Yet Another Silly Study About White Rice!

If you look at arti­cles about East Asian coun­tries in issues of Nation­al Geo­graph­ic from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, you will notice two things. One is that many of the peo­ple in East Asia were eat­ing a lot of white rice. The oth­er is that only the rich peo­ple and the sumo wrestlers were over­weight. That’s because the rich peo­ple and the sumo wrestlers were eat­ing some­thing besides rice and veg­eta­bles.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Yet Anoth­er Sil­ly Study About White Rice!”

Low-Fat, High-Carb Diets Reverse Insulin Resistance

Dr. George Lund­berg, the for­mer edi­tor-in-chief of JAMA, gra­cious­ly invit­ed me to coau­thor this edi­to­r­i­al on how starchy, low-fat diets reverse insulin resis­tance!

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Low-Fat, High-Carb Diets Reverse Insulin Resis­tance”

Peace on Earth, Even Though War Sometimes Cures Diabetes

Dur­ing the Siege of Paris in 1870, a French phar­ma­cist named Bauchar­dat noticed that the health of dia­bet­ics was improv­ing while every­one else was suf­fer­ing as a result of food short­ages. That’s because the most com­mon form of dia­betes is type 2 dia­betes, which the French call dia­bète gras, or fat dia­betes. Type 2 dia­betes rep­re­sents the body’s attempts to resist gain­ing too much weight on a fat­ten­ing diet. If the weight gain is solved by eat­ing few­er calo­ries, then the type 2 dia­betes improves.

World War I pro­vid­ed insight into anoth­er way to deal with type 2 dia­betes. Even though Den­mark was neu­tral dur­ing the war, its grain sup­ply had been cut in half by the Atlantic Block­ade. To pre­vent the grain short­ages from caus­ing wide­spread star­va­tion in Den­mark, the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment devel­oped a rationing plan. Instead of peo­ple feed­ing the avail­able grain to ani­mals and then eat­ing the ani­mals, the gov­ern­ment decreed that most of the food ani­mals should be slaugh­tered imme­di­ate­ly and the grain be fed direct­ly to the peo­ple. It also decreed that grain should not be used to make alco­hol. The Danes could eat as much bread and pota­toes and cab­bage as they want­ed; but their intake of meats, fats, and alco­hol was severe­ly restrict­ed. Not only did this rationing plan pre­vent star­va­tion, it improved the over­all health of the Dan­ish pop­u­la­tion so much that Den­mark enjoyed the low­est record­ed death rate in its his­to­ry.

I don’t know how much of the low­er mor­tal­i­ty in Den­mark dur­ing the war was due to a decrease in the rate of dia­betes specif­i­cal­ly and how much to a low­er risk of heart attack or stroke among non­di­a­bet­ics. All of those dis­eases result from the same cause, which is a rich, fat­ty diet. For­tu­nate­ly, I do have data on how wartime rationing affect­ed the risk of death from dia­betes in Eng­land and Wales dur­ing the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.


Notice that the risk of dia­betes went up dur­ing times of peace and pros­per­i­ty and dropped like a stone dur­ing wartime rationing. It stayed low dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, when many peo­ple sim­ply couldn’t afford to overeat. The effect of dietary changes was so pow­er­ful that it com­plete­ly obscured the impact of the intro­duc­tion of insulin ther­a­py in the ear­ly 1920s. That’s because the most com­mon form of dia­betes is type 2 dia­betes, which results from eat­ing a fat­ten­ing diet. Less than 10% of dia­betes cas­es result from fail­ure of the pan­creas to pro­duce insulin.

Low-carb gurus keep telling me that a diet based on grains caus­es obe­si­ty and dia­betes. It’s true that the low-carb diets seem to pro­vide some short-term ben­e­fit for dia­bet­ics. Depriv­ing a per­son of car­bo­hy­drates does make high blood sug­ar go down imme­di­ate­ly, even if makes the dia­betes worse in the long run. If the low-carb diet sup­press­es the person’s appetite enough to cause weight loss, the dia­betes could improve. How­ev­er, this improve­ment would be due to weight loss, not to eat­ing fat and pro­tein instead of car­bo­hy­drates. At the same time, the low-carb diets pro­vide an over­load of fat and pro­tein, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly bad for peo­ple with dia­betes because they are so prone to heart and kid­ney prob­lems. The heavy load of ani­mal pro­tein in low-carb diets would also pro­mote osteo­poro­sis and can­cer, but those prob­lems might not show up imme­di­ate­ly.

The low-carb gurus ignore an obvi­ous fact: dia­betes and many oth­er chron­ic dis­eases are rare in pop­u­la­tions that eat a diet that’s heav­i­ly based on grains or oth­er starchy sta­ples, such as pota­toes. Dia­betes is com­mon only in soci­eties that base their diet heav­i­ly on ani­mal prod­ucts. When a pop­u­la­tion shifts from an ani­mal-based diet to a diet based on grains and oth­er starchy sta­ples, such as pota­toes, the rates of obe­si­ty and dia­betes come tum­bling down. For­tu­nate­ly, there doesn’t have to be a war for peo­ple to make this change in diet. It only takes aware­ness and a new set of recipes.

The good news is that we don’t need to starve our­selves or suf­fer the hor­rors of war to cure type 2 dia­betes. All we need to do is go ape, go wild, and eat plants. Peace on earth!

Pho­to by Kylie_Jaxxon

Note: In my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2, I explain why a high-car­bo­hy­drate diet is good for peo­ple with any kind of dia­betes.

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Scientists Rediscover That Starvation Cures Type 2 Diabetes

Yes, you can reverse type 2 dia­betes if you starve your­self. In fact, a med­ical­ly super­vised water-only fast can be a use­ful way to man­age many dif­fer­ent kinds of diet-relat­ed dis­eases. For­tu­nate­ly, you do not have to starve your­self to reverse your type 2 dia­betes. Instead, you could sim­ply eat a low-fat, plant-based diet—like the pop­u­la­tions that don’t get type 2 dia­betes to begin with.

In June of 2011, some researchers from Britain pub­lished the results of a tri­al in which peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes who went on a star­va­tion diet (600 calo­ries per day) end­ed up with nor­mal fast­ing blood sug­ar lev­els. To me, that is not news. By 1841, a French phar­ma­cist named Apol­li­naire Bauchar­dat was rec­om­mend­ing that patients with what we now call type 2 dia­betes should eat as lit­tle as pos­si­ble and that they should fast occa­sion­al­ly to bring down their blood sug­ar. Since then, how­ev­er, dia­betes researchers have learned that it’s pos­si­ble to reverse type 2 dia­betes with­out such severe calo­rie restric­tion. In fact, I think that it’s bet­ter to teach peo­ple the diet that will enable them to cure their type 2 dia­betes with­in a cou­ple of weeks with­out lim­it­ing their food intake than to set them on a course of yo-yo diet­ing and pos­si­ble eat­ing dis­or­ders.

Bouchar­dat was one of the first clin­i­cians to put patients in charge of mon­i­tor­ing their own dia­betes. At first, his patients did this by keep­ing track of what they ate and tast­ing their urine to see how sweet it became. Lat­er, Bauchar­dat worked out a chem­i­cal test to detect sug­ar in urine. From mon­i­tor­ing the sug­ar con­tent of the urine, Bauchar­dat showed that when peo­ple with dia­betes ate sug­ars or starch­es, large amounts of sug­ar passed into their urine. The sug­ar in the urine reflect­ed high blood glu­cose lev­els. How­ev­er, the prob­lem in type 2 dia­betes is not that the per­son is eat­ing car­bo­hy­drates, it’s that the body has become resis­tant to the hor­mone insulin.

Start­ing in the 1930s, sci­en­tists start­ed to real­ize that fat­ty diets made the body less sen­si­tive to insulin, and that this insulin insen­si­tiv­i­ty was the under­ly­ing cause of the high blood sug­ar lev­els in peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes. Peo­ple who went on a low-fat, high-car­bo­hy­drate diet rapid­ly became more respon­sive to insulin.

Start­ing in the 1940s, Dr. Wal­ter Kemp­n­er at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty report­ed aston­ish­ing suc­cess in revers­ing type 2 dia­betes and dia­bet­ic com­pli­ca­tions with a diet based entire­ly on rice and fruit. Patients who found that they were los­ing too much weight on that low-fat diet were encour­aged to add pure white sug­ar to get more calo­ries. In Kempner’s report of 100 patients with dia­betes who were fed his high-car­bo­hy­drate, low-fat, low-pro­tein diet, most of the patients decreased their insulin dos­es and many dis­con­tin­ued tak­ing insulin. (It’s like­ly that some of the patients had type 1 dia­betes and there­fore would need to keep tak­ing insulin for the rest of their lives.)

The Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion cur­rent­ly rec­om­mends that peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes eat lim­it­ed por­tions of foods from all of the four food groups. In 2006, how­ev­er, a clin­i­cal tri­al showed that the peo­ple who were ran­dom­ly assigned to eat as much as they liked of low-fat, unre­fined plant foods (75% car­bo­hy­drate by calo­rie) found it eas­i­er to stick to their diet, lost more weight, and made faster progress in revers­ing their dia­betes than did the peo­ple who were ran­dom­ly assigned to fol­low the ADA’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

Behind Barbed Wire_PrintNote: In my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2, I explain the rela­tion­ship between body weight and blood sug­ar. French doc­tors have always used the term fat dia­betes (dia­bètes mai­gre) to refer to the rel­a­tive mild form of dia­betes that occurs in peo­ple who are at least a lit­tle bit over­weight and that goes away if they lose weight. Fat dia­betes is the body’s way to avoid stor­ing too much of the fat from a fat­ty diet. If you have fat dia­betes, it means that you are a nat­u­ral­ly thin per­son. It means that your body is will­ing to sac­ri­fice everything—your feet, your eye­sight, your kid­neys, and even your life—to keep you from gain­ing any more weight. The solu­tion to this prob­lem is to switch to a low-fat, high-car­bo­hy­drate, high-fiber diet. This diet revers­es type 2 dia­betes and is also good for peo­ple with thin dia­betes (type 1 dia­betes).

To Protect Your Feet, Cure Your Type 2 Diabetes

Dia­betes is the num­ber 1 cause of non­trau­mat­ic ampu­ta­tions in the Unit­ed States. What’s tru­ly out­ra­geous is that most of these ampu­ta­tions are hap­pen­ing to peo­ple with the form of dia­betes that can eas­i­ly be cured, some­times with­in as lit­tle as a week, by a sim­ple change in diet. Just eat unre­fined plant foods instead of ani­mal-based foods and processed foods and cut your fat intake to 10% or less of calo­ries.

Type 2 dia­betes mel­li­tus is cured by remov­ing the cause, which is the fat­ty, low-fiber, stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. Peo­ple who switch to a high-fiber, low-fat (~10% of calo­ries), high-car­bo­hy­drate (75% of calo­ries), pure­ly plant-based (veg­an) diet become undi­a­bet­ic with­in a sur­pris­ing­ly short time. (They can get even quick­er results if they also start exer­cis­ing.) A prop­er diet can even relieve the ago­niz­ing pain and dan­ger­ous numb­ness from dia­bet­ic neu­ropa­thy in the feet with­in a mat­ter of days to weeks.

Starchy, Low-Fat Diets Reduce Deaths From Type 2 Diabetes

Here is an inter­est­ing arti­cle that was pub­lished in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Roy­al Soci­ety of Med­i­cine in 1949. It points out that type 2 dia­betes is com­mon in places where peo­ple eat a fat­ty, low-carb diet and rare in places where peo­ple eat a starchy, low-fat diet. When a pop­u­la­tion that had been eat­ing a fat­ty diet switch­es to a starchy diet, such as under rationing in wartime, the num­ber of peo­ple who die of com­pli­ca­tions of dia­betes falls off dra­mat­i­cal­ly. See the graph on page 324 to see the effects of rationing, eco­nom­ic slump, and the intro­duc­tion of insulin ther­a­py on the num­ber of peo­ple who died of dia­betes in Eng­land and Wales in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.

The author point­ed out that you can see the same rela­tion­ship between high fat con­sump­tion and deaths from dia­betes all over the world:

There thus seems to be a uni­ver­sal rela­tion between diet and dia­bet­ic mor­tal­i­ty. The dietet­ic fac­tor most close­ly relat­ed is fat con­sump­tion.

It may seem odd that the intro­duc­tion of insulin ther­a­py didn’t make a dent in the graph.  That’s because most peo­ple with dia­betes have type 2 dia­betes, which used to be called non–insulin-dependent dia­betes. You’d see a dif­fer­ent pic­ture if you looked at a graph of deaths from type 1 dia­betes, which used to be called insulin-depen­dent dia­betes.

Note: For a clear expla­na­tion of why high-car­bo­hy­drate diets are good for peo­ple with any type of dia­betes, see my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 2, Cure Type 2.

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Type 2 Diabetes Keeps Fat People From Getting Even Fatter

Most peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes are at least pleas­ant­ly plump, so why do so many severe­ly obese peo­ple have no trou­ble with their blood sug­ar? I’ve known for decades that unex­plained weight loss is a com­mon sign of dia­betes. A few years ago, I began to sus­pect that type 2 dia­betes is what hap­pens when one of the body’s nat­ur­al defens­es against fur­ther weight gain gets out of con­trol. These sus­pi­cions were deep­ened when I real­ized that the drugs that are used to treat type 2 dia­betes often cause weight gain as a side effect. The drugs are dis­abling the body’s nat­ur­al resis­tance to fur­ther weight gain!

This inter­est­ing arti­cle from Endocrine Reviews argues that in type 2 dia­betes, the prob­lems with fat metab­o­lism start long before the per­son starts hav­ing abnor­mal blood sug­ar lev­els. It explains how too much fat in the body and too much fat from the diet could end up caus­ing type 2 dia­betes. It explains how eat­ing less and exer­cis­ing more could solve the under­ly­ing prob­lem.

The idea that type 2 dia­betes starts off as a prob­lem with fat metab­o­lism makes a lot of sense. It helps to explain some­thing that sci­en­tists have known since the 1930s: that you can cause insulin resis­tance in healthy vol­un­teers by feed­ing them a high-fat diet for a week. You can restore their insulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty by feed­ing them a starchy diet for a week. A switch to a low-fat, high-fiber, high-car­bo­hy­drate, pure­ly plant-based diet pro­duces a dra­mat­ic improve­ment in peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes, even before they have had a chance to lose much weight.

The tra­di­tion­al cure for type 2 dia­betes was to eat less and exer­cise more. A more sen­si­ble approach is to start off by eat­ing as much high-fiber, low-fat, plant-based food as you feel like eat­ing. This kind of diet will rapid­ly cor­rect your insulin resis­tance. As your insulin resis­tance improves, you’ll feel more like exer­cis­ing.

Of course, if you have any major health prob­lem or are tak­ing pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tions, you need to talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian and your pre­scriber before mak­ing any major change in diet. You may need to have your dosages adjust­ed, and you may be able to stop tak­ing some of your pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion.

Note: I explain this top­ic in more detail in my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2

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Pho­to by 95Berlin