I’ve given the following information to dozens of people carefully typing it out each time. It finally occurred to me that I could post it here and both share it more widely and save myself some typing. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, baker, or Indian chief so take it for what it is worth to you.
I have been diagnosed and undiagnosed with diabetes for over 20 years in several states. The geographic location is important because doctors in one place have no faith in doctors in another place. Even if they all use the same national lab to run the same standard blood tests, the results can’t be trusted.
In 1995, the result of a five-hour sugar syrup test at Robert Atkins’ clinic in Uptown Manhattan was a blood sugar reading of 323 after two hours. I started their below-40-carbs-a-day diet. I had no blood sugar meter and didn’t know if the diet was working. After a few months I mentioned it to my internist in the West Village and asked him to check it. His two-hour-normal-food test produced an 84, perfectly normal. I didn’t have diabetes at all. A follow-up fasting blood sugar test confirmed it at 90. “You should be eating normal food. Low carb diets will kill you and don’t work anyway.”
In 1999, routine test results in Florida showed a fasting blood sugar of 175. Medication was prescribed. Because of side effects from the medication, I secretly followed the Atkins, Eades, Heller, and Bernstein diets and used a blood sugar meter. In Washington DC in 2000, ignoring all the earlier testing, my new internist said I didn’t have diabetes at all, and probably never did. My fasting blood sugar was normal and my A1c was 5.1% which some people consider below normal. “You’re not taking medication and the low carb diet doesn’t work so you can’t have diabetes.” I changed doctors again.
It is now 2011. We are still in Washington DC but a few blocks away. My current diabetes physicians assistant — I’ve had six in the same hospital clinic — says, “An A1c of 6.8% is perfect. You need medication and insulin because the low carb diet is not healthy and doesn’t work. But if you take medication and insulin, you risk a low blood sugar episode which can cause brain damage and kill you.”
An A1C reading of 6.8% translates to an average blood sugar of 149. Anything above approximately 140 is causing organ damage. So at 149, even if it is minimal damage, is that a healthy target? If 6.8 is an average, my blood sugar will be lower (good) and higher (very bad) at other times.
I still go to the office for tests but I draw my own conclusions and follow my own plan. I may still die from complications of diabetes but one thing is certain, I won’t die as fast as if I listened to these doctors.
Steak and salad is nice but when everyone else is eating carrot cake it’s hard. I’m still trying to get back to the 5.1% on my A1c.
Most available and comprehensive site: Blood Sugar 101 by Jenny Ruhl. Includes basic beginner information as well more detailed analysis of research studies and news reports in her blog (link in the top menu). She is especially good at examining research results and explaining how the news reports or the studies themselves are flawed or misleading. She sorts out the numbers and gobbeldy-gook language.
She now has a book out that summarizes the information on her website. Concise and clear: Blood Sugar 101: What They Don’t Tell You About Diabetes
. Her bottom line is that diabetes is an impaired ability to manage carbohydrates and you need to eat as few of them as will maintain your blood sugar below 140 AT ALL TIMES. You cannot listen to the American Diabetes Association and eat 50 carbs at every meal and assume you are doing the right thing. You have to test. It’s your blood sugar levels that count, not the diet that anyone prescribes. Foods affect everyone differently.
Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars is the book that provided the information I needed when I was in Florida in 1999 and the doctor said, “There is no remedy for this illness. You will die of it. Even if the diet worked, you won’t be able to stay on it. The medication only works for a while and then you will have to take insulin. Your life expectancy is greatly reduced already.” He said this as if he were doing me a favor so I wouldn’t stress about it. Just relax. There is nothing you can do. Have fun. Take these pills.
Dr. Bernstein was a very sick Type 1 diabetic in his twenties when he realized he was dying and would have to help himself when his doctor thought he was doing very well despite numerous complications. Over several years he was able not only to normalize his blood sugars but reverse most of the damages. He explains precisely the connection between diet and diabetes and details the carbohydrate control methods that are rapidly being adopted by everyone. Contains more comprehensive technical information than Blood Sugar 101 and more extensive medical advice but not everyone wants this much information.
I also subscribe to a weekly newsletter, Diabetes in Control, that is a summary of the research reports in newspapers and professional journals. Jenny Ruhl analyzes research reports on her blogs so after you read her blog for a while you can begin to sense which reports are off the wall. This newsletter is also intended for professionals so the gibberish isn’t always clear.
And saving the best for last, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
by Gary Taubes
This could also be titled Why We Get Heart Disease, etc. His last book surveyed all the diet research over the last 200 years and was 500 pages and hard to read. It didn’t get wide circulation. So he wrote this one to summarize. I read a library copy and then bought it because I need regular reinforcement of the research data that say the source of weight gain, high cholesterol, etc., is carbs.
This isn’t a diet book, but Taubes includes the diet plan from the famed Duke University weight loss clinic. Basically it is animal source protein with no limit on fats. You can’t eat lean protein and feel good. The body can’t handle it. Desire for fats will adjust itself once your body adjusts to burning fat instead of carbs. At least two cups of leafy greens each day. At least one cup of cooked vegetables (measured uncooked). Limited dairy (contains carbs) and various other limits on particular foods — basically these limits allow you to eat without counting carbs. I find carb counting easier, but even Diet Coke contains carbs.
That’s as much as I know. Let me know if any of this works for you.