Sunday, December 13, 2015

Type 2 Diabetes, a Dietary Disease #307: A Personal Story (N = 1)

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1986. The standard at the time was 2 consecutive fasting blood sugars ≥ 140mg/dl. The standard today is ≥126mg/dl, so I had probably been diabetic for many years. I weighed 300 pounds at that point, up from 250 in 1974. So my doctor told me to lose weight. He also began to treat me with a sulfonylurea, an oral antidiabetic medication that called upon my pancreas to produce more insulin whenever it was presented with simple sugars and other carbohydrates that I had eaten.
I tried many times to lose weight on the “balanced, calorie restricted” diet recommended by my doctor and his staff nutritionist, a registered dietitian (RD). I was always hungry. And from time to time when I did lose weight, I always gained it back. Over the years I continued to gain weight, and my diabetes worsened. In the mid 1990s, after I was “maxed out” on the sulfonylurea (glyburide), my doctor prescribed metformin, a new medication (in the U.S.). In a few more years I was maxed out on that drug too, and my doctor started me on a third class of oral diabetes medication. Soon, I feared, I was going to be injecting insulin directly into my veins.
By August 2002, I was the heaviest I had ever been. In fact, for several previous appointments I had been too heavy to be weighed on my doctor’s office scale. So before my next appointment, I weighed myself (with permission) at the Fulton Fish Market. The commercial scale told me the truth: 375 pounds. That was really scary. When I walked into the doctor’s office later that day, I was motivated to lose weight.
“Have I got a diet for you!” my doctor said as he greeted me from the nurse’s station in the lobby of his office. Serendipity had created a moment where my doctor had a specific recommendation for me, and I was totally receptive to his suggestion. He told me that he had personally tried a diet that he had read about in The New York Times! It was the July 7th Sunday magazine cover story, “What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?” by Gary Taubes, an award-winning science writer. This was a ground breaking story that was to change countless lives.
Both my doctor and I were interested in this diet because we both wanted me to lose weight – a lot of weight. But as my doctor walked me down the hall to schedule my next appointment, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Dan, this may help your diabetes too.” Boy was that an understatement!
The first day on this new diet, in the late afternoon, I experienced a “hypo” or hypoglycemic episode – a low blood sugar with “sweats.” I knew something was wrong so I tested my blood and then went to the news stand in the lobby and bought a candy bar. I then called my doctor, and he told me to stop taking the 3rd oral medication. But the next afternoon I had another hypo. I ate another candy bar and called the doctor again. This time he said to cut the other 2 oral meds in half, and the next day, when the scene repeated itself, to cut them in half again. In only a few days of strictly following this diet I was taking just 1/9th the meds as before.
On this diet, as is manifest, I didn’t need to take all these antidiabetic medications. And in time I was able – correction, I had to eliminate the sulfonylurea completely to avoid hypos. And all this happened before I lost weight. Of course, I did lose a lot of weight on this diet (170 pounds at my lowest), but more importantly my type 2 diabetes went into remissionso long as I continued to stay on this diet. I’m not “cured.” I never will be, but neither is my Type 2 Diabetes still “a progressive disease.” It is, quite simply, A DIETARY DISEASE.
* My lipid profile also improved dramatically: My HDL more than doubled and my triglycerides dropped by 2/3rds. My ratios (TC/HDL and TG/HDL) are now stellar, and my inflammation markers have plummeted. My blood pressure, of course, also improved (on the same meds). And my type 2 diabetes is in total remission!


  1. A reader who receives my column by email wrote, "And that diet was and is????????" I replied, "Open the NYT link and find out!" But, if you missed that, or are too lazy to read the story that caused an epiphany in so many medical professionals and others, "the diet" is the Atkins Diet, specifically for me the original "Atkins Induction," which is no more than 20 grams of carbohydrate a DAY. If you try, this, and you're on oral anti-diabetic medications, be prepared to be ready to sharply reduce the dosages from the getgo, or you WILL have hypos.

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