Saturday, January 31, 2009

Diabetes – Is There Hope for Prevention or Cure?

When I first wrote this I neglected to acknowledge the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes - two very different diseases. The comments below are in reference to Type 2 only. I have received comments pointing this out - sorry for the confusion. Bernie (3/6/09)

As many of you know, I am quite passionate about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Government health agencies acknowledge that 80% of the chronic diseases that Americans suffer and eventually die from (diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer) are directly attributable to lifestyle. This means that they can be prevented through diet and lifestyle modifications. These are the diseases of the 20th and 21st Centuries, rare in the early 1900’s, but significantly rising since the 1950’s in both incidence and mortality.

On a daily basis I educate, advise, and encourage people to make diet and lifestyle changes to improve their health. This can be a challenge as there is always some resistance; that is to be expected. It can be frustrating; yet I know those who are compliant will experience the benefits and be healthier.

Once per month I experience a high level of frustration. This is when the latest issue of Diabetes Forecast, the official publication of the American Diabetes Association, arrives in the mail. Their stated mission is “to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.” Unfortunately, if anyone actually follows the advice in the magazine that will never happen. The diabetic following what they read is destined to remain on medications and have their life continue to deteriorate. Let me explain by citing from the February 2009 issue.

We begin on page 11 with an editorial from Paris Roach, MD, the Editor-in-Chief. He states, “…the most effective ways to address lifelong conditions like diabetes are still being developed.” Lifelong conditions – that means you can not get better. Talk to any natural health care provider and you hear story after story of people getting better, but not from the ADA – it is a lifelong condition. Once you have it, you have it. Follow our advice and it will be a lifelong condition!

We move on to page 16 in the Mail Call section. To set the stage, a monthly feature of the magazine is recipes for diabetics – many of them sweets (cookies, cakes) with sugar substitutes. The letter writer states that Splenda causes a spike in their blood sugar (more on that later – thought it wasn’t supposed to do that) so they are looking for sugar equivalents in the recipes. Here comes our first bit of hypocrisy. The response states, “It would not be appropriate for most people with diabetes”, but then goes on with a detailed explanation of how much sugar to use!

Let’s continue with the recipes for the sweets. The ingredients I’ve seen are sometimes a small amount of sugar, but always Splenda, all-purpose flour, and canola oil. Many nutritionists, myself included, believe Splenda to be poison, and to promote a variety of diseases. Recent studies link it to obesity. Yet, it is considered okay for diabetics by the ADA. Seems to me that the last thing someone who is already diseased needs is more unnatural chemicals in their body, particularly one that has chlorine (a known carcinogen at its core).

These recipes also include all-purpose flour, better known as white flour. White flour, as far as your body is concerned, is sugar. So, we have a diabetic, who is not supposed to have sugar, yet they can have white flour? That does not seem like a good idea to me. What about you?

Canola oil. Have you ever seen a canola tree? Well if you have you did not see it on this planet – there is no such thing. It is a manufactured oil, meaning even though it is chemically a monounsaturated fat (like olive oil), it is highly processed, and therefore of questionable benefit. Manufactured oils are highly processed and heated which causes the fats to oxidize and when consumed will increase the free radicals in our body. Free radicals are known to cause cellular damage and contribute to a variety of diseases – probably not something ideal for a diabetic.

Let’s get back to the magazine. Page 33 had an advertisement for an insulin drug. It features a man who appears to be a baker by trade. He is wearing a suit and tie, an apron, and is holding three large baguettes. He states, “I was completely anti-insulin. Now I’m all for it.” What is the baguette made of? White flour. What is white flour? Sugar!

Then there is an article (page 36) discussing the merits of stretching before exercising. Several views are offered, including this from a MD professor from the University of Minnesota, “Why waste time? Especially for someone with diabetes who is reasonably healthy…” Who with diabetes is “reasonably healthy”? Diabetes is a serious disease. That is not healthy.

The next article explains the importance of Omega 3’s in the diet and the problem of the imbalance in most diets from eating too many Omega 6’s. This is true. Now more hypocrisy. On page 47 an RD is quoted as saying, “It’s (Omega 6’s) even in foods you think are healthy…granola bars, veggie burgers…soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils as well as vegetable oil blends.” These are the oils that diabetics are being encouraged to consume in all the other articles where the “good fats” to eat are discussed!

But this is consistent with the hypocrisy found in other articles. All the recipes and editorials encourage low fat and non-fat eating. Fat, particularly saturated fat is bad. Yet, in an article about carbohydrates they state that fat will slow down the process of the carbohydrate turning into sugar slowing the rise of blood sugar. Excuse me, isn’t this what the diabetic wants? Fat is bad, yet it is has beneficial impact on blood sugar?

One of my favorite articles from a past issue described bariatric surgery as a cure for diabetes. The medical expert said something to the effect that it works because the body is “not absorbing the nutrients.” That gets blood sugar levels under control making the person is no longer diabetic by definition.. It seems to me that not absorbing nutrients is not a good long term strategy for health. How exactly does the body live without the ability to absorb nutrients? Perhaps someone from the ADA could explain that to me.

Another of my favorite articles from a prior issue screams the headline “just because you are diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t have ice cream”. Sure, if you never want to get better, you can have ice cream. There was another recipe that was a mixture of low fat cool whip, fat free sugar free pudding, and some other stuff. Basically it was all chemicals. There was no real food. Sounds real healthy! The “birthday” issue of the magazine was loaded with cookie and cake recipes for diabetics.

Perhaps someone from the ADA should speak the truth – if you are diabetic and you want to get healthier for a period of time you should not have ice cream, cookies, cake, white flour, Splenda, or anything like it. If you want to get better you need to stop the sugar and the artificial sweeteners and clean your body. Of course its hard to tell people, particularly many Americans, that they can’t have what they want to eat. Yet these same people will complain about the cost of health care. Seems they are not collecting the dots! I wonder what the ADA thinks of dots?

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sugar - Not So Sweet

When it comes to what is considered good or bad for us to eat there are often differing opinions. That being said, if there is one “universal truth” in nutrition, it is that we need to cut back on the amount of sugar that we consume and that too much sugar consumption is at the core of the chronic diseases that plague us today. Quite simply – the human body was not designed to process the amount of sugar that we are now putting into it.

In the early 1900’s rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease were much lower than today. Obesity was rare. At that time the average American consumed about five pounds of sugar per year. Today, these are major diseases, impacting millions and millions of Americans and driving up our health care costs. Approximately 25% of the adult population is considered obese; another 50% are classified as overweight. The sugar consumption of the average American is approximately 160 pounds per year (and that comes from a source that is now six years old).

If sugar is so bad for us, why do we like it so much? One reason why the sweet taste appeals to us is based in our biology. Humans can not manufacture their own vitamin C; we must consume it. Since the availability of manufactured vitamin C pills is a more current phenomenon, traditionally we had to get it from nature. In nature vitamin C is found in many sweet fruits. Our body has many of these inherent abilities. Poisons taste bad, because they are not good for us. Sweet fruits taste good because we need the vitamin C.

Since we discovered that we like the sweet taste, we then created more foods to deliver that taste. Here is another biological aspect to sugar. Eating sugar causes a biochemical chain reaction that leads to a temporary increase in the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is our “feel good” hormone. It helps us feel more relaxed, less anxious, less stressed, and improves our mood. This is the well known “sugar high”. The key word here is temporary. Once the high is gone, the body desires to return to it. Thus, sugar can become an addiction; and it is a very difficult one to break.

Most of the sugar we consume is refined and has no nutritional value – it is empty calories. In addition, sugar causes spikes in our blood sugar levels. The body desires constant blood sugar levels. Therefore, it must move sugar out of the blood. Insulin does this by either moving the sugar into the cells for energy, or by converting and storing it as fat. Here’s a little secret for you - we do not get fat by eating too much fat, we get fat by eating too much sugar.

Because there is limited nutritional value in the sugary food our hunger is not satisfied for the long term. Hunger is a sign from our body that it needs energy to function. Soon we will be hungry and eat again. Unfortunately this often means eating more sugar, which keeps this pattern going. Eventually our cells become insulin resistant, our pancreas begins to revolt and can not keep up with insulin production. We become pre-diabetic, and ultimately diabetic. On top of that, the constant spikes in our blood sugar are causing inflammation and irritation to our arteries which ultimately leads to heart disease.

But there is more to the story. As our body digests the sugar, it is also depleting nutrients from our body so we can adequately process it. So, not only are there no nutrients in the sugary food, it is taking nutrients out of our body in its processing!

Sugar is also the “food” for the bad bacteria and yeast (Candida) in our body. As we feed them, they take over our digestive system, leading to bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, yeast infections, hormonal imbalances, and a variety of other problems. Often the sugar cravings we experience are these critters sending us the “feed me” signal.

I can not emphasize enough the importance of reducing sugar in your diet. It is one of the key factors behind disease. Reducing your sugar intake is an important aspect of living a healthier lifestyle and at the core of the individualized wellness programs developed for my clients.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (262) 389-9907, e-mail or go to