“You’re cured,” the clinician told me. “You no longer have type 2 diabetes.” You’d think I would greet this news with a sigh of relief since I was diagnosed 32 years ago; but I did not, because I didn’t believe it.
I was not, however, surprised with that doctor’s response. I had just told her that, because I changed my Way of Eating (WOE), my A1c was now 5.0% and my average FBG in the mid-80s. From the clinician’s point of view, as one who treats patients according to the ADA’s Standards of Medical Care, her goal would be to manage my diabetes to get my A1c to ≤7.0%, or even ≤6.5%, the diabetes threshold. Thus to her, clinically speaking, I am “cured.” I asked her, “Would you then write on my chart that I no longer have diabetes?” She replied, “Yes.”
When I shook my head in dismay, she asked me why I wouldn’t accept this “good news.” I replied, “Because I will always have Insulin Resistance and therefore will always be diabetic.” She just smirked, not wishing to get into an argument. We were, after all, just chatting in a social setting after a panel discussion in NYC with Gary Taubes. Nevertheless, she said dismissively, and with authority, that what I said was untrue. I left it at that. The divide between us was too great. In her view, unlettered dotards like me shouldn’t be taken seriously.
This doctor wasn’t my doctor and wasn’t going to be. Except for my MD friends who read this blog – and there are a few – I leave the one-on-one re-education of the trained professional to others. But, as the Heal Clinic's Dr. Eric Westman sadly said to me recently (in #402 here), “Ignorance is the biggest problem. Gary Taubes expressed a corollary sentiment to me that night. He said the Low Carb “movement” has increased 100 fold in just a few years from 1/100th percent to 1 percent. That’s a huge relative improvement…yet still an abysmal state of affairs. There is yet so much work to be done to overcome the entrenched positions in the political, agribusiness, big pharma, public health, medical, and other special interest establishments.
But I digress. Insulin Resistance is a genetic expression of a bundle of genes, in those genetically predisposed, such that the insulin receptors on cells that ordinarily open to allow glucose energy to enter and nourish them, no longer function properly. When these insulin receptor cells “resist,” and the uptake of glucose is impaired, the pancreas secretes more insulin to help out. Type 2 diabetes is thus a disease of too much insulin in the blood stream. Characteristically, type 2s have both an elevated blood glucose and an elevated blood insulin.
The elevated blood glucose is what clinicians use to detect the presence of incipient pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Today the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) blood test is used for diagnosis. Previously, an elevated fasting blood glucose (FBG) was used. The gold standard, still used by endocrinologists, is the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). It takes at least 2 hours and is thus more expensive. It is, nevertheless, still the best. The easiest test is to measure your waist/hip ratio; anything over 1.0 (male) or .8 (female) signals insulin resistance.
The elevated blood INSULIN causes obesity. While insulin is elevated, the body must rely on food by mouth for energy. Most people eat carbs in every meal and frequently between meals. So, if you have a little Insulin Resistance, your blood INSULIN level stays high. That’s why we are always hungry and why, when we eat more and more often, we get fat. Only when your blood INSULIN level drops will the liver look for an alternate energy source and turn to breaking down body fat for energy. But to do this, a person either must eat VERY LOW CARB most of the time, or FAST for a day or two, or BOTH.So, while I have no clinical signs of type 2 diabetes, and a doctor may regard me as “cured,” I know that I am still Insulin Resistant. I know that it is only because I eat Very Low Carb most of the time, and fast a few days most weeks, that my Insulin Resistance is not expressed. But my Insulin Resistance will always be there, and that is why I will always be a type 2 diabetic – a (thin) type 2 in remission, but only because of the way I eat.