Diabetes: A Historical Look
noun: diabetes mellitus
The term Diabetes comes from a Greek word meaning "siphon", coined in the second century AD, and mellitus comes from the latin word mel which means "honey", both indicating that people with this disease were "siphoning off sweet water". (2). Patients with Diabetes produce excess urination and both their blood and urine have elevated levels of glucose, or "sugar". The body's normal response to elevated levels of glucose is to secrete insulin whose job it is to lower the blood glucose levels to the non-threatening dose of about 4 mmol/L (as well as store this excess "sugar" in our tissues as fat). It seems to me that very early on, it became apparent that this condition had something to do with excess levels of glucose/sugar, and where do we get our sugars from? Our diet, right! In fact, until 1921, the only treatment for Diabetes was through dietary intervention.
I always thought Diabetes was a dietary condition, or at least related to diet. Until I started researching it more and realized that, according to Public Health-Canada, it is not! It is a condition affected by "social, economic, environmental, genetic and lifestyle Factors" (3). Nowhere in the entire article mentioned, does it really blame diet for this condition or name it as one of its risk factors, except to say that poor diet may lead to obesity and obesity may lead to diabetes. They state that "Inadequate consumption of vegetables and fruit is used as a proxy measure of unhealthy diet, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, largely through its effects on body weight" (3). So it's the weight that causes diabetes... and not the diet.... They also go on to name "Advancing age, obesity, physical inactivity, certain ethnicities, and a family history of diabetes (or gestational diabetes in women) [as] important risk factors" for type II Diabetes" (3). Basically everything causes Diabetes, except the one thing that elevates blood glucose levels - diet and dietary carbohydrates. Hum. Am I missing something here?
A historical look at Diabetes has taught me that the first medical treatment for Diabetes was documented in 1797, in Scotland, and it consisted of a DIET of "plain blood puddings", "fat and rancid meat" (4). In 1871, a French Doctor used "food rationing", aka fasting, and individualized dietary plans to treat his patients (4). As late as 1919 the "Total Dietary Regulations in the Treatment of Diabetes" was published and introduced a therapy based on very strict dieting (4). Between 1920 and 1921 Banting, a Canadian doctor and a few colleagues, conceive of the existence of insulin and pharmaceutical companies start to mass produce it to treat Diabetics (4). Since then, the conventional model to treat Diabetes is through medication and Doctors do not recommend carbohydrate restriction greater than 120 g/d because apparently our body and our brain require at least this much "sugar" otherwise "something" will happen (I don't know how so many of us are still standing on Low Carb diets...). Anyway, in 1916, it was reported that there was a 20% decrease in mortality rates of Diabetes patients due to the "introduction of fasting and emphasis on regular exercise" (4). Between 1998 and 2007 there was a 70% increase in Diabetes incidence in Canada (4). To note that in 1992, new Dietary Guidelines were released that recommended an increased intake of grains, to a record high of 5-12 servings per day (5). Coincidence? I think not! So much so that it is now back down to 6-8 servings of grains per day (big deal!?!) since 2007 (6). Yet somehow, diet, specifically dietary restriction of carbohydrates, has not been the focus of our public health crusade against diabetes. I still don't get it.
Fast-forward to modern days, and we have the conventional medical system fighting diabetes with drugs and leading in the diabetic resistance crusade (not good). Insulin resistance, for those of you that don't know leads to Diabetes type II. The more carbs you consume, the more insulin your body produces, the more insulin your body produces, the more resistance the body develops, and the more resistance the higher the chances of becoming diabetic. It is that simple. Keep your sugars down, keep your insulin levels down, avoid insulin resistance, avoid diabetes. People are being fooled into thinking that medication will allow diabetics to eat "normally" and that their Diabetes is caused by everything else but their dietary choices. They are also told that eating few carbohydrates will actually "harm them". On the other side, you have the many LCHF, or even better LCKD (Low Carb Ketogenic Diet), Doctors who continue to successfully treat and monitor their patients with Diabetes Mellitus. Here in Toronto, Canada, we have Dr. Jason Fung, who lectures about Fasting, Low Carb and Insulin and who also heads an Intensive Dietary Management Program for his patients. There's approximately a 10-month waiting list to get into his program (??it must be working!!) A Diabetes doctor who uses diet, instead of medicine to treat his patients, wow, how "forward-thinking"! Oh wait, wasn't that what they were doing in back in 1916?