Diabetes: controlled or . . . cured? 28. November 2007 William Davis (37) Russ had a beer belly, a big protuberant, hanging-over-the belt-on-top-of-skinny-legs sort of beer belly. Except he didn't get it from beer (only). Yes, he did drink beer, up to 3 or 4 per day on weekends, rarely during the week. Russ got his "beer belly" from snack foods, processed foods, and yes, wheat products. He came to my office for consultation for unexplained breathlessness. His primary care physician was stumped and asked for an opinion.So, part of Russ' evaluation included laboratory work. Russ proved to have a blood sugar (glucose) of 136 mg/dl, well into the diabetic range. His insulin level was 102 microunits/ml, way above the desirable range of <10. I interpreted this to mean that Russ had early diabetes but still maintained vigorous pancreatic function, since the pancreas is the abdominal organ responsible for insulin production. In pre-diabetes and early diabetes, insulin levels can be high, reflecting the revved up output of the pancreas. However, the pancreas eventually "burns out," unable to keep up with the demand to product enormous quantities of insulin. That's when blood sugar skyrockets. Along with the blood sugar and insulin, Russ showed all the expected markers of this syndrome (the "metabolic syndrome"): low HDL of 34 mg/dl, high triglycerides of 257 mg/dl, severe small LDL (80% of total LDL), high c-reactive protein, and high blood pressure. A heart scan showed a surprisingly small amount of coronary plaque with a score of only 4. Thus, Russ' symptoms were unlikely to represent a coronary issue ("ischemia"). Breathlessness was far more likely to be from 1) his obesity and protuberant abdomen, large enough to encroach on his chest and lung volume, and 2) high blood pressure (which can, in turn, lead to high heart pressure and breathlessness, often called "left ventricular diastolic dysfunction"). I persuaded Russ to eliminate his previously flagrant and abundant over-reliance on wheat products and snack foods. Two months later, 15 lbs lighter, and a modestly less protuberant beer belly, Russ' laboratory evealuation showed:--Blood sugar 90 mg/dl--normal. --Insulin 12 microunit/ml--darn near normal. Blood pressure was down 20 points. Russ' breathlessness was now entirely gone. He has another 30-40 lbs to go, but he's off to a great start. He is now clearly, solidly, and confidently NON-diabetic. I see experiences like this every day, as do committed diabetes fighters like Jenny at Diabetes Update. Why isn't this common practice? If pre-diabetes and diabetes can be cured by such a simple approach, why isn't it more widely embraced? After all, what other devastating diseases can claim to have such a simple, straightforward way to achieve cure? And why does the American Diabetes Association (ADA) actually condone the inclusion of abundant carbohydrates in diabetics? Their modified food pyramid shows the widest part of the pyramid filled with "breads, grains, and other starches."How about this question taken from a Q&A on the ADA website:Can I eat foods with sugar in them?For almost every person with diabetes, the answer is yes! Eating a piece of cake made with sugar will raise your blood glucose level. So will eating corn on the cob, a tomato sandwich, or lima beans. The truth is that sugar has gotten a bad reputation. People with diabetes can and do eat sugar. In your body, it becomes glucose, but so do the other foods mentioned above. With sugary foods, the rule is moderation. Eat too much, and 1) you'll send your blood glucose level up higher than you expected; 2) you'll fill up but without the nutrients that come with vegetables and grains; and 3) you'll gain weight. So, don't pass up a slice of birthday cake. Instead, eat a little less bread or potato, and replace it with the cake. Taking a brisk walk to burn some calories is also always helpful. The answer is simple. Just as the American Heart Association focuses on ways to deliver the message of palliation, so does the ADA. So ADA diet advice is designed to help diabetics maintain a stable blood sugar on their medication. It is definitely not intended to reverse or eliminate diabetes. My patient Russ would be deep into diabetes on the ADA diet, enjoying his rolls, whole wheat bread, breakfast cereals, and birthday cake. Once again, another example of the growing irrelevance of the "official" arbiters of health information for those of us looking for reversal of disease.