What’s Wrong With Drugs for Diabetes?

paleobetic diet, low-carb diet, diabetic diet

How about this one?

MedPageToday has an article on the “Bittersweet Diabetes Economy” talking about the cost of treating diabetes, Big Pharma influence on diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and prediabetes, and the unknown long-term effectiveness of diabetes drugs. Most of the article pertains to type 2 diabetes. A quote:

Last year, sales of diabetes drugs reached $23 billion [worldwide or U.S.?], according to the data from IMS Health, a drug market research firm. That was more than the combined revenue of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association.

But from 2004 to 2013, none of the 30 new diabetes drugs that came on the market were proven to improve key outcomes, such as reducing heart attacks or strokes, blindness, or other complications of the disease, an investigation by MedPage Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved all of those drugs based on a surrogate endpoint: the ability to lower blood sugar. Many of the new drugs have dubious benefit; some can be harmful.

Another key outcome we don’t know about is prevention or postponement of death via drug therapy for type 2 diabetes.

Now you have some inkling of why I exhort my patients to maximize diet and exercise interventions before resorting to drugs, increasing drug dosages, or adding more drugs. (I’m not talking about type 1 diabetes here.)


Steve Parker, M.D.

low-carb mediterranean diet

Front cover of book

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Diabetic Diet Wars: Vegan Versus Low-Fat


paleo diet, Steve Parker MD, how to cook asparagus and Brussels sprouts

These might be allowed on the vegan Ma-Pi 2 diet

A vegan diet was superior to a low-fat diet over the course of three weeks, in terms of blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The vegans were also able to use fewer drugs.

A specific vegan diet (Ma-Pi 2) was compared to a low-fat diet in a study published by Nutrition & MetabolismCarbsane Evelyn dove into the study at her blog (recommended reading), or you can read the original research report yourself. Study subjects had fairly well-controlled type 2 diabetes and were elderly (66) and overweight (84 kg or 185 lb). The vegan diet was mostly whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and green tea.  The low-fat and vegan diets both probably supplied 200–300 calories/day fewer than what the subjects were used to: 1900 cals for men, 1700 for women. The study had 25 patients in each group and lasted only three weeks.

The vegan group ate 335 grams/day of carbohydrate compared to 235 grams in the low-fat group. In contrast, the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet provides 30–100 grams/day of digestible carb and the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet allows a max of 20–30 grams.

The vegans in the study at hand ate 15–20 more grams/day of fiber. High fiber intake is linked to better blood sugar control.

From the study abstract:

After correcting for age, gender, BMI at baseline, and physical activity, there was a significantly greater reduction in the primary outcomes fasting blood glucose and after-meal glucose in those patients receiving the Ma-Pi 2 diet compared with those receiving the control diet [low-fat]. Statistically significantly greater reductions in the secondary outcomes, HbA1c, insulin resistance, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and LDL/HDL ratio, BMI, body weight, waist and hip circumference were also found in the Ma-Pi 2 diet group compared with the control diet group. The latter group had a significantly greater reduction of triglycerides compared with the Ma-Pi 2 diet group.

The take-home point for me is that overweight T2 diabetics can improve short-term diabetes numbers despite a high carbohydrate consumption if they restrict calories and eat the “right” carbs. Restrict calories enough—600/day?—and T2 diabetes might be curable

I’ve written before about vegetarian/vegan diets for diabetes. My patients are more resistant to vegan diets than they are to low-carb.

Paleobetic diet, low-carb breakfast

Not allowed not on the Ma-Pi 2 diet. Bacon, eggs, black coffee, and Cholula hot sauce.

I scanned the original report and don’t see any problems with Evelyn’s summary.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Vegetarian Diet

Adam Brown Favors Lower-Carb Over Moderate-Carb Diet for His Diabetes

Use the search box to find the recipe for this low-carb avocado chicken soup

Use the search box to find the recipe for this low-carb avocado chicken soup

Read his amazingly detailed post at Diatribe. Adam, who has type 1 diabetes, figured out during his college days that eating no more that 30 grams of carbs at a time was “a complete gamechanger” for improving his blood sugars. He experimented on himself to see if there was a difference between his usual lower-carb diet (146 grams/day) versus 313 grams/day.

A quote:

To my utter surprise, both diets resulted in the same average glucose and estimated A1c. But there were major tradeoffs:

The higher-carb, whole-grain diet caused four times as much hypoglycemia, an extra 72 minutes per day spent high, and required 34% more insulin. (A less healthy high-carb diet would have been far worse.)

Doubling my daily carbs also added much more effort and produced far more feelings of exhaustion and diabetes failure. It was not fun at all, and the added roller coaster, or glycemic variation, from all the extra carbs made it more dangerous.

See more at: http://diatribe.org/low-carb-vs-high-carb-my-surprising-24-day-diabetes-diet-battle#sthash.pZOgCWVl.dpuf

I think the lower-carb approach is healthier over the long run. Check with your own healthcare provider before making any drastic change in your diabetic diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Carbohydrate

Recipe: Fruit Smoothie #1


A 12 fl oz serving

A 12 fl oz serving

Smoothies are a great substitute for junk food desserts. My wife has been experimenting with them. Most Americans should probably eat more fruit; smoothies are one way to do that. Here’s one she made up. Note the trendy chia seeds and kale (or is that fad over?).

Since I provide the nutritional analysis below, you can easily incorporate this smoothie into a diabetic diet. Total digestible carb grams are 32; if that’s too much, cut the portion in half.

We’re using a Vitamix mixer. Other devices may be able to get the job done. The mixing speeds our device range from one to 10. (Tip for a competitor: make one that goes to 11.) We love our Vitamix and have no regrets about the purchase. It is hard to hear anything else when it’s running at top speed.

One potential advantage of blending these fruits is that one fruit may provide nutrients that the others lack

One potential advantage of blending these fruits is that one fruit may provide nutrients that the others lack


1 cup (240 ml) grapes, green seedless

1 mandarin orange, peeled, halved

1 banana (7 inches or 18 cm), peeled, cut into 3–4 pieces

1 pear, medium-size, cored, quartered (ok to leave peel on)

1/2 tbsp (7 g) chia seeds

1 cup (50 g) raw kale


First put the water in the Vitamix, then grapes, pear, orange, banana, chia seeds, kale, and finally ice. Ice is always last. Then blend on variable speed 1 and gradually go up to high level (10). Total spin time is about 45 seconds.

Full speed ahead!

Full speed ahead!

Number of Servings: 2.5 consisting of 12 fl oz (350 ml) each.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

7% fat

88% carbohydrate

5% protein

160 calories

38 g carbohydrate

6 g fiber

32 g digestible carbohydrate

15 mg sodium

520 mg potassium

Prominent features: Good source of vitamin C, fair amount of fiber, miniscule sodium.

Steve Parker, M.D.




Filed under Recipes

Is Macular Degeneration Avoidable?

Remember...peanuts aren't nuts, they're legumes

Remember…peanuts aren’t nuts, they’re legumes

I saw an optometrist earlier this year for a new eyeglass prescription and mentioned that age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) runs in my family. ARMD is the leading cause of adult blindness in the West. Thank God, I don’t have it….yet.

The optometrist suggested I start taking eye vitamins to help prevent ARMD. Popular eye vitamin preparations in Arizona are Ocuvite and I-Caps. He said a multivitamin like Centrum might be just as effective.

UpToDate.com, a source I trust, says that supplements for prevention probably don’t work and are not recommended. Which means Centrum would be just as effective: i.e., none of them work.

Instead, UpToDate recommends regular exercise, not smoking, and relatively high consumption of leafy green vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts. Although they didn’t mention it by name, the traditional Mediterranean diet provides all of those.

On the other hand, if you already have macular degeneration (wet or dry), UpToDate recommends these supplements (probably based on the AREDS-2 study):

  • vitamin C 500 mg/day
  • vitamin E 400 mg/day
  • lutein 10 mg/day
  • zeaxanthin 1 mg/day
  • zinc 80 mg/day (as zinc oxide)
  • copper 2 mg/day (as cupric oxide)

A reasonable alternative for non-smokers and never-smokers is the standard AREDS formula. It’s the same as above except it substitutes beta carotene for lutein or zeaxanthin. You can buy both formulations over-the-counter in the U.S. pre-mixed so you don’t have to swallow a handful of pills, just one.

The last time I checked the supermarket price, Bausch and Lomb’s AREDS-2 formula was about $10/month.

Steve Parker, M.D.


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Are Estrogens Making Us Fat?

Eating too much tofu?

Too much tofu?

James P. Grantham and Maciej Henneberg of the School of Medical Sciences (University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia) suggest that estrogen-like compounds in the environment are causing obesity. Read about their hypothesis in a recent issue of PLOS One. I don’t know if they’re right, but their idea deserves consideration.

A couple estrogen-like substances they mention are in soy and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We ingest these xenoestrogens. I had not been aware that soy consumption is positively linked to obesity.

The authors don’t instill confidence by using weak references such as #22.

I didn’t see the trendy “endocrine disruptors” moniker in the article.

Read the whole enchilada.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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No Dentist Ever Told Me, “No Carbs, No Cavities”

But it’s true to a great extent. And the worst carbohydrates for your teeth seem to be sugars.

173 Years of U.S. Sugar Consumption

(Thanks to Dr. Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen for this sugar consumption graph.)

MNT on September 16, 2014, published an article about the very prominent role of sugars as a cause of cavities, aka dental caries. This idea deserves much wider circulation.

I’ve written before about the carbohydrate connection to dental health and chronic systemic disease. Furthermore, sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to 200,000 yearly worldwide deaths

Investigators at University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine think the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a maximum of 10% total daily calories from “free sugar” should be reduced to 3%, with 5% (25 grams) as a fall-back position.

Six teaspoons of granulated table sugar (sucrose) is 25 grams. That should be enough daily sugar for anyone, right? But it’s incredibly easy to exceed that limit due to subtly hidden sugars in multiple foods, especially commercially prepared foods that you wouldn’t expect contain sugar. Chances are, for instance, that you have in your house store-bought sausage, salad dressings, and various condiments with added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. Sugar’s a flavor enhancer.

tooth structure, paleo diet, caries, enamel

Cross-section of a tooth

The aforementioned “free sugar” as defined as any monosaccharides and disaccharides that a consumer, cook, or food manufacturer adds to foods. In the U.S., we just call these “added sugars” instead of free sugars. From the MNT article, “Sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrup, and fruit juices are also classed as free sugars.” Sugar in the whole fruit you eat is not counted as free or added sugar.

The London researchers found that—in children at least—moving from consuming almost no sugar to 5% of total daily calories doubled the rate of tooth decay. This rose with every incremental increase in sugar intake.

From the MNT article:

“Tooth decay is a serious problem worldwide and reducing sugar intake makes a huge difference,” says study author Aubrey Sheiham, of the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at University College London. “Data from Japan were particularly revealing, as the population had no access to sugar during or shortly after the Second World War. We found that decay was hugely reduced during this time, but then increased as they began to import sugar again.”

I’m convinced. How about you?

Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Sugar