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Low-Carb : Diabetes


From Living Low-Carb

Before the advent of low-fat diets, diabetes was treated with a relatively low-carbohydrate diet to stabilize blood sugar. Then the thinking changed, and diabetics, both Type 1 (juvenile) and Type II (adult onset), were encouraged to eat some sugar and especially more starch--which of course turns into sugar in the body. In the low-fat era, diabetes has become almost epidemic. Perhaps most alarming, childhood diabetes has increased by 20 percent in the last decade.

One man. Dr. Richard Bernstein, has more or less single-handedly reversed the trend and steered diabetics -- he himself is a Type I (juvenile onset) diabetic -- in the direction of low carbs, very often using diet alone to normalize blood sugar.

My son Ben became a Type I diabetic at 29 -- probably the result of a viral infection -- and spent more than a year on a diet as close to zero carbs as possible. Although he was producing very little insulin on his own, he was able to avoid taking insulin shots and managed his diabetes entirely through diet and supplements, under the guidance of Dr. Ron Rosedale. The hope was that by giving his pancreas a long vacation, it would recover enough to make more insulin. Although Dr. Rosedale has a young patient who's done exactly that, Ben wasn't quite so lucky. Now he takes a very small amount of insulin and still keeps his carbs very low. So far, his general health is excellent, and there's been no further deterioration in his condition.

Other diabetics swear by a low-carb diet based on the Glycemic Index -- though Dr. Bernstein remains completely opposed to the idea, on the grounds that all carbs are contraindicated for diabetics, whether they raise blood sugar quickly or over a longer period of time.

In a fascinating study of 157 Type II diabetics presented at the 1999 annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, a low-carb, high-fat diet (50 percent fat, of which a whopping 90 percent was saturated) produced an average 40-pound weight loss in a year. All of the patients had been on the American Diabetes Association recommended diet for a year before starting the low-carb diet, which they also followed for a year. On the low-carb diet, most (90 pcercent) of them achieved ADA target levels for HDL (the good cholesterol, which increased), LDL, and triglycerides (both of which decreased). As Dr. James Hays, an endocrinologist and Director of the Limestone Medical Center in Wilmington, Delaware, noted: "If you have a diet that results in weight loss, lower cholesterol, and a better lipid profile, eventually everybody will be eating that way. It's going to come whether we like it or not." It should also be noted that these patients were not in ketosis.

If you're diabetic, or have diabetes in your family, it's very important to read Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution. Even if you're not diabetic, this is an excellent book on low-carb dieting -- and you may save yourself a case of adult-onset diabetes by following his guidelines before you need them.

June, 76

For 33 years now, June has been a Type I diabetic, trying to control her diabetes through diet and a small amount of insulin. For the last four years, she's been using Dr. Pilchard Bernstein's plan (see page 91), and she now has normal blood sugars, at last. June uses 6 of her daily 30 grams of carbohydrate for breakfast, 12 each for lunch and dinner. She's evolved her own version of the Bernstein diet, adding a few low-carb fruits and some carbs from soy flour. She doesn't worry about protein or fat, just eats what she wants outside the carbohydrate restriction. Sometimes she thinks she should be worrying about saturated fat, but her very high HDL -- 109 -- reassures her about that.

She's rigorous about exercise, not only walking but using the exercycle, weights, and stretching. Her lineup of supplements: vitamin C, E, zinc, calcium, and gingerroot.

Although she finds some things about this regime hard -- having to plan ahead constantly, keeping protein on hand. cooking from scratch, and having to eat carefully at friends' houses -- in general she's happy with how she feels and especially with her normal blood sugars. She's free from cravings now except for bread, which she sometimes eats in the form of crusts at restaurants, taking a little extra insulin to cope with the extra carbs. Because she's so pleased with her health status, she almost never strays from the diet. And what does her doctor think? She doesn't have a professional to advise her about diabetes: she's been her own doctor and the results are so impressive many a professional would be envious.

And what does she actually eat? Breakfast is the big variety meal: it could be "cereal"' in the form of Bran-a-Crisp crackers crumbled with some nuts and moistened with a half-cream, half-water mixture, or cold cuts and Wasa crackers, smoked salmon and cream cheese, fried eggs and soy bread toast, or her own homemade soy-bran muffins.

Lunch might be a hot dog on a low-carb whole wheat tortilla (see page 102) plus a lettuce salad. Dinner one night began with an asparagus salad followed by a pseudo-pizza (Italian sausage, cheese, and mushrooms on a low-carb tortilla) with 1/2 cup of strawberries perked up with a bit of Hawaiian papaya and a sprinkle of rum. For snacks. June chooses nuts, Almondina cookies, crispbread and peanut butter, low-carb fruit and cheese, or -- big treat -- low-carb ice cream.

This way of eating is so satisfying and so successfully controls her diabetes that of course June plans to eat low-carb the rest of her life -- cheating isn't even a possibility.

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