In his book “The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally,” Dr. Jason Fung’s core message is that the type 2 diabetes epidemic can be stopped, but it won’t be easy.
It will involve the re-education of the population about what really causes diabetes, what really works and doesn’t work to prevent and reverse the disease, and a commitment by individuals and society to implement some tough personal lifestyle changes.
“The underlying core problem of type 2 diabetes, which typically develops gradually over many years, is insulin resistance and it remains virtually untreated because there is no clear consensus upon its cause,” says Dr. Fung.
So what causes type 2 diabetes? Dr. Fung says it has more to do with too much sugar than too many calories or not enough exercise as is the general consensus. He says “calories are not the underlying cause of weight gain” and therefore “reducing calories cannot reliably reduce weight.” I would pause here and think about that statement – wow!
“The most important factor in controlling fat accumulation and weight gain is to control the hormonal signals we receive from food, not the total number of calories we eat. Obesity is a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one. The hormonal problem in undesired weight gain is mainly excessive insulin. Excessive insulin causes weight gain and obesity. Decreasing insulin causes weight loss.”
If our body becomes insulin resistant over time, our pancreas must produce more insulin to manage the glucose in our blood. More insulin — more weight gain. More weight gain, especially around our organs and mid-section, leads to more fat in our organs, especially our liver, which become more insulin resistant and the vicious circle continues to spiral upward until the pancreas fails and we are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – the leading cause of blindness, kidney and heart disease, stroke, amputations, dementia, infertility and nerve damage.
The development of a fatty liver over time is key to becoming a type 2 diabetic. We cannot exercise our livers to health like we can our muscles so reversing the disease lies with treating its root cause: reducing excess sugar and insulin.
“Following a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet and increasing exercise have long been the recommended lifestyle treatment for type 2 diabetes. There is only one problem with this seemingly common sense advice. It doesn’t work at all.”
On the hit list for elimination, or at least major reduction, from our diets are: refined carbohydrates like sugars, flour, bread, pasta, muffins, doughnuts, rice, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, iced tea, sports drinks, mixed alcoholic drinks, artificial sweeteners, juices, smoothies, coffee drinks, “enhanced” water, cookies, cakes, desserts, cupcakes, and ice cream. We should also be looking for the ‘hidden’ sugars in condiments like ketchup and relish, spaghetti/tomato sauces, flavoured yogurts, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, applesauce, spice mixes, cereals and granola bars.
So basically his “most important rule, without exception, is to eliminate all added sugars from your diet.” I can hear some like me with a sweet tooth saying “where’s the fun in that?!” I don’t know about you, but that’s a tall order for me. He says “the dose makes the poison” so what I can do is be more selective as to what I eat and make a serious effort to increase the amount of calories I consume through real foods in their natural state.
We are also advised to reduce refined carbohydrates such as products made with wheat, corn, rice, and potatoes, so add to your list of products to reduce or avoid “refined wheat products such as bread, pasta, waffles, processed corn products, such as popcorn, corn chips and tortillas, and refined potato products, particularly french fries and potato chips. And eat white rice, which is also a refined carbohydrate, in small amounts.” They can be replaced with fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts, natural healthy fats found in beef, pork, bacon, butter, cream, and coconuts.
“Eggs are an excellent choice, as are most seafoods.” You will also need to buy a large supply of olive oil to replace oils made from sunflowers, corn, canola, safflower, and vegetables and “stay away from deep-fried foods and all hydrogenated (trans) fats.”
Dr. Fung says “following a low-carbohydrate, healthy-fat diet reduces the incoming glucose load but does little to burn it off. Exercise may help, but only benefits the skeletal muscles and not the fatty liver that is the cornerstone of this disease.”
The last piece to the puzzle, to help the large organs of the liver, heart, pancreas, and skeletal muscles burn years of accumulated fat is to adopt a routine of intermittent fasting. He says it’s “the most powerful natural therapy available for type 2 diabetes.”
Intermittent fasting succeeds because it reduces insulin and insulin resistance. During a fast, our bodies use the energy it stored in the form of fat as fuel without slowing down our metabolism which occurs during a program of restricting calories alone. Dr. Fung advises that it’s not unusual to get hunger pains or headaches during a fast which are often signs that the body is dumping its toxic sugar load.
He says no single fasting regimen is correct for everyone, so it is important to consult your doctor before starting. Monitor key indicators like your blood glucose levels and be prepared to try a few different regimens to find the right one for you.
As with any book review, I’ve only touched the surface of this most important topic. If you have or believe you are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes, I would add this book to your reading list.
I’m going to give his advice a try and let you know how it goes.
Norm Letnick is MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and the BC Liberal health critic. He reviews books on health on a recurring basis for The Okanagan Weekend.