The Nation's Health + [metformin]

Why doesn't your doctor try to CURE diabetes?

Imagine you have breast cancer. You go to your doctor and she says, "As your pain worsens, we'll help you with pain medication. We'll fit you with a special bra to accommodate the tumor as it grows. That's all we're going to do."

"What?" you ask. "You mean just deal with the disease and its complications, but you're not going to help me get rid of it . . . cure it?"

It would be incredibly shocking to receive such advice. Then why is that the sort of advice given when you are diagnosed with diabetes?

Say you go to the doctor. Lab values show a fasting blood sugar of 156 mg/dl, HbA1c (a reflection of your previous 60 days average glucose) of 7.1%. Both values show clear-cut diabetes.

Your doctor advises you to 1) start the drug metformin, then 2) talk to the diabetic teaching nurse or dietitian about an American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet.

The ADA diet prescribed encourages you to increase carbohydrates and cut fats at each meal and maintain a consistent intake so that you don't experience hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episodes. You follow the diet, which causes you to gain 10-15 lbs per year, increasing your "need" for diabetes medication. You doctor adds Actos, then Januvia, then injections of Byetta.

Three years and 34 lbs later, you are not responding well to the drug combination with blood sugars rarely staying below 200 mg/dl. You've developed protein in your urine ("proteinuria"), lost 30% of your kidney function, and you are starting to lose sensation in your feet. So the doctor replaces some of your medication with several insulin injections per day.

This formula is followed millions of times per year in the U.S. So where along the way did your doctor mention anything about a "cure"?

Adult diabetes is the one chronic disease that nobody cares to cure. Treat it, maintain control over blood sugars, but cure it? Most physicians say it's impossible.

The tragedy is that diabetes is a curable condition. I've seen it happen many times. Physicians dedicated to curing diabetes like low-carb expert, Dr. Mary Vernon, have cured it countless times. Dr. Eric Westman and colleagues have been building the case for the carbohydrate-restricted cure for diabetes with studies such as this. In this last study, of the 8 participants on insulin + medications at the start of the study, 5 no longer required medications at the close of the study--they were essentially non-diabetic.

I tell patients that diabetes, in fact, is a disease you choose to have or not to have--provided you are provided the right diet and tools. Sadly, rarely are diabetics told about the right diet and tools.

That's why Cadbury Schweppes has been a major contributor to the American Diabetes Association, as are other processed food manufacturers and the drug industry, all who stand to profit from maintaining the status quo.

The cure? Eliminate or at least dramatically reduce carbohydrates, the foods that increase blood sugar.

Note: If you have diabetes and you are taking any prescription agents, such as glyburide, glipizide, insulin, and some others, you will need to discuss how to manage your medications if you reduce carbohydrates. The problem is finding a doctor or other resource to help you do this.