Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #178: “Diabetes Rocks!”

David Mendoza wrote a very nice article for Health Central a while ago titled “Grateful for Diabetes.” It was one of 5 short pieces of his that they published that month! Another piece of his that they published was titled “Diabetes without Drugs.” Both are excellent and short, and I recommend you click on the links and read them. But my favorite line from both was the last words of the “grateful” piece: “Diabetes rocks!”

Mendoza explains the “grateful” piece this way: “Knowing that we have diabetes can be good for us.” “You may think I’m crazy,” he says, “but some of us are thankful that we have diabetes. I wish all of us could share this feeling.” Note: it is actually the feeling that he is grateful for, not the diabetes. It is the reaction to the knowledge that he is a diabetic. But what action, having that knowledge, was taken? Mendoza explains that with a story:

“Mary Ann wrote me a few months ago that when a doctor told her that she had diabetes, she didn’t know anything about it. At first, she felt shock, fear, anger, and grief. Then, she realized that she ‘had to be the one to take control of it’ and went on a low-carb diet, which helped her both to lose weight and to reduce her blood sugar. ‘I’m actually grateful for the diabetes diagnosis,’ she told me [Mendoza]. ‘It inspired me to take control of my health’’’ (emphasis mine).

Mendoza then goes on to describe how, “Mary Ann’s journey from a diabetes diagnosis to good health parallels his own journey.” At the time he was diagnosed, he says, “I had an A1c level of 14.4, weighed more than 300 pounds, and lacked energy.” “Today,” he says, “I tested my A1c…and found that it is 5.4. I weighed myself as I do every morning and found that I now weigh 155.6 pounds. I have more energy than I had 20, 30 or even 40 years ago.”

Is that inspirational or what? Do you understand now why David Mendoza says, “Diabetes rocks!”?

The “Diabetes without Drugs” piece fills in more of David Mendoza’s story. The lede of this piece in Health Central, and on his own website, says flat out, “If you have type 2 diabetes, you can manage it without any drugs.” Mendoza doesn’t pull his punches. This is an unqualified statement, and he is an exemplar, to be sure. I wish I did as well.

David Mendoza was diagnosed a type 2 diabetic in 1993. He was treated by his doctor in the conventional way for 14 years, with “experience taking a wide range of diabetes drugs, including two different sulfonylureas, Glucophage (metformin), and Byeta” (a GLP-1 injectable incretin mimetic). Then in 2007, with encouragement from a friend who is a Certified Diabetes Educator, he joined “a group” “and for the past six years I haven’t taken any diabetes drugs, and yet I keep my diabetes in control with an A1c level usually about 5.4. When you manage your diabetes well, it [your A1c] is well controlled. It is normal. We know that the normal A1c is 6.0 or below.”

“An A1c level of 6.0 or below means that your diabetes is in remission,” Mendoza says. “It does not mean that you have cured it. If you relax your vigilance, your A1c level will go above 6.0 again, and you will again put yourself at risk of the terrible complications of uncontrolled diabetes.”

Mendoza doesn’t explain in this piece what “the group” he refers to was, but I’ll venture a guess it was a group of people who were motivated to be educated and seek mutual support to, among other things, undertake a Very Low Carb Way of Eating. “Any lifestyle change this fundamental is difficult,” Mendoza admits. “I had to make three big changes in my life when I went off the diabetes drugs, and they are hard at first. But now they are a routine part of my life, and I would never go back to my old ways. The changes that I had to make are those that almost everyone who has diabetes has to make. In order of importance, I had 1) to lose weight, 2) eat fewer carbohydrates, and 3) exercise more.”

As my readers know, my story is very similar to Mendoza’s. I was diagnosed in 1986 and was treated in the conventional way with oral meds (maxed out on 2 and starting a 3rd) for 16 years until my doctor suggested I try Atkins Induction (20 net carb grams a day) to lose weight. I had to drop the meds immediately, lost 60 pounds on Atkins and then another 110 a few years later on Bernstein. Mendoza lost at least 100 pounds on the low carb protocol that he followed. My latest A1c was 5.7 but has been as low as 5.4, Mendoza’s latest. And I don’t do a regular exercise routine. It makes me sweaty and hungry. LOL

 I unfortunately have regained about 30 pounds but still maintain a 140 pound weight loss. And I still take 500mg of metformin. I’m not sure why. I tell myself it is to suppress gluconeogenesis, should I eat too much protein (with fat) at dinner, as I am wont to do. Or perhaps it improves my insulin sensitivity, or maybe it is just a vestige of my past life as a heavily medicated type 2. I’d like to think I could do without it, and I’d love to be able to say, as David Mendoza does, “…for the past six years I haven’t taken any diabetes drugs.” Wouldn’t you?
David Mendoza and I are both very lucky that neither of us has had any diabetic complications. No peripheral neuropathy, normal renal function, and no signs of diabetic retinopathy. I also see an urologist and an optometrist once a year.


  1. When I see how other people my age live - many of whom think they are "borderline" diabetic, but haven't been given the equipment to deal with it - I, too, am grateful for my diabetes and the self-knowledge it has brought me.

    1. We'll said, Jan. it's a crazy "construct," but you got David's idea. I write more on this subject in the coming weeks because these are the people "we" need to reach. Thanks as always, for your continuing support.

      NB: I sent the original reply from my iPhone. It contains an error, which is corrected here. I also note that my original reply did not post. I'll have to look into that.