Why Type 2 Diabetes Can Cause Cancer

Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of dying of cancer. Using a low-​fat plant-​based diet to reverse your type 2 diabetes will reduce your risk of dying of cancer.

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, it means that your pancreas is not making enough insulin to keep you alive. But if you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is probably making abnormally large amounts of insulin. Since insulin promotes growth, it can also promote the growth of cancer cells. This is why people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of dying of cancer. Their cancer risk will go up even more if they take extra insulin or take drugs that boost their natural production of insulin.

Weight Loss Cures Type 2 Diabetes

The solution to this problem is to restore their body’s sensitivity to normal levels of insulin. Weight loss of any cause will do that. The best way to restore insulin sensitivity it is to eat a low-​fat, plant-​based diet. When the Europeans had to shift to eating more starch and less fat during wartime food rationing, their death rate from diabetes dropped sharply. You can achieve the same effects in peacetime by eating a low-​fat vegan diet.

Type 2 Diabetes Is a Defense Against Weight Gain

Most doctors think that type 2 diabetes is a mysterious disease. But type 2 diabetes is easy to understand, once you realize that it is a defense mechanism, not a disease. The disease is overnutrition. Type 2 diabetes is actually a way for your body to resist storing the fat that you are eating:

  • Type 2 diabetes occurs in people who are at least a little bit overweight, or who have too much fat in their body even if their weight is normal.
  • Type 2 diabetes causes the person to lose body fat.
  • If the person loses enough body fat, for any reason, the type 2 diabetes goes away.
  • Using drugs to control the blood sugar in someone with type 2 diabetes generally causes weight gain, which makes the diabetes worse.

People With Type 2 Diabetes Are Naturally Thin

This idea that type 2 diabetes explains an otherwise baffling fact. We think of type 2 diabetes as a disease of overweight people. Yet the people with type 2 diabetes are typically just “pleasantly plump” when they get their diagnosis. That is because they are naturally slim people whose bodies are rebelling against an overly rich diet. The type 2 diabetes is actually their body’s way to avoid storing more fat. If they did not get type 2 diabetes, they would gain even more weight. This explains why so many morbidly obese people have perfectly normal blood sugar. Because they don’t have type 2 diabetes, they have no natural resistance to weight gain.

Cancer Is a Problem of Abnormal Growth

The human body is made up of trillions of small units called cells. Each of these cells is a microorganism in its own right. Cells reproduce themselves by splitting in two. Of course, if your cells just kept splitting, willy-​nilly, your body would end up horribly misshapen. So each of your body’s cells is supposed to get a set of rules, written in the DNA of their genes, that tell it when it is okay to divide. Cancer cells get a damaged copy of that rule book. As a result, they can keep on dividing until they take over the body.

Insulin Promotes Growth

We think of insulin as a blood-​sugar hormone. It is actually a growth hormone. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body how to cope with a meal. Insulin tells your body to store the incoming fat right away. Insulin also tells your liver to store most of the incoming sugar. Insulin even lets your heart and muscles use more sugar for energy, as long as there is plenty of sugar in the bloodstream. This is why taking insulin makes people’s blood sugar go down. Insulin also encourages your cells to use the amino acids from your meal to make new proteins. In other words, insulin promotes growth, as well as promoting weight gain. Unfortunately, insulin also promotes the growth of cancer cells!

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is not really a disease. It is actually a defense against weight gain. It is your body’s way to resist storing any more of the fat from your food. There is a hard way and an easy way to solve this problem. The hard way is to lose weight by eating less and/​or exercising more. Weight loss of any cause will reverse type 2 diabetes. That’s why people recover from type 2 diabetes after having their stomach stapled. But stomach stapling is a crazy way to solve the problem. Rather than reducing the size of your stomach, you should just fill your stomach with bulky, starchy, low-​fat food. Starch and fiber help to satisfy your appetite. Fats do not. One study showed that boiled white potatoes are the single most satisfying food, in terms of satisfaction per calorie. So if you eat a low-​fat, high-​fiber, starch-​based diet, you can lose a lot of weight without feeling hungry. You will also become much more sensitive to insulin. This effect occurs within a matter of days, as we showed in this study.

Diet vs Cancer

Cancer is a chronic degenerative disease. It typically takes 10 years or longer from the time that a single cell becomes malignant for the cancer to get big enough to be noticed. If you can slow down the rate at which the cancer cells divide, a cancer might never get big enough to cause problems. To achieve that effect, stop eating the “high-​quality” protein from animals and stop eating so much fat. Societies that eat a low-​fat, heavily plant-​based diets have low rates of type 2 diabetes. They also have low rates of heart attack and low rates of many cancers, including cancers of the breast, bowel, and prostate.

Why Eating Fat and Animal Protein Promotes Cancer

Animal protein provides an overdose of some of the essential amino acids. If you get more of these amino acids than you need, your liver will produce too much insulin-​like growth factor 1 (IGF‑1), which is the most powerful cancer promoting chemical known. If you eat too much fat, you will likely get insulin resistance, which will result in the overproduction of insulin. You can avoid these problems by eating a low-​fat, plant-​based diet. The only essential nutrients that are missing from a plant-​based diet are vitamin D (which you get from sunshine) and vitamin B12, which you can get from a cheap supplement if you don’t feel like eating dirt or drinking contaminated water.

Why Dr. John McDougall Never Uses Pills to Treat Diabetes

In this video, Dr. John McDougall explains that there are two basic types of diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes):

  • People with type 1 do not make enough insulin to stay alive. As a result, they need to take insulin by injection.
  • People with type 2 are generally making more insulin than a healthy person, but their body is resisting the effects of insulin, to keep them from gaining more weight. A change to a high-​carbohydrate diet is enough to cure type 2. For this reason, he stops the blood sugar pills on day 1. Even so, the patients generally have better blood sugar control within a week of starting a good diet, as we explained in this article.

There are a few people who have rare forms of diabetes that are sometimes called “type 1.5.” These relatively mild forms of diabetes result from the fact that the pancreas can make enough insulin to keep the person alive but not enough to keep the blood sugar within normal limits. These rare forms of diabetes are genetic. If you think you have one of these rare forms of diabetes, you may wish to contact the Kovler Diabetes Center for genetic testing.

Why So Many Thin Asians Get Type 2 Diabetes

Over the past few decades, the number of overweight people has grown. So has the number of people with type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Yet not everyone who has type 2 diabetes looks fat. In particular, many Asian people with type 2 diabetes have a normal body mass index. Meanwhile, many terrifically fat people have no trouble with their blood sugar. Is there a simple explanation for this puzzle? There is! Many Asian people who look thin nevertheless are carrying a large amount of fat in their body. This problem is particularly like to happen to people who were very small when they were born, because their mother was malnourished during pregnancy.

Type 2 diabetes is a defense against weight gain

Type 2 diabetes is not really a disease. It is a defense against weight gain. If your body has decided that it already contains enough fat, it may start to resist the effects of insulin. In some people, this defense mechanism kicks in when they are just a little bit overweight. Insulin resistance tends to make people burn fat instead of storing it. But if their insulin resistance gets really bad, their blood sugar will start to go up. As a result, their pancreas will start releasing more insulin. But if their insulin resistance gets really severe, they will lose control over their blood sugar. At that point, they qualify for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Since their insulin resistance has been limiting their weight gain, they may be only a few pounds overweight. In contrast, people who are not prone to type 2 diabetes can gain huge amounts of weight, while their blood sugar stays perfectly normal.

Your body does not use a scale or a tape measure to judge its own weight. Instead, it relies on chemical signals that come from the fat cells. If you have very little body fat, your fat cells will produce very little of a hormone called leptin. Your brain responds to this shortage of leptin by increasing your appetite. As a result, you will want to eat more food. In contrast, when you have already gained enough weight, you will produce more leptin. Your fat cells may also produce some other kinds of chemical signals. However, the signaling system that controls appetite is still not completely understood.

What is the body mass index (BMI)?

When doctors evaluate your body weight, they generally start by calculating your body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a statistic that is calculated from two measurements. It is your body weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height, in meters. This statistic was first used in the mid 19th century by a Belgian astronomer and mathematician named Adolphe Quetelet, as an index of body condition. In the mid 20th century, the famous nutrition scientist Ancel Keys pointed out that the BMI is useful in population studies, but it is inappropriate for evaluating individuals.

Some people complain that the BMI is a “hoax” or a “scam.” But it is simply a tool that is useful for some purposes but not for others. The problem is that the BMI does not indicate how much of your body weight is muscle vs fat. The BMI also tends to make thin short people seem thinner than they really are. It makes fat tall people seem fatter than they really are. To evaluate an individual’s body condition, you might have to use different measurements, such as the ratio of your waist circumference to your height.

The Y‑Y Paradox

The weakness of BMI for evaluating individuals was highlighted in a famous article that was published in the Lancet in 2004. The authors were Chittaranjan S. Yajnik, MD, and John S. Yudkin, FRCP. Both men had a BMI of 22.3 kg/​m2. However, dual X‑ray absorptiometry imaging showed that Dr. Yajnik’s body weight was 21.2% fat, while Yudkin’s body weight was only 9.1% fat. The authors described this finding as the “Y‑Y paradox.” Others have called it the “thin-​fat Indian phenotype.” They have noted that people from South Asia tend to store fat around their abdomen. They recommend that Indians should not have a BMI higher than 22.9 kg/​m2.

The thin-​fat Indian phenotype

The differences in body condition between the two men are not surprising. Dr. Yudkin was a marathon runner. In contrast, Dr. Yajnik’s main form of exercise was “running to beat the closing doors of the elevator in the hospital every morning.” Also, Dr. Yajnik weighed less than 5 pounds when he was born. Low-​birthweight babies will have a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes when they grow up. So the higher risk for this “thin-​fat” phenotype among people from South Asia may not be due to a genetic difference. It might be the long-​term effect of early malnutrition or low birth weight among populations that suffered from food shortages. In other words, the difference may look like a genetic difference, but it could be the long-​term result of environmental differences.

The traditional Indian diet is good for people with diabetes

The good news is that the traditional Indian diet, which is a low-​fat diet based on rice and pulses and vegetables, is an excellent way to control your weight and your blood sugar. We are seeing a rise in type 2 diabetes in India today because people are becoming more prosperous. As a result, they are eating a richer diet and gaining more weight. People with the thin-​fat phenotype may not look terribly fat, but their body may be fatter than it wants to be. As a result, they may get type 2 diabetes.

Photo by Koshyk

Why sugar is less fattening than fat

Ever since Robert Atkins launched his famous Atkins Diet in 1972, consumers have been encouraged to blame their weight problems on the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) in their food. Dr. Atkins claimed that the best way to lose weight and improve your health is to eat a diet that is extremely low in sugars and starches. However, research does not support Atkins’s ideas. (Atkins himself even continued to have weight problems, as you can see for yourself by looking at photographs of him.) In fact, many of the “experts” who push low-​carb diets are overweight.

Continue reading “Why sugar is less fattening than fat”

Why a Low-​Fat Vegan Diet Prevents Pre-​eclampsia

Back in the 1960s, an obstetrician named Tom Brewer realized that preeclampsia, which is a dangerous form of high blood pressure that occurs in pregnant women, is due to a shortage of protein in the blood. For this reason, he urged pregnant women to eat high-​protein diets. However, most American women already eat far more protein than they need, and pre-​eclampsia still occurs in as many as 10% of pregnancies in the United States. In contrast, there was only one clinical case of pre-​eclampsia among 775 pregnancies among vegan women at “the Farm” (a vegan community in Summertown, Tennessee). These mothers were probably protected from pre-​eclampsia because they were getting enough calories, mainly from carbohydrates (especially starch), from their low-​fat vegan diet. The women were probably being protected by the protein-​sparing effects of the carbohydrates they were eating. Because they were eating so much starch, they were burning less of the protein in their blood for fuel. As a result, they had enough protein in their blood to maintain a big enough blood volume.

Pre-​eclampsia is a form of high blood pressure that develops in the late stages of pregnancy. It can lead to problems for the mother and the baby. If left untreated, it can lead to seizures, called eclampsia. Eclampsia is often deadly. (The word eclampsia came from the Greek word for lightning.) Tom Brewer realized that pre-​eclampsia can occur in women who do not gain enough weight during pregnancy. In the olden days, pre-​eclampsia was most common among poor women who were not getting enough to eat. But in the United States today, pre-​eclampsia is most common among women who were already overweight when they conceived, and among women who have gained too much weight during pregnancy. It is particularly common among women with diabetes, including the temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). These women may be eating more protein than they need. However, their body is converting their blood proteins to sugar. As a result, they cannot keep enough fluid inside their blood vessels to maintain normal circulation.

When a woman has pre-​eclampsia, the doctor can see her swollen ankles and measure her high blood pressure. However, the underlying problem of low blood volume is much harder to measure. During pregnancy, the woman’s total number of red blood cells is supposed to increase by about 30%, but her volume of blood plasma is supposed to increase by up to 50%. The volume of the blood plasma depends on the amount of protein that is in the blood. Because these protein molecules attract water, they help to hold water inside the blood vessels. However, the body can also use the plasma proteins for fuel. When you are fasting or starving, the liver will convert a lot of the protein from your blood plasma into sugar, which is then burned for energy. For this reason, starving people end up with low levels of protein in the bloodstream. A similar thing happens in cases of poorly controlled diabetes. Much of the excess sugar in the bloodstream of someone with poorly controlled diabetes came from the breakdown of protein from the blood plasma.

The protein in your blood plasma draws water. If you do not have enough protein in your blood plasma, you will not be able to hold enough fluid inside your blood vessels to maintain adequate circulation. You cannot solve this problem by drinking more water and eating more salt. Most of the extra water and salt will just pass out of the body through the kidneys. However, some of the excess water and salt will leak out into the body’s tissues, causing swelling (edema). That is why swelling is one of the signs of starvation.

During late pregnancy, the woman’s blood volume needs to expand. If she cannot keep enough protein in the bloodstream to maintain a large enough volume of blood, her kidneys will react as if she has been bleeding. They will produce an enzyme called renin. Renin activates a chain reaction. One of the results of this chain reaction is constriction of the arteries. To maintain circulation through these tight arteries, the heart must pump harder. As a result, blood pressure goes up. The chain reaction also causes the release of a hormone called aldosterone, which causes the kidney to retain salt and water, to boost blood volume. In pre-​eclampsia, the woman’s blood pressure goes up and she retains water and salt. However, the excess water and salt cannot stay inside the blood vessels, where they are needed. Instead, they leak out into the tissue, causing swelling. That’s why women with pre-​eclampsia have swelling, particularly in the ankles. Even though the women are retaining water in their tissue, they should avoid taking drugs and herbs that have a diuretic effect, which would cause further loss of blood volume.

If the theory that low blood volume is the underlying problem in pre-​eclampsia is correct, then patients with pre-​eclampsia would benefit from the administration of hetastarch, which is an intravenous fluid that is designed to stay in the blood vessels. Sure enough, the administration of hetastarch does correct the edema and high blood pressure in pregnant women with pre-​eclampsia.

To prevent pre-​eclampsia, the woman must get enough of the right kind of food. She must get enough calories so that she does not burn up her blood proteins for energy. Those calories should come mainly in the form of carbohydrate, especially from starchy foods, such as rice and potatoes. If you eat plenty of carbohydrate, especially starch, you will burn less protein for energy. This “protein-​sparing effect” of dietary carbohydrate has been understood for more than 100 years.

Scientists have known since the 1920s that high-​carbohydrate, low-​fat diets make the body more sensitive to insulin. Thus, a low-​fat vegan diet reverses type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes and improves blood sugar control in people with type 1 diabetes. Even during pregnancy, these starchy foods provide more than enough protein, as long as the woman is eating enough food to get enough calories. Thus, the woman will be able to have the normal expansion of blood volume that she needs in late pregnancy. As a result, both she and her baby have a better chance of survival.


The Diabetes Diet: How to Cure Diabetes (Type 2)

In this lecture, diabetes expert John McDougall, MD, explains that type 2 diabetes is 100% curable. Type 2 diabetes is just a way to prevent you from storing more fat in your fat cells. It can be cured by weight loss of any cause. In this video, he explains the best diabetes diet. He explains how to cure diabetes mellitus type 2. Just eat a low-​fat vegan diet. For more information about diabetes, see my book Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes: Prevent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

Aspartame and Diabetes

Many healthy people and many diabetics have questions about aspartame and diabetes. Aspartame (NutraSweet) is a substitute for sugar. It is sweet like sugar, but it has no calories. Aspartame is used as a sweetener in “diet” soft drinks and other “diet” foods. Yet aspartame might not help you lose weight. Nor will avoiding sugar help you control your blood sugar. As I explain in my book Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes, the surprising secret to controlling your blood sugar is to eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates (starches and sugars).

Caution: A high-​carb, low-​fat diet will make your insulin work better. Thus, it can cause low blood sugar in people who are taking insulin or other medicine for diabetes. If you have diabetes or are taking any prescription drugs, talk to your doctor before you make any major change in diet.

A sugar called glucose is your body’s favorite fuel. Some foods, such as grapes, contain glucose. Many fruits and vegetables also contain other kinds of sugar, which can also be converted to glucose. The starches that are found in foods like rice, potatoes, and pumpkins also get converted into glucose. For this reason, a sugary or starchy food will deliver glucose to your bloodstream. Yet if you are healthy, a sugary or starchy meal will not cause you to have abnormally high blood sugar. When a healthy person eats sugars or starches, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. The insulin will tell the liver to store glucose. Insulin also allows the heart and muscle to burn glucose for energy. As a result, the blood glucose levels stay in the normal range.

The high blood glucose levels in people with diabetes mellitus result from one of two problems. Either the pancreas is not making enough insulin, or the body is not responding to the insulin that the pancreas makes.

  • Type 1 diabetes (thin diabetes) means that your pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep you alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes (fat diabetes) means that your body is resisting the effects of insulin, to keep you from storing more fat in your fat cells. It is really the result of a fatty diet.
  • A person can have both problems (insulin shortage and insulin resistance) at the same time.

Scientists have known since the 1920s that a sugary, starchy diet makes people more sensitive to insulin. In 1927, a doctor named J. Shirley Sweeney published an important study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (now called JAMA Internal Medicine). Sweeney had recruited a bunch of healthy young male medical students and fed them several different test diets for two days. Then he tested the subjects to see how well they could tolerate a big dose of glucose.

  • After the subjects had eaten a high-​carb diet, including lots of sugar, their blood sugar levels stayed normal during the glucose tolerance test.
  • After the subjects had eaten a fatty, low-​carb diet for only two days, they got severely high blood sugar during a glucose tolerance test.

Inspired by these results, Dr. Walter Kempner of Duke University started experimenting with extremely high-​carbohydrate diets, initially for patients with kidney disease. He told his patients to eat a diet of white rice, fruit, fruit juice, and pure white sugar. This diet, which came to be called the Rice Diet, helped patients lose weight. It reversed type 2 diabetes, and it reduced the amount of insulin that patients with type 1 diabetes needed to inject. It also improved their overall health.

High-​carbohydrate diets help you lose weight by satisfying your appetite. Sugar has a powerful appetite-​satisfying effect, especially if the sugar is bound up with fiber and water. For this reason, it is hard to get or stay fat on a low-​fat diet based on unrefined starches, vegetables, and fruit. Fat provides practically no satisfaction to the appetite. That’s why it’s easy to get too many calories if you add fat to the diet.

Aspartame was invented to help people lose weight. Aspartame provides the sweet taste of sugar but without supplying calories. Yet the effect of aspartame on appetite and body weight is not entirely clear. Low-​calorie sweeteners like aspartame are so sweet that they might desensitize your taste buds. As a result, you may lose the ability to appreciate the milder sweetness of natural foods. In the long run, this suppression of your taste buds could make it harder for you to be satisfied by a reasonable amount of food. Thus, artificial sweeteners may actually make it harder to lose weight. If you want to control your weight, just eat a low-​fat, high-​carbohydrate diet based on natural plant-​based foods. You might even add a little bit of pure sugar.

The Internet is full of terrible rumors about aspartame. Some people claim that aspartame causes multiple sclerosis or brain tumors. (It doesn’t.) They claim that the FDA is corrupt for allowing aspartame to remain on the market. However, many of the people who are spreading these rumors are also selling dietary supplements and herbal products that are of no real value and may be unsafe. In reality, aspartame seems to be remarkably safe, unless you have phenylketonuria. But lots of ordinarily good foods, even human breast milk, are dangerous for people with phenylketonuria.

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Mary Tyler Moore, Tom Hanks, and Diabetes

Mary Tyler Moore won fame and fortune because of her beauty and her skill as an actress. However, public health activists admire her most for her work as International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Moore came down with “juvenile” diabetes at the age of 33. Thanks to insulin therapy, she was able to live with her “juvenile” diabetes until she was 80 years old. Moore’s case of diabetes can help you understand the difference between the two main types of diabetes mellitus. Mary Tyler Moore had type 1, which the French call diabète maigre, or thin diabetes. In contrast, Tom Hanks got type 2, which the French call diabète gras, or fat diabetes.

Each type of diabetes mellitus is a different disease, with its own set of causes and treatments. However, all types of diabetes mellitus have one important thing in common. If left untreated, they cause a sugar called glucose to build up to high levels in the bloodstream. When there is too much glucose in the blood, some of that glucose will start to leak out through the kidneys, taking water with it. As a result, the person will pass a lot of sugary urine. Because of the loss of water, the person will get thirsty. Because of the loss of sugar, which represents calories, the person will lose weight. For this reason, untreated diabetes mellitus produces the following classic signs: too much urine, heavy thirst, sugar in the urine, and weight loss.

By the 1870s, it was clear that at least two different diseases could produce this same set of signs. One of those diseases was severe and tended to strike in childhood. Its victims were usually thin to start with, and they would lose weight rapidly. For this reason, French doctors called it diabète maigre, which means thin diabetes. Within a few days to weeks after diagnosis, these patients would go into a coma and die. There was no cure and no effective treatment. The other form of diabetes mellitus was much milder, and it was curable. It tended to strike adults who were at least a little bit overweight. It would go away if they lost weight. For this reason, French doctors called it diabète gras, which means fat diabetes.

To this day, French doctors still talk about thin diabetes and fat diabetes. However, English-​speaking doctors did not want to talk frankly about weight. Instead, they used the terms “juvenile” and “adult onset” diabetes instead. Yet “juvenile” diabetes can start at any age. Because of the epidemic of childhood obesity, we are now seeing more cases of “adult-​onset” diabetes than “juvenile” diabetes in children.

In the 1920s, Canadian researchers proved that thin diabetes is due to the lack of a hormone, which they called insulin. Patients with thin diabetes will die unless they get insulin injections. In contrast, people with fat diabetes can survive without insulin therapy. For this reason, English-​speaking doctors started talking about “insulin-​dependent” and “non-​insulin-​dependent” diabetes. However, these names are confusing because many people with “non-​insulin-​dependent” diabetes are taking insulin.

To avoid this confusion, English-​speaking doctors now talk about “type 1” and “type 2” diabetes. Yet these labels do not help you understand which type is which. For this reason, I urge people to say “thin diabetes” and “fat diabetes.”

Mary Tyler Moore had thin diabetes. Her pancreas could not make enough insulin to keep her alive. For this reason, she had to take insulin shots every day from the time she was 33 years old. In contrast, Tom Hanks got fat diabetes. It means that he is a naturally thin person who has been eating too much fat. To burn the excess fat instead of storing it, his body began to resist the effects of insulin. When he kept gaining weight anyway, his insulin resistance got so bad that his blood sugar went up. The hard way to solve this problem is to eat less and exercise more. The easy way to solve this problem is to cut out the fat and eat a high-​carbohydrate diet. Unfortunately, many doctors tell their patients to avoid carbohydrates. As a result, the patients eat a fatty diet that makes the problem worse.

Thin diabetes is due to a shortage of insulin. Fat diabetes is due to resistance to insulin. You can have both problems at once. For this reason, people with any type of diabetes mellitus need to eat a high-​carbohydrate diet. A low-​fat, high-​carbohydrate diet cures fat diabetes. It also gives people with thin diabetes the best chance for long-​term survival.

Scientists have known since the 1930s that the more carbohydrate you eat, the more sensitive your body becomes to insulin. In the 1940s and 1950s, Dr. Walter Kempner of Duke University used to teach his diabetic patients to eat nothing but rice, fruit, and sugar. More than 90% of the calories from that diet came from carbohydrate (starch and sugar). Yet that high-​carb diet caused his patients’ blood sugar to come down. The patients with fat diabetes recovered from their diabetes. The patients with thin diabetes needed to reduce their dosage of insulin. This diet was also good for the patient’s heart, eyes, and kidneys. Yet there is one word of warning. A high-​carbohydrate diet is so effective against diabetes and high blood pressure that diabetic patients must talk to their doctor before making a change even to a healthy diet. Otherwise, they could end up in trouble from low blood pressure or low blood sugar.

Photo by scriptingnews

This Year, Reverse Your Type 2 Diabetes by Eating Carbs!

Every New Year’s Day, countless people with type 2 diabetes vow to lose weight by eating less carbohydrate. Yet as I explain in my book Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes, that approach is doomed to failure. If you want to lose weight and control your blood sugar, try a high-​carb diet instead:

  • Do not eat any food that came from animals (no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products)
  • Do not eat any concentrated fats or oils, not even vegetable oils.
  • Base your meals on some sort of starchy food, such as rice or potatoes.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit and some beans.

This kind of diet helps you lose weight without feeling hungry. It also reverses type 2 diabetes and helps improve blood sugar control and overall health in people with type 1 diabetes. (Anyone who is taking prescription drugs should talk to their doctor before starting this diet.)

The value of this kind of low-​fat vegan diet was understood in Biblical times. The book of Daniel describes how Daniel and other Judean noblemen were being held captive in the royal court of Babylon. Like everyone else at court, they were expected to eat the rich food. However, this food was not Kosher. The meat and wine had been offered as sacrifices to the pagan gods. To avoid eating ritually impure foods, Daniel and his friends ate nothing but plant-​based foods and water. When the overseer heard about this, he warned Daniel that the king had decided what they were supposed to eat. Daniel suggested that he and his friends be allowed to eat their vegan diet for 10 days, as an experiment. At the end of 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked so much better than the other youths, they were allowed to keep eating their plant-​based diet.

Type 1 diabetes means that your pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep you alive. French doctors called it thin diabetes (diabète maigre) because it caused the body to waste away rapidly. In contrast, if you have type 2 diabetes (French doctors call it diabète gras or fat diabetes), it means that you are a naturally thin person eating an unnaturally rich diet. You are eating too much fat and too little carbohydrate. As a result, the fats overfeed your fat cells before the carbs satisfy your appetite. If you are a naturally thin person, your body will start resisting the effects of insulin, to keep you from storing more fat. As a result, your blood sugar can be abnormally high even if your pancreas is making abnormally large amounts of insulin. The surprising solution to this problem with blood sugar is to eat more carbohydrate and less fat. The more carbohydrate and less fat you eat, the more sensitive your body becomes to insulin and the more stable your blood sugar becomes. I explain this in detail in my book Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes: Prevent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

We now have scientific data on the effects that Daniel’s diet would have had. The McDougall Program is a 10-​day live-​in program that gives patients an all-​you-​can-​eat buffet of low-​fat, high-​carbohydrate, purely plant-​based (vegan) foods. The patients are told to eat until they feel full, and to eat a lot of starchy foods. The patients get a physical examination and bloodwork on day 1 and day 7. The results for 1615 patients who went through the program were reported in an article in Nutrition Journal. Half of the patients lost at least 3 pounds within 7 days, even though they could eat until they felt full. There were sharp decreases in blood pressure and blood sugar. Roughly 90% of the people who had been taking pills for blood pressure or blood sugar reduced their dosage or quit taking them altogether by the end of the 10-​day program. Blood cholesterol also dropped sharply.

So if you want to lose weight and reverse your type 2 diabetes, you can make a simple New Year’s Resolution. Just switch to a low-​fat, vegan diet. And be sure to eat plenty of starch!

Photo by jeff_​golden

The Diabetic Diet Exchange List Is Not a Weight-​Loss Plan

Recently, I saw that a friend of mine had posted on her refrigerator a simplified list of food exchanges for diabetics. She does not have diabetes, so I asked her why she would need a diabetic diet exchange list. She said that she wants to lose weight. I tried to explain that the exchange system is not a weight-​loss plan. Its purpose is to help people with type 1 diabetes (insulin-​dependent diabetes) figure out how much insulin to inject. She said that she was using the list to help her count calories.

I tried to explain that counting calories is not an effective way to lose weight. She looked at me as if I’m nuts. She believes that she knows far more about dieting and weight control than I do. After all, she has been dieting for years because of her stubborn weight problem. She therefore has years of experience in counting calories and estimating portion sizes. She’ll diet and lose a few pounds, then gain them right back. I have no personal experience with dieting. Because I have eaten a low-​fat, high-​fiber, starchy diet all of my adult life, I have never been overweight. I just eat grains and beans and vegetables and fruit until I feel full.

The diabetic exchange system or diabetic exchange list is an approach to meal planning. It was introduced in 1950 by the American Diabetes Association and the U.S. Public Health Service. It has been revised several times since then. The purpose of the exchange system is to help people with type 1 diabetes estimate how much carbohydrate (sugar and starch) is in a meal. Once they know that, they supposedly can figure out how much insulin they will need to keep their blood sugar from going too high or too low after they eat the meal. The idea is that the more carbohydrate you eat, the more insulin you would need. But when diabetics switch to a high-​carbohydrate diet, they typically have to reduce their insulin dosage. The more carbohydrate they eat, the more sensitive their body becomes to insulin.

Before the exchange system was introduced, people with type 1 diabetes often ended up eating a strict, boring diet. To keep their blood sugar stable, they often ate the same amount of the same foods day after day. The exchange system made it easy for them to add variety to their diet. For example, it tells them that a slice of bread has the same carbohydrate content as a 6‑inch tortilla or a third of a cup of rice. In other words, the person with type 1 diabetes could exchange a slice of bread for the tortilla or the rice. Of course, nondiabetic people would not need to count carbs or worry about exchanging one carbohydrate source for another. Their pancreas automatically makes as much insulin as they need.

Some modern experts on diabetes do not recommend the exchange system, not even for diabetics. One problem with the diabetic exchange system is that it includes many foods that are not good for human beings in general and that are particularly bad for human beings with diabetes. For example, the exchange system includes lists of meats, dairy foods, eggs, and fish, as well as lists of fats and processed junk foods. Animal-​source foods are fattening because they contain lots of fat but no fiber or starch. Animal-​source foods also contain cholesterol. The fat and cholesterol can clog the arteries, leading to heart attacks and stroke, particularly in people with diabetes. Animal-​source foods also contain way too much protein. An overload of protein is bad for the kidneys, which are already stressed by the diabetes. Heavily processed “junk” foods also contain too much fat or concentrated sugar and little or no fiber.

Another problem with the diabetic exchange system is that fat intake and exercise levels also affect insulin requirements. For this reason, Dr. John McDougall discourages his diabetic patients from using the exchange lists or counting carbs. Instead, he encourages them to eat a consistently high-​carbohydrate, low-​fat diet, to boost their insulin sensitivity. Insulin doses are then based on their recent requirements and their activity levels. (Exercise is sometimes called the invisible insulin because it decreases blood sugar levels.)

Scientists have known since the 1920s that high-​carbohydrate, low-​fat diets are good for people with diabetes. Yes, starchy and sugary foods do deliver a lot of sugar (glucose) to the bloodstream. But a low-​fat diet also makes the body much more sensitive to insulin, whether the insulin is being injected or being produced naturally by the pancreas.

In the 1940s, Dr. Walter Kempner of Duke University had astounding success in using a diet based on nothing but rice, fruit, and fruit juice for patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. When patients lost too much weight on that low-​fat diet, Kempner told them to add some pure sugar to their diet. The patients who followed Kempner’s “rice diet” got better control of their blood sugar. The patients with type 2 diabetes became undiabetic. Even the patients with type 1 diabetes needed smaller doses of insulin. The patients’ overall health also improved. Their blood pressure came down. Their eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet were healthier.

The exchange lists might not be useful for people with type 1 diabetes. They are certainly not useful for promoting weight loss, not even for diabetics. My nondiabetic friend was using the diabetic exchanges as a way to count calories. Yet calorie counting and portion control do not work well for weight control, which is why my friend remains overweight despite her repeated attempts at dieting. The reason is simple: calorie counting and portion control are unnatural acts.

Wild animals never count calories. They never limit their portions. Nor do they ever sign up for step aerobics. Wild animals stay slim, even when they are surrounded on all sides by their favorite food, because they eat the kind of food that is right for their body. It has the right calorie density: the right number of calories per pound of food. If they need more calories, their appetite will naturally lead them to eat more food. Once they meet their need for calories, they stop feeling hungry. As a result, they eat just enough food to maintain a healthy weight.


If you are overweight, chances are that the problem is not your metabolism or a lack of will-​power. You are simply eating foods that are too rich. Rich foods provide too many calories per pound of food. As a result, you may have to overeat to feel full. If you stop eating rich, fatty foods and instead base your diet on unrefined starches and vegetables, your appetite will be satisfied by a reasonable amount of food. As a result, your weight will normalize itself, even if you eat enough food to feel full.

Cover of Thin Diabetes, Fat DiabetesNote: For more information about how insulin works, and how diet affects body weight and blood sugar levels, see my book Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes: Prevent Type 1, Cure Type 2.