disease was greatest in those with the highest levels of insulin. It made no difference whether the insulin was self-produced in the body or taken by injection. Quite a few studies illustrate the dangers of giving insulin to type 2 diabetics. When these patients are given insulin—compared with those given an oral antidiabetes medication, the risk of death from heart attacks tripled.
The bottom line is that insulin use creates a vicious cycle that cuts years off a person’s life. Insulin both blocks cholesterol removal and delivers cholesterol to cells in the blood vessel walls, increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Almost 80 percent of all deaths among diabetics are due to hardening of the arteries, particularly coronary artery disease. Many diabetics turn to their physician for guidance, but oftentimes the well-meaning doctor only worsens the problem by prescribing more insulin. The extra insulin does not just cause heart disease, weight gain, and the eventual worsening of the diabetes; as with type 1 diabetes, insulin can increase the risk of cancer as well. Type 2 diabetic patients exposed to insulin or sulfonylureas, which push the pancreas to produce more insulin, have significantly increased incidence of cancer at multiple sites.
Many other unfavorable side effects occur from using diabetes medications. For example, medications such as insulin and thiazolidinediones like Actos and Avandia not only cause weight gain and leg swelling but also, as reported in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, have been shown to dramatically increase a diabetic’s risk of developing macular edema, a serious eye disease. Recently, a study published in the British Medical Journal examining over ninety thousand diabetics demonstrated a significantly higher risk of heart failure and all-cause mortality (death) in diabetic patients prescribed sulfonylureas. Sulfonylureas are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for diabetes. A recent retrospective study, reported at the 2012 annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, reviewed these widely prescribed diabetic drugs in 23,915 patients with type 2 diabetes on monotherapy (one medication only). It reported the death rates on patients taking glipizide, glyburide, or glimepirmide (all sulfonylurea drugs) and found they had a 58 to 68 percent increase in all-cause mortality compared to patients taking only metformin. This study may have under-represented the dangers since it only followed the patients for 2.2 years.
Clearly our present dependency on drugs to control diabetes without an emphasis on dietary and exercise interventions is promoting diabetic complications and premature death in millions of people all over the world.
The tendency to throw drugs at every medical condition is the problem with medicine today. Physicians prescribe drugs in an attempt to lower dangerously high blood sugar, risky high cholesterol, and damaging high blood pressure levels typically seen in diabetics, since these high levels can lead to further damage or premature death. Unfortunately, treating diabetes with medication gives patients a false sense of security because they mistakenly think their somewhat controlled glucose levels mean they are healthy. Whether patients have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or any other risk factor, the use of medication takes the emphasis away from the complete overhaul of the lifestyle and diet style that is absolutely essential to save their life. Going to doctors and getting a pill for every issue has a subconscious effect to avert personal responsibility, and the motivation for patients to earn back their health is lessened. This provides diabetics (and heart patients) with the justification to continue with the same disease-causing diet and lifestyle that led to the development of their condition in the first place, while falsely believing they are receiving significant protection.
What patients (and many physicians) do not understand is their “controlled” diabetes continues to damage their organs and heart. Inevitably, the diabetes worsens, tragic complications develop, and patients die much too soon. Eighty percent of adults with diabetes die of heart attacks and strokes. Tragically, much of this suffering is unnecessary because diabetes and its complications can be avoided.
What’s worse is that physicians often advise diabetics to learn to live with and manage their diabetes because they say it cannot be healed or cured. Type 2 diabetics who adopt a healthy nutritional approach can defeat diabetes and achieve excellent health. That’s diabetes-free for life. Almost all of my type 2 diabetic patients are weaned off insulin within the first few weeks, and thanks to excellent nutritional habits, they have much lower blood sugar than when they were on insulin. Stopping insulin also makes it easier to lose weight.
What’s a Doctor to Do?
Conventional physicians specializing in diabetes are in a bind. They know that high blood sugar levels create problems—not just by stressing the heart but also by aging the eyes and kidneys, leading to devastating complications such as kidney failure and blindness. They want to prescribe aggressive insulin therapy to decrease patients’ blood sugar. The problem is, they also are aware that the extra insulin accelerates hardening of the arteries (which leads to heart attacks) and weight gain (which eventually makes patients more diabetic). Tightening blood sugar control with insulin is risky business. In fact, studies that follow patients who carefully monitor their glucose level, adjusting their medications precisely to maintain the most favorable levels, show that these people have increased mortality. They do not do better. The only way to beat diabetes is to get thin, eat right, and use less medication. The increased use of medications is to blame when diabetics attempt to maintain lower glucose readings and then die younger.
On February 6, 2008, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute stopped the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes study when results showed that intensive treatment of diabetics increases the risk of dying compared to patients who are treated less aggressively. When you read the comments of physicians and researchers discussing these results, it is apparent that they still do not understand why this occurred. Physicians are still looking for the magic combination of drugs to treat diabetes. They still do not understand that drugs cannot effectively treat this disease, which is merely a side effect of an unhealthy lifestyle and diet. Giving stronger and stronger drugs—which drive up appetite, cause more weight gain, and rack up other detrimental side effects—will never be the right approach for type 2 diabetes. No medications can do what a dietary and lifestyle overhaul can.
Most physicians would likely agree that weight reduction and high-nutrient eating is the most successful route to health, but they do not know much about it or how to motivate their patients to change, and they doubt their patients would do it. Certainly, in rare instances when physician interventions are successful at achieving significant weight reductions, the outcomes are invariably positive. We have already discussed that patients with diabetes who undergo gastric bypass surgery typically see their diabetes resolve. Plus nutrition interventions that control and limit calories have been effective for reversing diabetes too, enabling many patients to discontinue medications.
Preventing and reversing diabetes is not all about weight loss. The nutritional features of this diet have profound effects on improving pancreatic function and lowering insulin resistance over and above what could be accomplished with weight loss alone. The increased fiber, micronutrients, and stool bulk, plus the cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory effects of this high-micronutrient eating style, have radical effects on type 2 diabetes. Scores of my patients have been able to restore their glucose levels to the normal range without any further need for medications. They have become nondiabetic. Plus, one’s blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall health and vitality are radically improved or normalized. Even my thin, type 1, insulin-dependent diabetic patients are able to reduce their insulin requirements by about half. They experience greatly improved glucose control and stabilized highs and lows, which protects them from the typical dangers that are almost inevitable to long-term diabetics who eat more conventionally.
Sadly, the ADA as well as most dieticians and physicians offer dangerous advice to diabetics. They provide minimal guidance on weight reduction and cholesterol lowering, and worse yet, the diets they recommend are not successful for helping diabetics lose weight and keep it off. Typical diabetes care is focused on the wrong thing—monitoring blood sugar to determine when it is necessary to change insulin dosages or adjust other medications.
Instead of motivating excellent nutrition to prevent disease, the ADA reinforces our disease-causing food habits. For example, here are some statements from the ADA website:
Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. They are no more “off limits” to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes.
Fact: For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels normal. Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one.
This advice is flat-out wrong. Case in point with the latter fact: as diabetics are given inadequate dietary advice, placed on medications that cause weight gain and push the failing pancreas to work harder, and generally guided to mismanage their diabetes, the result will of course be more medication and the eventual need for insulin. This is simply drug-promoting double-talk that makes medications the answer over effective and proven lifestyle interventions. The ADA medical advisory committee states: “It is nearly impossible to take very obese people and get them to lose significant weight. So rather than specifying an amount of weight loss, we are targeting metabolic control.” This is doublespeak for “Our recommended diets don’t work, so we just give medications and watch patients deteriorate.”
Physicians engaging in such conventional medical practice are endangering their patients’ lives. Instead, they should always offer the option of treating diabetes with effective nutritional and dietary changes. The problem is that most physicians don’t really understand the proper nutritional recommendations to make.
How can diabetics safely lower the high blood sugar levels that are slowly destroying theirbodies? How can they lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, lose weight, and avoid taking dangerous drugs? The most effective glucose-lowering drugs are also the most dangerous in the long term.
The best medicine for diabetics is a high-nutrient, lower-calorie diet and exercise, not drugs. This is the only approach that lowers cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, and lowers blood pressure as it drops weight and blood glucose. High-nutrient plant foods also have an anti-inflammatory effect on blood vessels and organs. This enables self-repair mechanisms that are essentially disabled on a low-nutrient diet. This dietary approach has helped thousands of diabetics reduce or eliminate the need for insulin and other medications. It has changed the entire course of their health and longevity through the foods they eat.
The bottom line is this: you can get rid of your diabetes, not just “manage it.”
Do not rely on standard drug methods to treat diabetes. With no medication to cover up their dietary failings, diabetics will be compelled to eat properly and exercise more to control their elevated glucose. This aggressive approach based on nutrient-rich foods is the most effective way to reverse this dangerous condition. Learning about the nutrients inside these healing foods is an important step in defeating diabetes.
Your Health Future (H) = Nutrients (N) / Calories (C)
A career in medicine is so much more rewarding when patients actually get well. How often does the physician say to his patient, “Congratulations, you do not need drugs for your high blood pressure and cholesterol anymore. You did it! You removed your risk factors because you are healthier!” Or, “Congratulations, your stress test has normalized.” Or, “Your carotid ultrasound shows no visible plaque anymore.” These are typical statements I make every day in my office. It is exciting to see people recover their health.
Unfortunately, too many people in this profession do not give their patients the opportunity to get healthy. Imagine if all doctors told their patients that diet and exercise are more powerful than drugs and they were adamant about compliance. Instead, most physicians have the assumption that the effort is too great; that patients are not willing eat right, exercise, and get slim; and that drugs are the only answer. They prescribe drugs and tout them as the only viable option and then watch patients’ health deteriorate. Often they don’t know there is another, more effective option. In all of this, the public loses. So much of our conventional medical system is based on ignorance. Nutritional medicine, when practiced properly, is much safer and more effective than conventional medicine.
A medical diagnosis such as diabetes is an opportunity for physicians to teach patients what they are doing to hurt themselves and how the American diet is disease causing. It is an opportunity to motivate them to earn back superior health. On every visit, the nutritionally astute physician should review the patient’s list of medications and gradually be able to reduce dosages or discontinue medications.
Medications are an insufficient and ineffective intervention for the chronic diseases that have been created by bad lifestyle and dietary choices. A considerable part of the problem is bad information. Inappropriate diets of all descriptions flood the marketplace, and traditional dietary teachings are riddled with myths and inaccuracies. The failure of conventional dietary programs to achieve longterm weight reduction merely reflects the weakness of the advice given and the poor educational and motivational techniques offered. This lack of awareness—even among health professionals—does not weaken the science, logic, or effectiveness of utilizing superior nutrition and lifestyle interventions as the primary therapeutic modality, however.
Following a correct diet and exercise plan as a remedy should not be labeled alternative or complementary medicine. It is simply the way all properly educated doctors should be practicing. Everything else should be called malpractice medicine. Offering patients drugs and surgical interventions without informing them that, for most diseases, nutritional excellence and exercise are safer and more effective in the long run is not adequate informed consent to the use of medications. The risks of medicines are downplayed and their supposed benefits greatly exaggerated by a medical profession and drug industry who offer drugs as the panacea to all that ails us.
Most often alternative, or complementary, medicine offers the same treatment mentality as the physicians focused on dispensing drugs. Rather than dealing with the dietary and lifestyle factors that caused the condition, alternative physicians are also offering some magic in the form of an herbal pill or IV vitamin drip. Natural herbs or other modalities can sometimes offer similar effects as drugs. There are plenty of natural substances that have therapeutic effects, but they do not deal with the cause of the problem, so their benefits are limited. A diet-induced disease needs a dietary solution, not more treatment options. It is typical to find an alternative physician offering chelation, IV nutrients, hormones, and an expensive assortment of supplements and remedies while the patient remains fifty pounds overweight. Effective weight reduction will not be achieved. Remedies can change the expression of symptoms, but they never make patients well. They just cause people to become more dependent on doctors and their remedies. Physicians and consumers are quick to embrace doctorrecommended medical interventions while they ignore simple, inexpensive, and dramatically effective lifestyle interventions. Optimal lifestyle medicine would free these people from needing medical care. They need less and less therapy and medical intervention. This path of advice is not a moneymaker for the professional. There is no huge economic incentive to promote the basics of good health.
The problem with lifestyle medicine today is the varying opinions and dietary programs that are popular but not ideal. These in turn result in a few studies showing limited effectiveness—all of which help the current medical approach make its case for prescriptions.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if we all could agree on one program? If there was one program that was most logical, most effective therapeutically, and beat out all the others when subjected to scientific scrutiny and long-term evaluation, it would change the health conversation radically, and all doctors and healers would naturally begin embracing such a protocol. I have been developing, teaching, and fine-tuning this program over the last twenty years. Studies continue to show it can meet any scrutiny and testing. It is ready for implementation and documentation. It works effectively for a surprisingly wide array of chronic diseases and does not have to be overly complicated. As we’ve explored, significant research already supports its use, and further research is presently in process. Test it for yourself, and you will be shocked with its effectiveness.