Note: If you are asking this question for yourself, look at “How Diabetic Do You Want to Be?” Part 1 (#344) and Part 2 (#345) But read on if you are interested in a short essay on the subject “Am I a Type 2 Diabetic?” The answer depends on whom you ask.
First, you need some “history.” I was diagnosed a Type 2 in 1986, before the A1c test was developed and the glucose test standard was fasting blood glucoses on two consecutive office visits of ≥140mg/dl. That changed to ≥126mg/dl in 1997, and the ADA adopted the hemoglobin A1c test to replace the FBG in 2002.
In 1986 my doctor started me out on the only anti-diabetic oral medication available in the U.S. at the time, a sulfonylurea (SU) called Micronase (generic name: Glyburide). No doubt he advised me to lose weight (I was obese), but instead I gained. I do not recall if he gave me any dietary advice, but if he did, it no doubt would have followed the ADA’s Standard of Practice and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, first issued in 1980.
When Metformin (in use in Europe since the mid ‘50s) was permitted in the U.S. in 1995, my doctor started me on that too. When in a few years I was maxed out on both, he then started me on a 3rd class of oral drugs, the TZDs. I was then at my heaviest weight, and in yet another effort to get me to lose, my doctor suggested I try a Very Low Carb diet he had read about in The New York Times. It was Atkins Induction (20g of carbs a day) as described by award-winning science writer Gary Taubes in the Magazine cover story, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” It created quite a stir. I tried it and, over time, lost altogether 170 pounds.
On strict Atkins Induction, from the first day, to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) I had to give up first the Avandia (the TZD), then cut the other two meds in half, and then cut them in half again. A while later, I gave up the SU (glyburide) altogether and continued the 500mg Metformin once a day for the next 14 years.
In addition, in no time at all my lipids (cholesterol) improved dramatically. My HDL average more than doubled (39 to 81), my triglyceride average plummeted by 2/3rds (from 137 to 49), and even my LDL came down! And with all the weight lost my blood pressure improved substantially (on the same meds). All these changes were from diet alone, no exercise.
So, am I a Type 2 Diabetic? A clinician who looked at my fasting blood glucose today (90mg/dl) would say, “Consistent with the absence of diabetes.” Yet, 30 years ago I was diagnosed a Type 2. Was it a mistake? Am I still a Type 2 Diabetic? Or, has my Type 2 Diabetes been “cured” because my “symptom” has gone away.
A clinician who looked at my hemoglobin A1c would see 5.7% and say, “Consistent with an increased risk for diabetes (prediabetes).” They would have no basis to conclude otherwise. They’d say, “We’ll continue to monitor that” (until it gets worse), and then maybe they’d write a script for a minimum dose of Metformin.
An endocrinologist would order a 2-hr Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) in a hospital outpatient setting. It would reveal the underlying Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT). Result: Definitely, a Type 2 Diabetic.
The truth: Starting probably 40 years ago, I gradually developed Insulin Resistance. I became Carbohydrate Intolerant. Insulin receptors on the surface of muscle, that are supposed to “open the door” to allow glucose to be taken up, started to gradually fail. My pancreas made more insulin. With overuse, its capacity to make beta cells began to wear out. That loss of function is not going to change. It’s not reversible, but my Type 2 Diabetes is treatable, by making my insulin receptors work better. The only treatment that works for that underlying metabolic dysfunction (Insulin Resistance) is a low carbohydrate diet. This treatment works!It’s not as hard as you might think. After a few days, you lose your sense of hunger because your body has started to break down fat for energy. It’s good energy. You feel alert. Pumped, actually. You don’t get sleepy after lunch. Your energy level is constant and your blood sugar pretty flat – no peaks and crashes – and you feel lean. You’re ready to hunt.