I know it’s controversial, but is there really a problem with current medical treatment of diabetes? Dr Joel Fuhrman believes there is – indeed, he’s of the opinion that the way conventional doctors deal with diabetes is not only failing to address the causes of this disease, but he considers that the current methods represent a virtual malpractice. The result of this appears to be that patients are being short-changed and sent to an early and painful grave ahead of their time, when other less invasive remedies are proven to be far more effective.
So, where’s the evidence, one way or the other? Since, it’s fine to spout off about something, but it’s another thing entirely to speak from authority.
In his book, Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program For Conquering Disease 1 , Dr Fuhrman cites research data that seems to indicate that the current medical paradigm is not only lagging behind alternative therapies, but is actually exacerbating the disease – that is, rather than making it better, it makes it worse.
I’ll deal with this sensitive subject in a way that provides you with evidence (that you can check out for yourself) from peer-reviewed research studies as I relate particular statements made by Dr Fuhrman.
Atherosclerosis accounts for 80 percent of all diabetic deaths. Diabetics have more than four times as many heart attacks as non-diabetics. A third of all patients with insulin-dependent diabetes die of heart attacks before they reach 50 years of age 2 .
Therefore, you’d think that any dietary recommendations designed for diabetics would attempt to reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, the typical dietary recommendations have been shown to allow the advancement of atherosclerosis in normal patients, let alone in diabetic patients 3 4 .
The Lifestyle Heart Trial 5 is just one of lots of studies documenting that the usual medical recommendations (that is, a diet including 30% of calories being derived from fat) permit the progression of heart disease even in non-diabetic patients. The reason that these more recent studies were organised was because it was noted that numerous population-based studies showed that cardiovascular deaths were virtually nonexistent in rural populations who consumed vegetarian diets. And, significantly, in these same populations diabetes was unknown. The researchers emphasised that deaths from heart disease increased when the population under study gradually increased their consumption of animal-based and other rich foods. Diabetes then started to appear 6 .
There’s no serious argument about the fact that all animal foods are rich in fat and protein and are also deficient in fibre and the antioxidant nutrients that have been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer. All studies on populations consuming less than 15% of calories from fat show that heart disease and diabetes are virtually non-existent 7 .
Fat in the diet of diabetics not only accelerates the disease process, it also interferes with the uptake of glucose by the cells, and thus raises blood glucose level. In one study 8 , perfectly healthy medical students were given a very high fat diet containing egg yolks, heavy cream, and butter, and within only two days all students had blood sugar levels high enough to be labelled diabetic. What is important to note is that complex carbohydrates (the sort that are naturally consumed within a WFPB diet) have been shown 9 to have totally the opposite effect.
If you receive pharmaceutical or intravenous insulin over a period of years, the pancreas eventually loses its ability to produce such excessive amounts of insulin, that it has to do in order to combat the excess of fat and protein consumption, leading to the excess of glucose remaining in the blood stream – basically, it gets worked to death! Naturally, the tendency for diabetes is something that can be influenced by genetics. However, just because there’s a genetic disposition towards a disease, it doesn’t mean that you will get it. This was shown in a 1991 study 10 of the Pima and Tohono O’odham Indian tribes of the American Southwest of the USA. They historically ate cactus, roots, berries, beans, corn, and greens and diabetes was unknown in their ancestry. However, they eventually adopted the SAD (Standard American Diet). The result? More than half became diabetic by the age of 35, although before 1945 diabetes was an unknown disease in this tribe. They may have had a genetic disposition, but it seems that it became activated by a change in diet.
And is this an isolated case? Not at all. Numerous other studies 11 12 show that genetic disposition is only realised when there are changes to the diet – that is, adding more fat and protein from a diet with increased animal and other rich (processed) instead of sticking to a largely plant-based diet.
High levels of fat and protein are not the only causes of diabetes, high levels of insulin present in diabetics also promotes hardening of the blood vessels and consequent aging of the body. Findings from numerous studies 13 14 have shown that insulin blocks cholesterol removal, stimulates the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, and contributes to the delivery of cholesterol to the cells. This is not insignificant – it means that taking insulin tablets or having insulin injections are themselves going to increase mortality. Okay, you might have more insulin in your body, but you are more likely to die of a heart attack. Not good news.
Dr Fuhrman states the following: “The Remedy Is Worse Than the Disease.” What does he mean by this?
“The administration of insulin and oral medications attempts to address only one aspect of the problem—the increased blood sugar levels. Because insulin increases one’s appetite and increases glucose uptake by the cells, the diabetic patient becomes more diabetic and eventually requires more insulin, and so on. Increased insulin is responsible for increased death from heart attacks. Giving a type II diabetic insulin is like giving an alcoholic more alcohol.” ((Fuhrman, Dr. Joel. Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program For Conquering Disease (p. 135). . Kindle Edition.))
So what’s the alternative?
Well, let’s start from the basics: Something as simple as a daily large green salad is the only food ever shown to provide a significant correlation with longer life in scientific studies 18 19 . Of course, all the other members of the plant family (fruits, beans, seeds, etc) are also vital for the provision of a balanced nutrient-rich diet. But perhaps the important point here is that eating a low-fat diet consisting of whole plant foods is the way to prevent, treat and reverse diabetes. In his book, Dr Fuhrman lists a large number of case studies of diabetic patients who were eventually symptom-free after a combination of undergoing water-fasting and consuming a low-fat, plant-based diet.
Unusual for a medical practitioner, Dr Fuhrman is bold enough to state the following:
“…a diabetic patient who is not a strict vegetarian is either ill-informed or foolish. Doctors who know this information are irresponsible if they do not explain it to their patients.”
So why don’t doctors use the wisdom of the ages when dealing with diabetes? It’s pretty obvious really – money and drugs. Simple as that. Perhaps you think this is a bit sceptical. Well, look at research 20 as far back as 1915, before the onset of Big Pharma, and what do you find as the most effective solution to diabetes? Fasting. That is, simply stopping eating food for a period of time so that the body can realign itself. This has been supported by more recent studies 21 22 23 .
I’ve just touched on the issue of diabetes as covered by Dr Fuhrman in his above-mentioned book. I would recommend that you purchase it and decide for yourself whether he presents enough evidence for a serious questioning of the current medical approach to diabetes treatment.
I know someone with diabetes and a troubling history of cardiovascular disease (bypass, stents, etc) . Although I have tried to inform him about the wealth of research data showing that his current medical advice is woefully out of date, he still continues to take the medications his doctor recommends, and eat the diet that his NHS diabetic dietitian recommends – including eating regular meals of prawns and chicken while keeping his intake of strawberries and grapes to a minimum! It’s easy to despair…
For my part, it seems pretty clear – the pancreas is overworked with more insulin (from either tablets or injections). When you’re overweight, the pancreas needs to produce more insulin. Too much insulin is dangerous – pancreatic beta cells eventually ‘give up the ghost’ and cannot produce the insulin needed within an overweight body. Then the nasty negative cycle starts as soon as the doctor starts giving more and more insulin. Atherosclerotic plaque builds up and the heart attacks appear.
The obvious answer is to lose weight and keep the weight off. The best way of doing this – and maintaining it for life – is by adopting a wholly or largely whole food plant-based diet.
I know I hammer away on this WFPB stuff; but believe me, the evidence is amassing that there’s no better way to stay lean, healthy and disease-free. Watch the media – you’ll see that the medical profession will eventually catch up with this simple and conservative approach to healthcare for the diabetic; although it’s likely that you’ll see simple foods sold as expensive pills first before they are adopted as the most rational and effective dietary solution…
- Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program For Conquering Disease
- Insulin therapy may promote atherosclerosis. Family Practice News, March 1, 1992, p. 42.
- Kahn JK. Reversing coronary atherosclerosis. Postgraduate Medicine 1993;94:50–65.
- Carre J. Low-fat diet can keep arteries young and disease-free. Medicine Tribune, November 25, 1993, p. 3.
- The Lifestyle Heart Trial
- Wenxun F, Parker R, Parpia B, et al. Erythrocyte fatty acids, plasma lipids and cardiovascular disease in rural China. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1990;52:1027–32.
- West K. Epidemiology of Diabetes and Its Vascular Lesions. New York: Elsevier, 1978, pp. 353–402.
- Sweeney J. Dietary factors that influence the dextrose tolerance test: A preliminary study. Archives of Internal Medicine 1927;40:818.
- Hollenbeck C, Donner CC, Williams RA, Reaven GM. The effects of variations in percent of naturally occurring complex and simple carbohydrates on plasma glucose and insulin response in individuals with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Diabetes 1985;34:151.
- To preserve their health and heritage, Arizona Indians reclaim ancient foods. New York Times, May 21, 1991, pp. C1,C10.
- Himsworth H. Diet in the etiology of human diabetes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 1949;42:323–326.
- Kawate R. Diabetes mellitus and its vascular complications in Japanese migrants on the island of Hawaii. Diabetes Care 1979;2:161–170.
- Insulin therapy may promote atherosclerosis. Family Practice News.
- Zoler LZ. Insulin therapy discouraged in type II diabetes patients. Family Practice News, Sept. 15, 1993, pp. 1,26.
- Berger W. Incidence of severe side effects during therapy with sulfonylureas and biguanides. Hormone and Metabolic Research Supplement 1985;15:111–5.
- Boyd AE. Sulfonylurea receptors, ion channels, and fruit flies. Diabetes 1988;37:847–50.
- Kolterman OG, Gray RS, Shapiro G, et al. The acute and chronic effects of sulfonylurea therapy in type II diabetic subjects. Diabetes 1984;33:346–54.
- Snowdon DA. Animal product consumption and mortality because of all causes combined, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer in Seventh-Day Adventists. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1988;48:739–48.
- Kahn HA, Phillips RL, Snowdon DA, Chop W. Association between reported diet and all-cause mortality. American Journal of Epidemiology 1984; 119(5) :775–787.
- Allen FM. Prolonged fasting in diabetes. American Journal of the Medical Sciences 1915; 159(4):480–485.
- Gueris J, Segrestaa JM, Lamotte M. Insulinemia in the obese before and after fasting therapy. Journal Annuel Diabetologie Hotel Dieu (France) 1969;10:287–292.
- Vessby B, Boberg M, Karlstrom B, et al. Improved metabolic control after supplemented fasting in overweight type II diabetic patients Acta Medica Scandinavia 1984;216:67–74.
- McCarty MF. Maturity-onset diabetes—toward a physiologically appropriate management. Medical Hypothesis (England) 1981;7(10): 1265–1285.