In recognition of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, we’re publishing a series of Editorials that will bring real "awareness" to this very serious health problem which now affects 25% of the world’s population. The story of how this easy-to-beat lifestyle condition has been allowed to become a global pandemic is nothing short of scandalous. I find it appalling that the food, drug, and medical industries — along with our government — are allowing diabetes to rage out of control because it represents a new source of tremendous revenue.
Thanksgiving is America’s biggest food holiday. But for people with diabetes, prediabetes or other metabolic problems, it’s one of the biggest food traps of the year.
Why? Because so many traditional Turkey Day dishes and desserts can wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
But my jaw really dropped when I looked at the website of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and saw its "diabetes friendly" Thanksgiving menu. Yikes! It’s truly a recipe for blood sugar disaster, featuring some decidedly "diabetes UNfriendly" dishes like mashed potatoes, maple syrup sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and gooey desserts including Pumpkin Pie with Maple Ginger Crust and Frozen Double Fudge Peanut Butter Pie.
These menu items will shoot up your blood sugar higher than fireworks on the Fourth of July. What were they thinking?
Pass the Diabetes, Please
I can tell you what the ADA wasn’t thinking about: The Glycemic Index (GI). Their Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts rank high on the GI scale, a measure of how fast a food digests into blood sugar (also known as glucose). Developed by Dr. David J Jenkins in 1981, the GI scale determines which foods are good and bad for people with diabetes and other blood sugar problems.
You can be sure that chowing down on these ADA Thanksgiving goodies will send a diabetic rushing for the metformin or insulin syringe because they’ll push blood sugar into the stratosphere. (Yet given the ADA’s close ties with the diabetes drug industry, I sometimes wonder if this isn’t their plan. More about this in a moment.)
Let the GI Be Your Guide
The GI Rating Scale goes from 1 to 100, with faster-digesting carbs showing higher numbers (white bread has a score of 100), and slower carbs coming in at 55 and under. The higher the score, the faster the food pushes up your blood sugar.
Whether a carbohydrate is "fast" or "slow" largely depends upon the amount of fiber it contains, because fiber slows its breakdown into glucose.
Slow-digesting carbohydrates (fiber-rich natural foods such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains) provide a steady supply of blood sugar to the body. Fast carbs (refined grains, processed food products, and "white" foods) launch a tidal wave of blood glucose, creating a kind of "sugar high" followed by sleepiness and more carbohydrate-cravings as glucose is cleared from the bloodstream.
High-GI Foods Make Diabetes Worse
Research clearly shows that eating low-GI foods significantly lowers your risk for developing both Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (the number one complication of diabetes). On the other hand, consuming high-GI foods that trigger repeated glycemic "spikes" actually encourage these health problems.
Based on this research, you’d think the ADA and its current Stop Diabetes® campaign would be telling everyone and his brother to eat more low-GI carb foods — while cutting back on the high-GI refined carbs that send blood sugar skyrocketing, like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But that’s certainly not their message here.
"Why?" you might ask. Well, keep reading because I think I found the answer.
Fat Is Their Demon, Not Carbs
Despite the evidence (and there’s a considerable amount of it), the ADA doesn’t believe high-GI carbs cause or worsen diabetes. In fact, they don’t even differentiate between a fast carb (high-GI) and a slow-carb (low-GI). To them "a carb is a carb." An apple is the same as table sugar.
And carbs aren’t the enemy to ADA anyway. Dietary fat is the real bad guy, or so they believe, because it causes heart disease, the number one fatal complication of diabetes. So their solution is a low-fat diet.
What the ADA is really saying is that diabetes won’t kill you, but heart disease will. Yet this completely disregards how diabetes — even when blood sugar is controlled at levels doctors recommend — slowly wastes and destroys the body, causing blindness … nerve damage … amputations … and slow death. Not a pretty way to go.
Current research has moved way beyond this "fat causes heart disease" superstition. More than a dozen peer-reviewed studies published since 2003 show that a low-carb, high-fat diet is more effective at reducing overall heart disease risk than a high-carb, low-fat regimen.
The scientific explanation is that high levels of blood sugar and insulin are extremely inflammatory and damage artery linings, initiating the plaque-building process. Sugar, not dietary fat, is the real cause of heart disease.
In fact, consumption of dietary fat has decreased in the US since the 1960s, while heart disease has been steadily on the rise. What has kept pace with heart disease is our consumption of sugar (now up to 150 pounds per American per year!) and refined carbohydrates.
According to Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Connecticut. "Research shows that replacing carbohydrates with saturated fat has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health (because) a low-carbohydrate diet … increases (the body’s) ability to burn the incoming dietary fat."
Dietary Fat Actually Fights Diabetes
Here’s more proof: Before the discovery of insulin, the leading treatment for diabetes was a high-fat, low-carb diet. Dr. Elliott Proctor Joslin, M.D., a Harvard- and Yale-educated physician, relied on it more than a century ago to successfully sustain dozens of diabetic patients — including his own mother. His treatment? A diet made of 70% fat and just 10% carbohydrates.
And then there are the Greenland Eskimos, who before the introduction of the Western-style high-carb diet, had the lowest incidence of heart disease and diabetes on earth. They ate fat and protein almost exclusively — and only about three percent carbohydrates. So much for dietary fat causing heart disease. So much for dietary fat causing heart disease.
The problem is, if you’re cutting back on fat, you have to make up the calorie difference somewhere else. And in the ADA’s view, that "somewhere else" should be carbohydrate foods. Hence, its official pro-carb, anti-fat position.
But we’ve already seen how mistaken this approach is dating back the 1980s, the decade of "low-fat mania." Then, food manufacturers cranked out thousands of low-fat foods, replacing their fat content with sugar and other sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup. That fad diet started our current obesity/diabetes boom.
Apparently, the ADA was asleep for the whole decade, because they still maintain that our diabetes and obesity woes stem from consuming too much dietary fat — even though fat consumption declined significantly over the past 30 years. But carbohydrate consumption (and I’m not talking about fruit, vegetables, and whole grains) has been steadily increasing.
Why The ADA Favors a High-Carb Diet
Reflecting their fat phobia, the ADA recommends that up to 65% of a diabetic’s daily calories come from carbohydrates. And they don’t differentiate between a slow-carb the fast-carb. Instead, they want you to simply "count carbs" no matter what kind of carbs they are.
You see, in the ADA universe, a 1/2 cup of oatmeal or black beans counts the same as two cookies or 1/4 serving of French fries — even though these foods have very different effects on your blood sugar as indicated by their GI ratings. Cookies and French fries will spike your blood glucose, while oatmeal and beans will stabilize it.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, eating high-GI foods (like those on the ADA Thanksgiving dinner menu, for example) will send you running for your medications. Low-GI foods, on the other hand, usually allow your doctor to lower your dose — or withdraw them completely.
Reducing High GI Carbs Reverses Type 2 Diabetes
When my diabetes patients reduce the high-GI carbs in their diet and replace them with fiber-rich carbs such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, we see significant reductions in their blood sugar and insulin levels — so much so that we’re able to completely discontinue their medications.
Not only does this type of eating normalize blood sugar, but replacing refined carbs with protein, fiber, and healthy fats, usually results in a reduction of overall calories which translates into weight loss without any "dieting" whatsoever. A