Review: Conquer Diabetes & Prediabetes

Man, oh man.  If only more doctors would stand up and make this statement:

I’m sorry for what the medical establishment has done to people with diabetes.  We’ve done an atrocious job for type 2 diabetics and prediabetics.

We’ve recommended they eat precisely what their bodies can’t handle:  carbohydrates.  We’ve urged them to take poison:  carbohydrates.  We’ve cooperated with the drug companies to encourage diabetics to eat foods that increase drug company profits:  carbohydrates.

Much of the medical establishment’s damage to diabetics has been done innocently, unknowingly.  Rank and file physicians, dieticians and nutritionists put blind faith in their instructors, scientific journal editors, and time-honored and tenured thought-leaders.  Our unquestioning faith has hurt people with diabetes and prediabetes.

Those are the opening paragraphs from Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet, by Dr. Steve Parker.  I’ve been recommending Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution to anyone who asks me about diet and diabetes, and I’ll continue to do so.  But now I’ll recommend this book as well.

I read quite a few books on nutrition and health, but only urge other people to read those that meet at least one of two criteria:

  • Is the information important and not readily available in other books?  (Good Calories, Bad Calories falls into this category.  It’s a tough read, but you won’t find a lot of the information Gary Taubes presents anywhere else.)
  • Is the information important and presented in a manner that passes my “Aunt Martha” test?  That is, could we hand this book to our overweight, pre-diabetic, frustrated-with-Weight-Watchers Aunt Martha and reasonably expect that she’d read it and understand it?

Conquer Diabetes & Prediabetes passes the Aunt Martha test with flying colors.  The entire book consists of 190 pages (a sizable chunk of which is taken up by meal plans), so the size of it won’t scare anyone off.  Better yet, Dr. Parker avoids medical mumbo-jumbo and explains diabetes, blood sugar levels, and how carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels in language that’s easy to understand.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I lost my automatic respect for anyone with an MD or PhD once I began doing research for Fat Head.  Too much bad advice and too many lousy studies have been produced by people with impressive credentials.  As Thomas Sowell (I think) once wrote, credentialed ignorance is still ignorance.  I now ignore the post-graduate degrees and judge what I’m reading based on logic and evidence.

But that’s me.  Like it or not, Aunt Martha and Uncle Joe are more likely to listen to a doctor.  I have friends and relatives who couldn’t quite believe that statins haven’t been shown to reduce heart disease among women, the elderly, or men who don’t have existing heart disease until I handed them books written by Malcolm Kendrick (MD) and Uffe Ravsnkov (MD, PhD).  When Aunt Martha’s doctor or dietician is telling her she needs to stick to a low-fat, high-carb diet to treat her type 2 diabetes, it can only help to have a book written by a doctor who points out exactly why that advice is just plain wrong.  That’s what Dr. Parker does in Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes.

Although I’m not a diabetic and don’t take any prescription drugs, I was pleased to see the book includes a chapter that lists the drugs prescribed to diabetics and explains exactly what they are, how they work, why they’re prescribed, and what side-effects they may produce.  If Aunt Martha is taking Metformin simply because her doctor said she needs it to keep her blood sugar under control, it would be nice if she actually understood what Metformin does:

Metformin decreases glucose output by the liver.  The liver produces glucose (sugar) either by breaking down glycogen stored there or by manufacturing glucose from smaller molecules and atoms.  The liver then kicks the glucose into the bloodstream for use by other tissues.  Insulin inhibits this function of the liver, thereby keeping blood sugar levels from getting too high.  Metformin improves the effectiveness of insulin in suppressing sugar production.  In other words, it works primarily by decreasing the liver’s production of glucose.

Of course, Dr. Parker’s goal is to control high blood sugar with diet, not drugs – or at least with a lower dose of drugs.  Back in the day, that’s exactly how doctors treated diabetes:  with a change in diet.

In 1797, Dr. John Rollo (a surgeon in the British Royal Artillery) published a book entitled An Account of Two Cases of the Diabetes Mellitus.  He discussed his experience treating a diabetic Army officer, Captain Meredith, with a high-fat, high-meat, low-carbohydrate diet.  Mind you, this was an era devoid of effective drugs therapies for diabetics.

Rollo’s diet led to loss of excess weight, elimination of symptoms such as frequent urination, and reversal of elevated blood and urine sugars.  This makes Dr. Rollo the original low-carb diet doctor.  Many of the leading proponents of low-carb eating over the last two centuries – whether for diet or weight loss – have been physicians.

My, how things have changed.  Now you have medical organizations accusing doctors who prescribe low-carb diets of being quacks and perhaps engaging in mass murder.  I guess that’s why, in a the middle of an excellent book explaining the causes of high blood sugar and how a change in diet can help, Dr. Parker had to include the standard disclaimer that the information he’s presenting shouldn’t be construed as medical advice or medical care.

I’d suggest placing a similar disclaimer on the wall next to most doctors’ medical-school diplomas:  Warning!  None of the dietary advice offered in this office as treatment for diabetes or other diseases should be construed as effective medical care.

The middle chapters detail the diet Dr. Parker recommends, which is actually two diets:  a ketogenic Mediterranean diet intended to be followed for several weeks, followed by a low-carb Mediterranean diet for life.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything magical about a low-carb Mediterranean diet that makes it a better choice than any other low-carb diet that emphasizes whole foods.  On the other hand, The Mediterranean Diet has been promoted so heavily in the media as a life-saver, perhaps the label will help sell a low-carb diet to people who would otherwise dismiss it as “that crazy Atkins thing.”

As for the standard Mediterranean diet that’s usually recommended, Dr. Parker spells out his objections:

The Mediterranean diet poses a problem for people with diabetes and prediabetes.  It’s relatively high in carbohydrates, which tend to raise blood sugars too high.  The result could be diabetic complications or the need for more and more diabetic medications with unknown long-term side effects.

And a couple of pages later:

Diabetics and prediabetics -– plus many folks with metabolic syndrome -– must remember that their bodies do not, and cannot, handle dietary carbs in a normal, healthy fashion.  In a way, carbs are toxic to them.  Toxicity may lead to amputations, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, poor circulation, frequent infections, premature heart attacks and death.

That’s why Dr. Parker created ketogenic and low-carb versions of a Mediterranean diet.  The purpose of the ketogenic phase, he explains, is to lower blood sugar, reduce chronically elevated insulin (or reduce the need for insulin), and re-condition the metabolism to more easily burn fat for fuel.  Many of his patients enjoy the renewed sense of health, weight loss, and better blood-sugar control so much, they decide to remain in the ketogenic phase permanently.

For those who prefer to include more carbs in their diets once the blood-sugar issues are under control, Dr. Parker explains how to slowly re-introduce some extra fruits, nuts, legumes, dairy products and whole grains in the low-carb phase, which is intended to last for life.

After the chapters on how to follow the diets at home, there are chapters on how to eat out and how to deal with cheating –- which is okay once in awhile.  The doctor even admits to indulging in cinnamon buns a couple of times per year.  That’s pretty much how I handle my love of pizza; I give in on very rare occasions.  (Since this is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll give in to my love of Guinness later tonight.)

There’s also a chapter on exercise that explains what it does and doesn’t accomplish:

Exercise is overrated as a pathway to major weight loss.  Sure, a physically inactive young man with only five or 10 pounds to lose might be able to do it simply by starting an exercise program.  That doesn’t work nearly as well for women.  The problem is that exercise stimulates appetite, so any calories burned by exercise tend to be counteracted by increased food consumption.

On the other hand, exercise is important for diabetics and prediabetics in two respects: 1) it helps in avoidance of overweight, especially after weight loss, and 2) it helps control blood sugar levels by improving insulin resistance, perhaps even bypassing it.

Exercise is good for your health.  That’s why I exercise, even though I don’t believe it’s much of a weight-loss treatment.  But it may serve, at least in part, as a diabetes treatment.

However, as Dr. Parker emphasizes, type 2 diabetes is first and foremost a blood-sugar problem, and diet affects blood sugar more than anything else.  That’s why this is a book that diabetics — and those who want to avoid joining their ranks — need to read.

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78 thoughts on “Review: Conquer Diabetes & Prediabetes

  1. Johnston

    Wait, now exercise doesn’t make you lose weight? When did this revelation be become common speak? That’s usually something lazy people say. Have you seen professional athletes before? Not too many fat ones (excluding NFL lineman of course).

    If exercise isn’t tied to weight loss, why even bother including that dead horse ‘kids these days aren’t exercising enough’ in your documentary?

    People whose bodies are geared to burn energy instead of storing it (i.e., naturally lean people) are compelled to move around to burn off the excess energy. Thus, lean people enjoy being active. That’s why you see the correlation. Your example of NFL linemen is telling, don’t you think? These guys exercise more than 99% of the population, but most of them are fat.

    As I said to a previous commenter, I still believed exercise was an important part of the obesity equation when I made the film two years ago. I’ve since changed my mind after seeing the evidence. (This of course caused that commenter to insist that I’m incapable of changing my mind, demonstrating his fine grasp of logic.)

    http://www.newswise.com/articles/decrease-in-physical-activity-may-not-be-a-factor-in-increased-obesity-rates-among-adolescents

    http://adc.bmj.com/content/early/2010/06/23/adc.2009.175927.abstract

    http://nymag.com/news/sports/38001/

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1914857-3,00.html

    Exercise can be part of the equation by making muscles more sensitive to insulin. But an insulin-resistant person who doesn’t solve the issue of chronically elevated insulin isn’t going to become thin by exercising.

    Reply
  2. TimJohnson

    hey tom, long time fan, first time poster.

    i decided to try your fast food diet and started eating 5-7 mcgriddles per day (i load up in the morning before i go to work). lately i have noticed my stool has changed quite a bit. it is rather loose and i would classify it as sprays. i would call it more like a squirtle than normal stool.

    is this normal? i am doing everything you said by consuming only fast food, and sometimes i take off the bun. but i think this is unhealthy. was this your experience? how was you’re stool?

    running out of options, think im dehydrated 🙂 response would be good. thank you.

    -tim

    I think the only solution is to increase your intake to 11 McGriddles and ask for extra syrup.

    Reply
  3. Johnston

    Wait, now exercise doesn’t make you lose weight? When did this revelation be become common speak? That’s usually something lazy people say. Have you seen professional athletes before? Not too many fat ones (excluding NFL lineman of course).

    If exercise isn’t tied to weight loss, why even bother including that dead horse ‘kids these days aren’t exercising enough’ in your documentary?

    People whose bodies are geared to burn energy instead of storing it (i.e., naturally lean people) are compelled to move around to burn off the excess energy. Thus, lean people enjoy being active. That’s why you see the correlation. Your example of NFL linemen is telling, don’t you think? These guys exercise more than 99% of the population, but most of them are fat.

    As I said to a previous commenter, I still believed exercise was an important part of the obesity equation when I made the film two years ago. I’ve since changed my mind after seeing the evidence. (This of course caused that commenter to insist that I’m incapable of changing my mind, demonstrating his fine grasp of logic.)

    http://www.newswise.com/articles/decrease-in-physical-activity-may-not-be-a-factor-in-increased-obesity-rates-among-adolescents

    http://adc.bmj.com/content/early/2010/06/23/adc.2009.175927.abstract

    http://nymag.com/news/sports/38001/

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1914857-3,00.html

    Exercise can be part of the equation by making muscles more sensitive to insulin. But an insulin-resistant person who doesn’t solve the issue of chronically elevated insulin isn’t going to become thin by exercising.

    Reply
  4. TimJohnson

    hey tom, long time fan, first time poster.

    i decided to try your fast food diet and started eating 5-7 mcgriddles per day (i load up in the morning before i go to work). lately i have noticed my stool has changed quite a bit. it is rather loose and i would classify it as sprays. i would call it more like a squirtle than normal stool.

    is this normal? i am doing everything you said by consuming only fast food, and sometimes i take off the bun. but i think this is unhealthy. was this your experience? how was you’re stool?

    running out of options, think im dehydrated 🙂 response would be good. thank you.

    -tim

    I think the only solution is to increase your intake to 11 McGriddles and ask for extra syrup.

    Reply
  5. Katie

    I’ve been completely grain and sugar free for almost 4 weeks now, and there has only been minimal improvement in my blood glucose levels. I’m still at around 300 for fasting, BUT my blood pressure has dropped from 175/125 range to 135/89. I’m going to increase the amount of exercise that I do after reading your post on the importance of exercise for diabetics. I remember when I was pregnant and had gestational diabetes, that if my blood sugar spiked after a meal I was supposed to go for a walk and it always helped to get it back in line.

    Thank you for all you do, Tom. I keep hammering my husband about the statins that he is on, and today he agreed to take all of my “evidence” on his next doctor’s appointment and find out exactly what his cholesterol number is and ask why his doctor has him on statins.

    He may want to arm himself with a copy of Malcolm Kendrick’s book “The Great Cholesterol Con.”

    Reply
  6. Katie

    I’ve been completely grain and sugar free for almost 4 weeks now, and there has only been minimal improvement in my blood glucose levels. I’m still at around 300 for fasting, BUT my blood pressure has dropped from 175/125 range to 135/89. I’m going to increase the amount of exercise that I do after reading your post on the importance of exercise for diabetics. I remember when I was pregnant and had gestational diabetes, that if my blood sugar spiked after a meal I was supposed to go for a walk and it always helped to get it back in line.

    Thank you for all you do, Tom. I keep hammering my husband about the statins that he is on, and today he agreed to take all of my “evidence” on his next doctor’s appointment and find out exactly what his cholesterol number is and ask why his doctor has him on statins.

    He may want to arm himself with a copy of Malcolm Kendrick’s book “The Great Cholesterol Con.”

    Reply
  7. PHK

    to Dominic DiCarlo:

    i’m an Antarctic geek.
    you may want to check out the stories of Shackelton’s failed antarctic exploration. also Scott, Amundson’s stories are also great read.

    Shackelton believed in fresh meat; while Scott believed in clean & hygienic food (i.e., canned). so guess which group got scurvy & perished?

    (Amundson was trained with Inuits).

    regards,

    Reply
  8. PHK

    to Dominic DiCarlo:

    i’m an Antarctic geek.
    you may want to check out the stories of Shackelton’s failed antarctic exploration. also Scott, Amundson’s stories are also great read.

    Shackelton believed in fresh meat; while Scott believed in clean & hygienic food (i.e., canned). so guess which group got scurvy & perished?

    (Amundson was trained with Inuits).

    regards,

    Reply
  9. jonJONES

    I BET YOU HAVE NASTY NASTY FARTS AND POOPS FROM ALL THAT MEAT AND CHEESE.

    DR. ATKINS GOT OWNED BY AN ICICLE HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    VEGANS FOREVER!

    Another intelligent comment from a member of the vegan community.

    Reply
  10. jonJONES

    I BET YOU HAVE NASTY NASTY FARTS AND POOPS FROM ALL THAT MEAT AND CHEESE.

    DR. ATKINS GOT OWNED BY AN ICICLE HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    VEGANS FOREVER!

    Another intelligent comment from a member of the vegan community.

    Reply
  11. gcb

    I’m diabetic, but have controlled it for five years using diet only – no meds at all. My doc is very happy with my numbers, although I’d prefer they be just a bit lower – i.e. in the “not a diabetic” range.

    Anyway, when the doctor suddenly realized I’d never attended the “diabetic counselling sessions” that the local health service provides, I was booked in to a group “Welcome to the wonderful world of diabetes” session. For an hour, I sat and listened while they tried to tell us that a third of our plate should be starchy carbohydrates (such as rice or noodles) at every meal. At the end of it, I walked out, and never returned for my “individual” sessions – I was afraid I’d end up screaming at their nutritional counselor that her advice was going to kill her patients.

    My mom got that same speech from a dietician. Fortunately, she knew to ignore it.

    Reply
  12. Felix

    Oh man, I finally get that “moose and squirrel” joke. I never understand what you wanted Natasha to say. “Moose and squirrel” doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. 🙂 All I got from the context was that it was some play on her Russian accent. But without the reference, I was lost. 😀

    I kinda suspected I’d lose the younger viewers on that one.

    Reply
  13. gcb

    I’m diabetic, but have controlled it for five years using diet only – no meds at all. My doc is very happy with my numbers, although I’d prefer they be just a bit lower – i.e. in the “not a diabetic” range.

    Anyway, when the doctor suddenly realized I’d never attended the “diabetic counselling sessions” that the local health service provides, I was booked in to a group “Welcome to the wonderful world of diabetes” session. For an hour, I sat and listened while they tried to tell us that a third of our plate should be starchy carbohydrates (such as rice or noodles) at every meal. At the end of it, I walked out, and never returned for my “individual” sessions – I was afraid I’d end up screaming at their nutritional counselor that her advice was going to kill her patients.

    My mom got that same speech from a dietician. Fortunately, she knew to ignore it.

    Reply
  14. Felix

    Oh man, I finally get that “moose and squirrel” joke. I never understand what you wanted Natasha to say. “Moose and squirrel” doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. 🙂 All I got from the context was that it was some play on her Russian accent. But without the reference, I was lost. 😀

    I kinda suspected I’d lose the younger viewers on that one.

    Reply
  15. masterMsu

    Why are most vegetarians skinny and most fat people non-vegetarians?

    Most fat people eat lots of refined carbohydrates. It’s not the meat making them fat, even if they eat meat. Most vegetarians are health-conscious and eat far less sugar and junk than the population as a whole. The vegetarians I’ve known who did like their sugar and other refined carbs were indeed fat. Lots of other people — myself included — become fat and/or sick as vegetarians and give it up. So vegetarians are 1) more likely to be health conscious and avoid junk, and 2) are self-selected; i.e., they’re the people who don’t experience bad results and give up.

    Reply
  16. masterMsu

    Why are most vegetarians skinny and most fat people non-vegetarians?

    Most fat people eat lots of refined carbohydrates. It’s not the meat making them fat, even if they eat meat. Most vegetarians are health-conscious and eat far less sugar and junk than the population as a whole. The vegetarians I’ve known who did like their sugar and other refined carbs were indeed fat. Lots of other people — myself included — become fat and/or sick as vegetarians and give it up. So vegetarians are 1) more likely to be health conscious and avoid junk, and 2) are self-selected; i.e., they’re the people who don’t experience bad results and give up.

    Reply
  17. Ted Hutchinson

    Other readers may like to know Dr Parker provides a lot of information including downloadable PDF files, free on his website
    http://diabeticmediterraneandiet.com/

    It’s also worth pointing out the preventing diabetes with this type of diet will also reduce the risk of Type 3 Diabetes otherwise known as Alzheimer’s Disease.
    Anyone else hear the news that brain scanning US Adults aged 40yrs generally reveals the early signs of AD? If we are are going to delay onset or slow progression we have to act BEFORE there are any signs of cognitive impairment.

    @ Bilal
    Type 1 diabetes incidence was 80% less when babies used to be given 2000iu/daily vitamin D3 in Finland.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11705562
    If we combined vitamin D repletion with a low carbohydrate diet during pregnancy and throughout childhood, Type 1 diabetes would be virtually totally prevented.
    We don’t need a cure, we simply need to apply the knowledge we already have to prevent it.

    As someone whose father has Alzheimer’s, I definitely took notice when Alzheimer’s was referred to as type 3 diabetes. If I started declining mentally at age 70, as he did, my older daughter would only be 25. No way I’m putting her or her little sister through that.

    Reply
  18. Ted Hutchinson

    Other readers may like to know Dr Parker provides a lot of information including downloadable PDF files, free on his website
    http://diabeticmediterraneandiet.com/

    It’s also worth pointing out the preventing diabetes with this type of diet will also reduce the risk of Type 3 Diabetes otherwise known as Alzheimer’s Disease.
    Anyone else hear the news that brain scanning US Adults aged 40yrs generally reveals the early signs of AD? If we are are going to delay onset or slow progression we have to act BEFORE there are any signs of cognitive impairment.

    @ Bilal
    Type 1 diabetes incidence was 80% less when babies used to be given 2000iu/daily vitamin D3 in Finland.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11705562
    If we combined vitamin D repletion with a low carbohydrate diet during pregnancy and throughout childhood, Type 1 diabetes would be virtually totally prevented.
    We don’t need a cure, we simply need to apply the knowledge we already have to prevent it.

    As someone whose father has Alzheimer’s, I definitely took notice when Alzheimer’s was referred to as type 3 diabetes. If I started declining mentally at age 70, as he did, my older daughter would only be 25. No way I’m putting her or her little sister through that.

    Reply
  19. Ron_Mocci

    Hi, Tom this is off sub. Do you see this : http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/06/farewell-to-paleo.html

    Would love to hear what you have to say !
    Thanks Ron*

    I’m sorry a meat-heavy paleo diet didn’t work out for Don, but I certainly haven’t had the negative experiences he described. I agree with him 100% that you should listen to your body and track your own results. If he’s getting negative results, it’s time for a change.

    Reply
  20. Ron_Mocci

    Hi, Tom this is off sub. Do you see this : http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/06/farewell-to-paleo.html

    Would love to hear what you have to say !
    Thanks Ron*

    I’m sorry a meat-heavy paleo diet didn’t work out for Don, but I certainly haven’t had the negative experiences he described. I agree with him 100% that you should listen to your body and track your own results. If he’s getting negative results, it’s time for a change.

    Reply
  21. Blanche

    This is the best blog on this subject. I have seen this first hand, my father had been told he had type2 diabetes at 50 years of age. He never took the medication, just went on to a paleo type whole food diet. He was with us to 96 and had never needed glasses, no hearing problems, and was generally healthy.

    He was lucky he didn’t get advice from today’s diabetes experts.

    Reply
  22. Blanche

    This is the best blog on this subject. I have seen this first hand, my father had been told he had type2 diabetes at 50 years of age. He never took the medication, just went on to a paleo type whole food diet. He was with us to 96 and had never needed glasses, no hearing problems, and was generally healthy.

    He was lucky he didn’t get advice from today’s diabetes experts.

    Reply

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