Book Review: The Blood Sugar Solution

I just finished reading the No.2 book at, The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Progam for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now!  Published in 2012, the author is Dr. Mark Hyman. I give it three stars per Amazon’s rating system (“It’s OK”).  Actually, I came close to giving it two stars, but was afraid the review would have been censored (i.e., deleted) at the Amazon site.  Click this link to see all the reviews at

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The book’s promotional blurbs by the likes of Dr. Oz, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Deepak Chopra predisposed me to dislike this book.  But it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be.

The good parts first.  Dr. Hyman favors the Mediterranean diet, strength training, and high-intensity interval training.  His recommended way of eating is superior to the standard American diet, improving prospects for health and longevity.  His dietary approach to insulin-resistant overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes includes 1) avoidance of sugar, flour, processed foods, 2) preparation of your own meals from natural, whole food, and 3) keeping glycemic loads low.  All well and good for weight loss and blood sugar control.  It’s not a vegetarian diet.

The author proposes a new trade-marked medical condition: diabesity. It refers to insulin resistance in association with (usually) overweight, obesity, and/or type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes.  Dr. Hyman says half of Americans have this brand-new disorder, and he has the cure.  If you don’t have overt diabetes or prediabetes, you’ll have to get your insulin levels measured to see if you have diabesity.

He reiterates many current politically correct fads, such as grass-fed/pastured beef, organic food, detoxification, and strict avoidance of all man-made chemicals, notwithstanding the relative lack of scientific evidence supporting many of these positions.

Dr. Hyman bills himself as a scientist, but his biography in the book doesn’t support that label.  Shoot, I’ve got a B.S. degree in zoology, but I’m a practicing physician, not a scientist.

The author thinks there are only six causes of all disease: single-gene genetic disorders, poor diet, chonic stress, microbes, toxins, and allergens.  Hmmm… None of those explain hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis, tinnitus, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinsons disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, or multiple sclerosis, to name a few that don’t fit his paradigm.  Of course, it’s possible that the cause of those conditions in due time will be found to be one of the Six Pillars of Disease.

Dr. Hyman makes a number of claims that are just plain wrong.  Here are some:
  – Over 80% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D
  – Lack of fiber contributes to cancer
  – High C-reactive protein (in blood) is linked to a 1,700% increased probability of developing diabetes
  – Processed, factory-made foods have no nutrients
  – We must take nutritional supplements

Furthermore, he recommends a minimum of 11 and perhaps as many as 16 different supplements even though the supportive science is weak or nonexistent.  Is he selling supplements?

After easily finding these bloopers, I started questioning many other of the author’s statements.   

I was very troubled by the apparent lack of warning about hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  Many folks with diabetes will be reading this book.  They could experience hypoglycemia on this diet if they’re taking certain diabetes drugs: insulin, sulfonylureas, meglitinides, pramlintide plus insulin, exenatide plus sulfonylurea, and possibly thiazolidinediones, to name a few instances.

If you don’t have diabetes but do need to lose weight, this book may help.  If you have diabetesor prediabetes, strongly consider an alternative such as Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution or my Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll not comment on Dr. Hyman’s substitution of time-tested science-based medicine with his own “Functional Medicine.”

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Science-Based Medicine, a blog, has an unflattering article from 2010 on Dr. Hyman and his views on dementia:


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5 responses to “Book Review: The Blood Sugar Solution

  1. Nan

    Absolutely agree with your assessment of Hyman’s book. I put it in my box to take to the library book sale.

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  3. Marly Harris

    Thank you so much for your balanced review of Hyman’s book and theories. Although it’s only anecdotal, I have found in my own life that fiber is non-essential. What’s for dinner? Beef!

  4. laurie

    I fully disagreed with Dr. Parker, I conducted my own science experiment long before Hyman’s book. I cut out white flour and dairy and effortlessly lost 35 lbs, with the added benefit of no longer having sleep apnea! When I cheat and have something with cheese in it, even a little bit of milk in a chocolate bar, my throat will start to swell and my ears itch, throat itches, I start sneezing. To a lessor extent the same thing happens when I cheat with white flour products. Food sensitivities or allergies as I prefer to call mine, are directly correlated to gallbladder sludge, and disease. One time Because of extreme stress in my life I fell off the wagon and splurged daily for over a week on my two allergins and had a wicked gallbladder attack. I went back on the wagon of white flour and dairy denial and my gallbladder pain went away and has not recurred. Inflammation is also a cause of pancreas problems, thyroid problems and a body’s ability to extremely easily pick up a virus of any type including those that will trigger an auto immune response in someone with a lowered immune system from get this “leaky gut syndrome!”. I would ask the good doctor Parker how many nutrician classes he took in med school, less than most of us have who study the effect of food on the body using our own bodies as science experiments! Even a marathon runner who eats crap to fuel their healthy exercising habit will develop inflammatory problems and die of heart attacks from high cholesterol (an inflammatory problem) and cancer also a response to inflammation! People need to listen to their internal slap on the hand when it comes to the way food makes us feel!

    • Hi, Laurie. I’m glad Dr. Hyman’s program worked for you.
      I graduated from medical school in 1981; I don’t remember how many nutrition classes I had. We tend to get nutrition information scattered throughout med school and residency. For instance, when we do a hematology rotation, we see lots of anemia and then review the nutritional causes and treatments for anemia in detail.