Anyone who has diabetes has five compelling reasons to eat very little food that is high in carbohydrates. But for years we have been misled.
1. Managing Our Metabolism
One of the strangest things about diabetes is that a low-carb diet is still controversial. Diabetes is clearly a disturbance of carbohydrate metabolism. The cause is an essentially complete lack of your body’s production of insulin if you have type 1 diabetes or by your body’s difficulty in using the insulin that your body produces if you have type 2.
This means it should be obvious that the first thing that we should know about managing our diabetes is how much carbohydrates we can eat. Based on the experiences and testing of Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who lived for 11 years among the Eskimos in Northern Canada, we have known since 1930 that we can thrive on a diet that includes no carbohydrates.
We don’t have to go that far. “There are essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, but there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate,” writes Dr. Richard K. Bernstein in Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars. Still, he refrains from avoiding all carbohydrates.
He concluded that since our prehistoric ancestors consumed some vegetables, “plant foods might well contain essential nutrients that were not yet present in vitamin supplements and had not even been discovered.” So he and his patients eat “small amounts of low-carbohydrate vegetables.”
2. Managing Our Weight
Almost all of us who have type 2 diabetes and even some people who have type 1 diabetes have to struggle with their weight. If we weigh too much, managing our blood sugar is harder.
The most famous weight loss diet started with the book that Dr. Robert Atkins published in 1972. Recently updated as The New Atkins for a New Youby Drs. Eric C. Westman, Stephen D. Phinney, and Jeff S. Volek, the Atkins Diet helped so many people to lose weight that Dr. Robert Atkins is often considered the father of low-carb weight loss dieting.
However, way back in 1884 a German physician named Wilhelm Ebstein set out the scientific and clinical case for using a low-carb high-fat diet for successful weight loss. The so-called Banting Diet that Dr. William Harvey had prescribed may have been the first low-carb diet and it certainly began to sweep England and the rest of Europe after publication of William Banting’s 1864 book, Letter on Corpulence. But Dr. Ebstein recognized that it didn’t provide enough energy for sustained success because it was too low in fat. Dr. Ebstein’s diet — low-carb, high-fat, and moderate protein — is today’s state of the art diet for weight loss.
3. Eliminating the Prescriptions
All drugs can have side effects, and this is especially true with the pills that our doctors prescribe for us to manage type 2 diabetes. The systems and the organs of our bodies are so interconnected that no pill can target just one part of it without having some effect elsewhere. Sometimes the side effects are subtle and affect only a few people, but sometimes they are serious. All of the pills that we take to manage our diabetes are known to have, or are suspected of having, some serious side effects in some people.
That’s the price we have to pay, unless, that is, we follow a low-carb diet. The only other options are as a last resort to have bariatric surgery or go on a starvation diet.
People who have type 1 diabetes have to take insulin shots, of course. But all of us manage the disease better when we limit the carbs in our diet, and those people who have type 1 won’t need to take as much insulin.
4. Breaking the Addiction
When we cut back on carbohydrates we can break our addictions to food. Sugar has been a suspected drug ever since William Dufty wrote Sugar Blues in 1975. We now know that other carbohydrates, particularly wheat and other grains, are also addicting. Being addicted is being in a form of slavery, and we gain our freedom on a low-carb diet.
5. Feeling Better
I know from my own experience of following a low-carb diet continuously since 2007 that it makes me feel better than ever. But fortunately you don’t have to believe any diet advice that you haven’t tested yourselves. When you give low-carb eating a chance, I’m sure that you will not only feel better but you will also manage your metabolism and your weight better than ever. With better blood sugar your doctor will be glad to stop prescribing diabetes pills. You will be free at last.
For years the experts have endangered our health. But that’s not unusual.
In the 1942 classic film “Casablanca” Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains asked Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, “What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?”
“My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.”
“The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”
“I was misinformed.”
We too were misinformed.
See more of my articles about how to manage diabetes:
David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.