Ten years of carbohydrate restriction: here’s why

It was almost exactly ten years ago, in March 2008, that I read Ron Rosedale’s Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects.  I now know that this is surely the one thing I’ve read that has had the most impact on my life. Rosedale’s presentation was a total revelation to me:  I had never read anything about insulin before, and his explanations of the biochemical and physiological functions and effects of insulin on the body all made perfect sense in and of themselves, but also appealed to my appreciation and reliance on complete explanations that are consistent with the facts we can observe about them.  I eliminated insulin-stimulating carbohydrates from my diet overnight.  That was that.

We were then still vegetarian at home.  Hence, the family breakfast, following Mercola’s example, became smoothies made of raw, local, pastured eggs with berries and stevia.  That lasted quite a while.  I always travelled with my hand blender and stevia, brought eggs if it was for short trip, or scouted out places to get good ones when the trip was longer.  Throughout a summer trip along the American west coast, I made our raw egg smoothies every day, in hotel rooms and campgrounds.

At one point, I discovered coconut oil and coconut milk.  The breakfast smoothies evolved to being made of eggs and coconut milk with berries, and eventually only coconut milk, berries and stevia.  This period lasted several years until we moved on to cold pressed green juice with coconut milk; it was two thirds juice and one third milk.  We also did this for several years until about two years ago when our son left for university, at which point we dropped having breakfast entirely to allow for a daily overnight fasting period of about 16 hours from after dinner to lunchtime.

 

Food intolerance testing in 2014 showed that all three of us were intolerant to eggs; we removed them from our diet.  My wife and I had the most and our son the least intolerances; this was not surprising given we were a lot older than him.  It also showed my wife and I were intolerant to most dairy products; we removed them from our diet.  We were also intolerant to grains: both highly intolerant to wheat, and then I, in addition, somewhat less so to barley, malt, and quinoa—we ate quinoa almost daily for years as our son was growing up.  He, although not intolerant to dairy or wheat, was intolerant to almonds, pistachios, and brazil nuts. (Here are my test results, if you’re interested.)

Imagine: vegetarian for 20 years, with a diet during these two decades from teenage hood to middle adult hood consisting primarily of wheat and grain products, beans, cheese and yogurt, eggs and nuts.  Of course, also plenty of sweet fruit, starchy vegetables, and salads, as with is true for most vegetarians.  But the bulk, both in volume and in calories, was from grain products, cheese, and eggs.  The shocker for me was that the food intolerance test painted the profile of a meat-eater:  if you remove grains, dairy, and eggs, what is left is animal flesh, vegetables and fruits.

If now, in addition, you remove fruit and starchy vegetables to avoid insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, all that is left is animal flesh and green vegetables.  That’s just how it is.  We also used to eat almonds—the richest in magnesium, and brazil nuts—the richest in selenium, almost daily.  But because our son was intolerant to both and I was intolerant to brazil nuts, we removed those from our diet as well.

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These were all food intolerances; they were not allergies.  But they were nonetheless intolerances, some stronger, some weaker.  If you are concerned about health in the sense of being in the best state of health you can, then obviously you must not eat foods to which you are intolerant.  Otherwise, your immune system is triggered each time the offending molecules in those foods enter the gut and bloodstream.  This gradually but inevitably makes the intolerance greater, your system weaker, and body sicker.

Over these ten years, I’ve read quite a few books, articles, blog posts, and detailed discussions about health-related matters.  I’ve also experimented quite a bit with my own diet, and learned a great deal from that.  The other thing I’ve done a lot of, is have conversations with people about diet, nutrition, diseases, and the metabolic effects of different foods and of insulin.

My position—which has only grown stronger with time—is that the first and most fundamental pillar of optimal health is having a metabolism that runs on fat.  And this means keeping insulin levels low by restricting sugars and starches.  Not necessarily always, but most of the time, as in almost always.

The first question that people ask when they find out is why: Why do you not eat bread? Bread has forever been essential to humans.  I simply couldn’t live without bread.  Or, why don’t you eat potatoes, or rice, or pasta?  They’re so good!  I simply couldn’t live without potatoes and pasta.  And, you don’t even eat fruit? But isn’t fruit full of vitamins and minerals?

The way I have answered has depended on a lot of things: the setting, the atmosphere, the company, the time available, but most importantly on the person.  Some people are actually interested to find out, and maybe even learn something.  Most, however, are not.  Consequently, I have made the answer shorter and shorter over the years.  Now, I even sometimes say: well, just because, and smile.

Maybe you have wondered, or even still wonder why.  Maybe although you’ve read so many times in my writings that I think everyone seeking to improve their health should restrict insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, you still wonder what the main reason is, what the most fundamental reason for which I don’t eat sugars and starches.  Here’s why:

 

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin make us fat by promoting storage and preventing the release of energy from the ever larger reserves of fat in our body: I am lean and always have been.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes; inflammation, dyslipidemia, water retention, and high blood pressure; kidney dysfunction, pancreatic dysfunction, and liver dysfunction: my fasting glucose, insulin, and triglycerides have been around 85 mg, 3 mili units, and 40 mg per dl for years; my blood pressure is 110/70 mg Hg, glomerular filtration rate is high, and all pancreatic and liver markers are optimal.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin promote cancer growth since cancer cells fuel their activity and rapid reproduction by developing some 10 times the number of insulin receptors as normal cells to capture all the glucose they can, fermenting it without oxygen to produce a little energy and tons of lactic acid, further acidifying the anaerobic environment in which they thrive.  My insulin levels are always low, and my metabolism has been running on fat in a highly oxygenated alkaline environment for a decade.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin promote atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke by triggering hundreds of inflammatory pathways that compound into chronic inflammation and damage to the blood vessels, which then leads to plaque formation and accumulation, restriction of blood flow, and eventually to heart attack and stroke: my sedimentation rate, interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and Apolipoprotein-A are all very low.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin promote the deterioration of the brain, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, both through the damage to blood vessels around and in the brain itself, and insulin resistance of brain cells, which together lead to restricted blood flow, energy and nutrient deficiency, and accumulation of damaging reactive oxygen species and toxins in the cells, and, unsurprisingly, eventually to dysfunction that just grows in time: because my metabolism runs on fat, this means that my brain runs on ketones, and is therefore free of excessive insulin or glucose exposure.

It isn’t primarily for any of these reasons, which, I believe, are each sufficient to motivate avoiding sugars and starches in order to keep tissue exposure to glucose and insulin as low as possible.

 

My main reason is that, at the cellular level, in its action on the nucleus and on gene expression, insulin is the primary regulator of the rate of ageing.

Insulin is essential for life: without insulin, cells starve and die. It is essential for growth: without insulin cells don’t reproduce, and there can be no growth.  This is why at that most fundamental level, insulin regulate growth in immature individuals.  But in mature individuals, once we have stopped growing, insulin is the primary regulator of the rate of ageing, both in terms of its effect in suppressing the production of antioxidants and cleansing and repair mechanisms within the cell, but also in stimulating cellular reproduction. And the more reproduction cycles, the greater accumulation of DNA transcription defects, the faster the shortening of telomeres, and the faster the ageing.

This is a fundamental fact that appears to be true for all living organisms.  It is as true for yeasts and worms, as it is for mice and rats, as it is for dogs and humans.  And the rate of ageing is the rate of degeneration, of growing dysfunction, of more damage and less repair, of lower metabolic efficiency and less energy, of increased cell death and senescence.  I personally wish to be as healthy, energetic, strong, and sharp as possible for as long as possible.  This is why I avoid sugars and starches.  This is why I restrict insulin-stimulating carbohydrates.

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First high-carb-low-fat day after 8 years on a low-carb-high-fat diet

A little taste of what’s to come from the results of my experiment with continuous glucose monitoring: this roller coaster ride is what most people experience every day. What was on the menu: melon, raspberries, watermelon, (nap), coconut water, tomato salad, fresh corn, a little ‘financier aux pistaches’, and finally, popcorn to finish off the day. Can you guess when I ate? Pretty obvious, isn’t it?

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Vitamin C is not vitamin C

Several years ago now, when I read The Calcium Lie, I found out that vitamin C and whole food vitamin C complex were not the same thing. I wasn’t surprised in the least because obviously this is surely the case for most supplements: an extract is not the whole food. But a few days ago, I saw a short video presentation that forced upon me the realisation that there is a huge functional difference between what is sold as vitamin C and the complex vitamin C molecule we find in whole foods.

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The distinction may seem trivial at first—it has on the whole clearly been missed—but it is rather important: ascorbic acid, that has been equated to and sold as vitamin C, is the substance from which is made the thin antioxidant shell that protects the many constituents of the vitamin C complex as it is found in food. Since ascorbic acid can be produced in a lab, whereas whole vitamin C complex can only be found and extracted from real food and therefore cannot, this is naturally what has been done: manufacture ascorbic acid and sell it as vitamin C.

This makes sense, of course, because none of the supplement manufacturers would be inclined to emphasise this point. It would be kind of like shooting themselves in the foot. But also because, given the proven biochemical and physiological value of antioxidants, it’s not a far stretch to convince oneself that the usefulness of vitamin C is, in fact, derived from the effects of the ascorbic acid shell. For this reason, when I read Dr Thompson’s comments on vitamin C, I made a point to pile on the red peppers, brocoli and lemons in our diet at home, but nonetheless kept on taking ascorbic acid supplements and do to this day. This is about to change.

Dr. Darren Schmidt is an American chiropractor who works at the Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbour and, as most chiropractors, practices natural medicine, treating thousands of patients each year, most of them suffering from the same kinds of complaints, aches, pains and disorders, as is the case everywhere else. The talk was about heart disease: number one killer in the US and very prominent in all industrialised countries. To make it as clear and simple as possible and get the message across, he described that heart disease arises from the gradual filling up of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart with arterial plaques that with time grow to block the way completely or almost, and that this leads to a heart attack. We covered this topic in detail in the article At the heart of heart disease.

The main point he wanted to get across is that plaques in the arteries and blood vessels develop because of an injury to the tissues lining the vessels, just like a scab does on the surface of the skin when we accidentally scratch, scrape or cut it, and that a well-functioning organism will fix that injury in the same way as it does the surface of the skin: the scab forms, the skin repairs itself underneath, and when it is healed, the scab falls off. Plaques are like scabs.

He explained that, fresh out of university in the early 90’s, he had heard at a conference someone speak of the work of a great pioneer in nutritional medicine of the first half of the twentieth century, Dr Royal Lee, a friend and colleague of the other great pioneer Dr Weston Price. Dr Lee was the man who made the first food supplement, and the first concentrated whole food vitamin C supplement. He founded in 1929 the Vitamin Products Company, which later became Standard Process, Inc. Lee taught that this concentrated food in tablet form was like a pipe cleaner for arteries. Hearing this, the young chiropractor thought to himself, if it worked then it should work now, and he began to prescribe vitamin C to all his heart disease patients. For a decade he prescribed vitamin C, and for a decade he failed to see significant improvements or any sign of reversal of atherosclerosis in his heart disease patients. But he had missed something.

Frustrated and disappointed, he looked again at the original research and writings of Drs Lee and Price about nutrition and disease, and in particular about vitamin C, and began prescribing only Standard Process vitamin C. What he found, invariably, was a quick improvement in his patients whose chest pains and complains would disappear, and who would gradually feel better and better. Since then, he has repeated this on thousands of people with such success that he now teaches, he now repeats what Dr Royal Lee taught almost a century ago, that the cure for heart disease, for disease of the arteries and atherosclerosis, is vitamin C. And that vitamin C is not ascorbic acid, but it is whole food vitamin C complex.

Schmidt is not handsome nor charismatic. He does not speak eloquently. He is far from refined in his choice of words and speaking style. He doesn’t come across as a brilliant doctor or scientist, and not even as a bright guy, really. But the clinical experience and observations on which his statements and claims are based are undeniably impressive and clearly unambiguous in the information they convey: ascorbic acid has no effect on healing injured tissues and in allowing for the body to clean up and remove the plaques from the arteries and blood vessels; whole food vitamin C complex does, and it does so remarkably well and efficiently in everyone who takes it.

The implication is that other than providing antioxidant effects, ascorbic acid is useless for aiding and promoting healing of tissues. In this case, the concern is the health of the arteries, but it’s not a far stretch to conclude that this applies to all injured tissues in general. What is needed is whole food complex vitamin C, which we eat in whole foods or take in supplements that are made from whole foods. Therefore, it’s a no brainer: if you are interested in keeping your arteries clean and your heart and brain healthy and well-functioning for as long as possible, take a whole food vitamin C complex supplement, and pile on the vitamin C rich foods in your diet (superfoods highest in vitamin C include Camu Camu, Acerola and Goji ; regular foods highest in C include bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries and kiwi).

There is one last crucial point to this story, and I was happily surprised to hear it mentioned during the presentation. It is something that is explained by Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories, but that is very rarely heard or mentioned anywhere. Vitamin C enters cells through the same channel as sugar does. But for evolutionary reasons, glucose always takes precedence over it (and all other nutrients). Therefore, as long as there is sugar to be shuttled into the cell, vitamin C stays out and waits: it does not enter the cell. So, what does he suggest for the diet? Can you guess? No sugars (simple carbohydrates), no starches (starchy carbohydrates) because they become sugars, lots of fat, adequate protein from healthy animal sources, and lots of green veggies, Sounds familiar? And, of course, whole food vitamin C concentrated in supplement form.

Finally, I promise to write about these and other great pioneers of nutritional medicine. I feel that these people who were greatly ahead of their times and usually greatly suffered from it deserve more recognition than they get. They deserve more recognition than they ever will get. But still, I would like to do my part. I don’t know when, but I will.

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Reversing diabetes: understanding the process

The fundamental problem, the cause of all the complications associated with diabetes, is the chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels. Independently of the fact that each individual, each one of us, has a different tolerance to carbohydrates, a different metabolic response to the presence of glucose and insulin in the blood, there are basically only two ways that blood glucose can be elevated: the first is by the consumption of sugar or starch that finds its way into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall; the second is by the stimulation by stress hormones of liver glucose production whereby the glycogen reserves are broken down and the resulting glucose released into the blood. Therefore, in order to most effectively bring down chronically elevated blood sugar levels, it is essential to eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but it is also essential to eliminate chronic stress.

The sugar

The vast majority of the millions of type II diabetics that constitute the body of what is now generally considered to be a diabetes epidemic in many western countries, have developed the condition primarily from the consumption of dietary insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, from eating high-sugar and high-starch diets over the course of decades. The process of growing insulin resistance due to chronic consumption of carbohydrates is described in several other posts (like, for example, We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, A diabetic’s meal on Air France, and Cure diabetes in a matter of weeks). It is for this reason that the same vast majority of type II diabetics responds extremely well to the elimination of these carbohydrates from their diet, whereupon glucose levels drops, insulin levels drop, the cells gradually regain insulin sensitivity, and the tissues and organs gradually recover from years or decades of the toxic environment created by continuously being exposed both to glucose and insulin. Naturally, the recovery process depends intimately on how long and how bad things were before implementing these dietary changes, but it happens in more or less the same way in every person.

The stress

The tendency, in many western societies, especially in North America, to create and generate in all sorts of ways very high levels of stress in most spheres of activities in our life, and, unfortunately, also thrive on this stress, often for years or even decades, in order to be highly productive, successful, and therefore important, or at least, make ourselves feel and believe that we are, is extremely bad. This, compounded with the fact that most of our standard western diets are very high in insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, makes the evolution towards of type II diabetes faster, more pronounced, and much more harmful. As a consequence, there is without a doubt a non-negligible fraction of diabetics that suffer from both a high intake of sugary and starchy foods, as well as high stress levels.

In the extreme, however, it is definitely possible to develop diabetes uniquely or primarily due to chronically high levels of stress. The most important, and indeed, very important difference between elevating blood sugar through diet or as a consequence of stress hormones, is that the former is naturally corrected by the secretion of insulin, which helps put aways the sugar either as glycogen or as fat, whereas the latter, the presence of high levels of stress hormones, simultaneously induces insulin resistance in order to keep the glucose in circulation as long as possible. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint because under stress, under a fight or flight situation, we need lots of glucose in the blood and we want it to stay there to allow us to respond physically to whatever needs to be done: to run, jump, climb, fight, survive. The problem is that our high levels of stress are not only chronic, but they are not associated with a situation in which we need to have access to high levels of sugar in the blood in order to respond to the stressor physically with our muscles. And so, glucose remains high and circulates, insulin remains high but is not effective, and from this, all our blood vessels, tissues and organs get damaged: glycated from the glucose, oxidised from the free radicals, and literally corroded by the insulin.

This clearly implies that chronically high levels of stress are far worse than a high carbohydrate diet, and explains in no uncertain terms why high-stress professionals—even low-carb eaters—can not only suffer from chronically elevated blood sugar levels and the full array of damaging consequences, but also develop diabetes, and almost inevitably, heart and artery disease, because they all come from the same place: high stress leads to high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones; high levels of stress hormones lead to high glucose and insulin resistance no matter what is eaten because it comes from the liver; high glucose levels and insulin resistance leads to artery disease which leads to heart disease, and it also leads to type II diabetes. This is why, for those high work volume and high stress high-strung high-achievers, it is essential to eliminate all insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but it is crucial to significantly reduce, and ideally, eliminate chronic stress. (We have looked at many of the physiological effects of stress in The kidney: evolutionary marvel and in At the heart of heart disease.)

The physiological consequences

As every diabetic knows, or at least should know, the consequences or complications associated with the condition of diabetes are horrific. What is very unfortunate is that it appears as though many doctors do not understand the biochemical and physiological connections and chains of  reactions and responses that develop and grow more sever over time as a consequence of the underlying chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels (as you may remember from your reading of Why do diabetics have high blood pressure?). What happens in the body when levels of blood sugar and insulin resistance stay high? Let’s follow this through:

High blood pressure, atherosclerosis and heart disease

The most immediate consequences are the rise in blood pressure and increased damage to blood vessels from glycation: the elevated levels of glucose that the kidneys have evolved to keep in circulation causes a rise in osmolarity (blood concentration), which the kidneys try to counter by retaining water in order to keep the blood from getting too concentrated. Since blood pressure is mostly a function of the amount of water in the blood, this causes the pressure to rise. Because glucose is meant to remain in minimal circulating concentrations or otherwise be quickly cleared from the bloodstream by pancreatic insulin shuttling it into cells, long-lasting elevated sugar concentration leads to the glycation of tissues, which is the damage of protein or fatty structures of the cells due to the glucose molecules “sticking” in the wrong places and in the wrong way. This, in combination with the higher blood pressure, is the perfect recipe for much increased damage to the blood vessels, especially the large arteries in which the pressure is greatest, the increased production of cholesterol and lipoproteins for cholesterol transport and damage repair, and the consequent plaque buildup termed atherosclerosis, which eventually (sooner than later) leads to artery disease, heart disease, and heart attacks from the occlusion of vessels bringing blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries).

Kidney disease

Even though it is the kidney that regulates the blood pressure and retains water in order to keep the blood from getting too concentrated with the increasing concentration of glucose, the higher blood pressure puts great strain on all of its micro filtering units, the nephrons, whose function is to filter out acidic metabolic waste from the bloodstream and get rid of it through the urine. The nephron works optimally under optimal conditions, but optimal for it, which means ideal blood pressure: not too low, but especially, not too high. It’s a self-regulating system in that if we are relaxed and at rest, then breathing is slow, heart beat is slow, blood circulation is slow, blood pressure is low and the kidneys are under little strain. As we get moving, through exercise, for example, then breathing is faster, heart beat is faster, blood flow is faster, blood pressure is higher, and the kidneys filter a larger volume of blood per second in order to eliminate as much of the acid that is building up from the activity and that needs to be eliminated in order for the muscles to continue working in ideal conditions.

With chronically high blood pressure, the kidneys are continually under stress and the nephrons get damaged. However, because there are millions of nephrons in each of the two kidneys, and it has been estimated that we can live with only 1/3 of the nephrons in only one of the two kidneys, this problem of the gradual deterioration of kidney function is not really considered as a big issue until the kidneys fail (or little time before), at which point it is far too late, and the situation is irreversible.

In addition, insulin resistance—to any degree—promotes the break down of muscle tissue, because as soon as sugar levels drop after a few hours after a meal or snack, during the night is the most apt example, since the cells cannot use fats for energy, the muscle tissue is broken down and constituents of its proteins made into glucose. This leads to chronically high levels of circulating creatinine that, as a metabolic waste product, must also be filtered out and eliminated by the kidneys. This happens in everyone with insulin resistance, and the amount of muscle breakdown is a function of the degree of insulin resistance. In the case of extreme insulin resistance as is seen in type II diabetics, the process is far more pronounced. The excessive stress on the kidneys inevitably leads to deterioration, nephron dysfunction, and eventually to failure. (You can read more about kidney function in The kidney evolutionary marvel.)

What makes things even worse is that most diabetics/heart disease sufferers have elevated lipoprotein (and cholesterol) levels due to the excessive inflammation and speed at which tissue damage is taking place in the blood vessels and all over the body. This, as you all know, has been wrongly interpreted and widely promoted as a major risk factor for heart attacks. The “treatment” of choice for these patients are a lifelong prescription for statin drugs. Very unfortunately, not only do statin drugs not confer any health or longevity benefits, but they accelerate the speed at which muscle breaks down, causing even greater amounts of creatinine to make its way into the bloodstream, and thus creating a heavy additional load on the kidneys. Is it any wonder that the rise in kidney disease closely reflects the rise in diabetes but also in statin consumption? If you’ve been taking statins, don’t get overly worried: physiological degradation is a slow process, and it is rarely too late to make the intelligent choices and changes that will help stop and reverse the disease process, and in time allow the body to heal itself.

Systemic acidosis

The way in which the kidney regulates blood pressure upwards is by secreting different hormones that prevent water from being eliminated, that thicken the blood, and that contract the blood vessels. In most people, the majority of which is chronically dehydrated, there is already a shortage of water and therefore a dehydration response by the kidneys; the elevated sugar concentration makes this far worse, of course. And under dehydration conditions, the means by which the kidney can retain even more water, as much water as it can, is by increasing the concentration gradient in the interstitial medium through which the nephron passes in order to pull as much water out of the filtrate as possible.

Increasing the concentration gradient is done by keeping and concentrating sodium and uric acid. It is more important to retain water than to eliminate uric acid, because water is primordially important for all body functions. Consequently, urea and uric acid levels rise, gradually but consistently over time. Because acid cannot accumulate in the blood, whose pH must absolutely be kept pretty much exactly at 7.4 (7.35-7.45), but because, at the same time, it cannot be eliminated by the kidneys under the given circumstances, it is stored away in the tissues all over the body: joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and organs. Chronically high levels of uric acid in the blood lead to the condition known as gout. The buildup of acid in the tissues leads to pain, inflammation, arthritis, cartilage breakdown, bone demineralisation and osteoporosis, and a slew of other undesirable consequences, including increased susceptibility to all forms of infections: yeast, viral and bacterial, and severely depressed immunity. (You can read more about acidosis and alkalisation in A green healing protocol, Detoxification, and Such a simple and yet powerful natural anti-inflammatory.)

Maybe the most critical point about acidosis in how it relates to diabetes is that the pancreas and its precious beta cells, those that produce the insulin, are extremely sensitive to pH, and simply cannot function when the blood and cellular environment is acidic. The cells simply stop functioning because of the overload of acid that is not excreted and not neutralised. This makes the pancreas more and more dysfunctional over time, and eventually leads to exhaustion and the complete inability to secrete insulin or do any of the other functions that it is intended to perform. Something very similar happens in the liver, and, in fact, everywhere else, when chronic acidosis defines the internal environment of the body.

Pancreatic exhaustion

The distinction between type I and type II diabetes is usually highlighted by calling the first insulin-dependent diabetes, and the second insulin-resistant diabetes. Type I diabetics are usually identified and diagnosed as children or young adults because their pancreas does not produce insulin, and are then “treated” by having to inject themselves insulin after they eat for the rest of their lives. Naturally, over time, from the continual and usually excessive exposure to insulin, their cells become insulin-resistant, and they subsequently develop all the same problems as type II diabetics, whose condition is, in a way, exactly the opposite, in the sense that they suffer from chronic hyper-insulinemia, because their pancreas that senses the elevated glucose concentration in circulation, produces more insulin in order to clear it out and store it away. The problem is that the cells are not sensitive to the presence of insulin, and therefore do not take in the sugar. The pancreas is then forced to produce and secrete more insulin, and on it goes. Amazingly, type II diabetics are also “treated” by insulin injections, which increase insulin levels even more, and increase insulin resistance even more, obviously making the situation far worse. Eventually, the pancreas of the type II diabetic gets completely exhausted, and loses the ability to manufacture and secrete insulin. At this point, the type II becomes a kind of type I. Interesting how this goes, isn’t it.

The pancreas’ main function is not to secrete insulin, even though in our diabetic-centric worldview it is certainly considered as such. This is one of its functions, but not the most important. By far the most essential is the production and secretion of enzymes, the specialised proteins that break down foods but also do everything else that needs to be done, especially tissue building and repair throughout the body. The third essential function of the pancreas is the concentration and secretion of sodium bicarbonate in the small intestine following the movement of the pre-digested chyme from the stomach into the small intestine. This is also extremely important because all absorption and digestion in the intestine must take place in an alkaline environment, compared to the acidic environment required in the stomach when protein is present. Pancreatic exhaustion from the over-production of insulin for years on end, therefore spells disaster on many more fronts than just insulin and glucose metabolism. It spells disaster for all digestion and absorption processes, and all enzyme regulated activities, which basically means everything, really. This is very serious.

Liver dysfunction

The liver does an amazing amount of vital work, most of it incredibly complex. This includes filtering the blood from all sorts of toxins, both biological and chemical in nature, and breaking those down for elimination; it includes the manufacture of cholesterol and lipoproteins, vital for survival, but the details of which are so intricate that they are still not completely understood after a century of study; it includes the transformation of excess glucose into glycogen and into fat for storage; and in includes the manufacture of glucose from liver-stored glycogen to continually adjust the levels of glucose in the circulation depending on the body’s needs, or more specifically, on the hormonal and biochemical environment. The distinction may appear subtle, but it is quite important in the sense that it is really the hormones and biochemistry of the blood that regulates the function of most tissues and organs, especially those of the vital glands like the liver, pancreas and adrenals, and there is hardly anything more disruptive and unbalancing to the hormonal and biochemical makeup than chronically elevated glucose, stress hormones and acid levels.

Under such conditions, the liver must manufacture an inordinate amount of glucose from the glycogen stores that it itself must also replenish, but also from the broken down muscle tissue. At the same time it converts as much as it can of the glucose into fat for storage, but unfortunately, insulin resistance makes it impossible for the triglycerides to be used, and they are therefore left in circulation for longer than they should before eventually being stored in our fat cells. To top up the list, the free-radical and glycation damage to the vessels and tissues require the liver to also manufacture an inordinate amount of cholesterol and lipoproteins in an attempt to repair these damaged cells, which is no small feat, (you can read more about cholesterol and lipoproteins in But what about cholesterol? and in Six eggs per day for six days: cholesterol?). All of these processes are perfectly natural. However, they are not meant to be running in overdrive for years on end. It is no surprise then that imposing upon the liver to cope with this, eventually leads to dysfunction, deterioration, exhaustion and failure.

Towards a working solution

This is definitely not the end of the list of the complications and physiological consequences that develop from chronically high circulating glucose and insulin levels, but they are some of the most important. Also, it is essential to understand the process by which these consequences first arise and then grow in severity and into the disease process over time. It is, however, infinitely more useful to know what to do in order to maintain a biochemical and hormonal environment in which none of these various dysfunctions and complications can arise if they haven’t yet, or how they can be stopped and reversed if they have.

It shouldn’t be surprising that these are the same, and that they are keys to any optimal health plan, simply because the cells, tissues and organs that make up the human body function, or rather, should function in the pretty much the same way in everyone, allowing for small differences in some of the details. For example, the fact that different people have different tolerances to carbohydrates does not change anything to the consequences of chronically elevated glucose levels on physiological function. It only changes the details relating to the thresholds and time scales involved in developing the same problems. The same goes for vitamin D: the fact that different people require different amounts of vitamin D in order to remain healthy does not in the least alter the basic fact that virtually all complex living creatures depend on it for life. So, yes, everyone is different, but, at the same time, everyone is the same.

No sugars, no starches, no dairy

The first step to take is to eliminate from the diet foods that cause glucose and insulin levels to rise. For this, we must

  1. Eliminate all simple sugars: that’s basically anything that tastes sweet, including sweet fruit, because all simple sugars will elevate blood glucose levels almost immediately after consumption;
  2. Eliminate all starchy carbohydrates: that’s all grains and grain products (at least 90% carb), beans (typically more than 70% carb), potatoes (virtually 100% carb), and other starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, yams, taro, etc, because the starches they contain are broken down to glucose by enzymes in the digestion process; but also sweet root vegetables like carrots and beets, which are just full of simple sugars (you’ll know this if you’ve ever had carrot or beet juice?)
  3. Eliminate dairy: that’s all milk products, which, even those low in sugars like hard cheeses, cause a rise in insulin levels. Besides, most people are allergic or intolerant to dairy products, whether they are aware of it or not.

And aside from just glucose and insulin levels, as we discussed in At the heart of heart disease, insulin-stimulating carbohydrates are highly inflammatory, triggering more than 300 inflammatory pathways. So, excluding them from our diet not only brings about plenty of positive metabolic and physiological changes, but it is, as far as I am concerned, a requirement to make those positive changes happen.

Drop the stress

For those people to whom we referred to earlier that suffer mostly from the chronically elevated stress hormone levels, it is crucial to eliminate the causes of stress, ensure long hours of high quality sleep, and incorporate exercise and activities that effectively reduce stress levels, as well as supplements that can help with that. Obviously, the most important sources of stress for most professionals are psychological ones. But what is also well established is that the level of stress that is experienced (i.e., the amount of stress hormones secreted and in circulation) depends entirely on each person’s outlook and attitude. Therefore, it is this—the attitude and outlook—that are the most influential factors in generating or relieving stress on a daily basis.

Having said this, it is also obvious that going to a remote holiday house on sandy beach without access to phone or internet communications, and making a point of simply relaxing, going for walks, swimming in the sea, reading good books, watching good films, taking naps, eating healthfully and sleeping long and soundly every night, is inherently far more conducive to eliminating stress than the usual school year and work day conditions. What we must find a way to do is to function well in all circumstances with minimal stress, and most importantly, without chronic stress. It is chronic stress that is the problem; not relatively short periods of high stress. And stress, it shouldn’t be surprising, is also happens to be extremely acidifying (haven’t you ever noticed the strong, acidic smell of underarm stress sweat?).

Very helpful in this is taking Tulsi in the morning and at lunchtime (only during the day), and valerian root before bed. But exercise, conscious relaxation, and modifying outlook and attitude towards a more open and relaxed position are definitely most important.

Lower blood pressure

Lowering glucose levels will automatically lower blood pressure. Lowering stress will also automatically lower blood pressure. Biochemically though, the most important muscle relaxant—and this most definitely applies to the smooth muscle cells that line the blood vessels—is magnesium. Therefore, magnesium baths, oil and oral supplementation is essential. On the other hand, calcium is contractile and unfortunately, much more present in the foods we eat. Therefore, most of us are magnesium deficient but also over-calcified. Hence, minimising calcium intake is also very important. (You can read more about these topics in Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks, and in Why you should start taking magnesium today.)

Proper mineral balance, especially sodium and chloride, are essential for blood pressure regulation. Eating plenty of unrefined sea salt with meals (and with drinks) is also crucial. Naturally, we seek balance, and salt intake has to be balanced with water intake, and this leads to optimal kidney function. (You can read more about water, salt and physiological function in How much salt, how much water and our amazing kidneys, Why we should drink water before meals, and in Water, ageing and disease)

Support the kidneys

The kidneys want to maintain optimal blood pressure; regulate water, sodium and mineral content of the blood; and clear out metabolic wastes, mostly uric acid. To have them do what they are trying to do as best they can, we must very simply provide plenty of water, plenty of unrefined salt rich in sodium and all the other essential minerals, plenty of alkalising sources in drink and food, minimise glucose levels and minimise creatinine levels. The importance of alkalising the body intensely at first and continuously thereafter cannot be overstated with regards to the proper function of all the vital organs discussed here, and everything else really: every cellular process and every enzymatic action; everything depends on this.

Rejuvenate the pancreas

The pancreas senses and responds to glucose in the blood by manufacturing and secreting insulin. It responds to the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines by manufacturing and secreting sodium bicarbonate and digestive enzymes. To rejuvenate the pancreas, we need to not only give it a break, but help it recover. For this, we need to minimise glucose levels in the blood, and thereby minimise the need for it to manufacture insulin; maximise intake of enzymes to minimise the need for it to produce them; and, especially in light of what we discussed under acidosis, we need to maximise alkalisation, including through oral and transdermal absorption of sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride, with a focus on chlorophyl and chlorophyl-rich foods and drinks.

Cleanse the liver

The liver’s most taxing function is the breakdown of toxins (all substances foreign and dangerous to the body). Another taxing function of the liver is the manufacture and recycling of cholesterol and lipoproteins that, as we said earlier, are in production overdrive because of the excessively fast free-radical and glycation damage to the lining of the blood vessels, as well as the damage these cause everywhere else in the tissues of the body, accompanied by the chronic systemic inflammation this leads to (you can read more about systemic inflammation in Treating Arthritis and At the heart of heart disease.)

To help the liver, we must therefore first stop ingesting chemically manufactured medications, and we must eliminate sources of toxins and chemicals from the things we eat and drink; from the air we breathe, especially from those toxic cleaning products we use; and from all the chemicals we absorb through the skin in soaps, shampoos, lotions and creams. Second, we eat and drink to minimise inflammation and internal tissue damage, therefore minimising the strain of excessive manufacture of cholesterol and lipoproteins. And third, we must take regular toxin cleansing and alkalising baths with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride. This simple therapy is the most effective means of detoxifying the body from chemicals and toxins or all kinds, including the most notorious radioactive isotopes that can make their way into our bodies from nuclear weapons, spills and power plant accidents through the air, water and food. Here again, chlorophyl and chlorophyl-rich foods and drinks are essential.

In conclusion

The basic conclusion is the same as what we have come to whenever we discussed type II diabetes: while it is a devastatingly damaging condition that affects every metabolic and physiological function of the body, it is incredibly easy to prevent, and even after many years of deterioration for the diabetic sufferer, it is relatively easy to reverse the condition and cure the disease, including the beta cells of the pancreas, by understanding the disease process thoroughly, and by adopting an appropriate healing protocol. Here, we have detailed several of the key problems or complications that stem from chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels, with specific discussion of the ensuing dysfunction in some vital organs, and highlighting the crucial importance of considering the effect of stress in addition to the effects of dietary insulin-stimulating carbohydrates.

You might have noticed that a discussion revolving around overweight, obesity and fat metabolism is missing, maybe conspicuously so. This is not an oversight, but a conscious move towards a focus on the underlying causes of the metabolic, hormonal and physiological natures of the disorder instead of the superficial and rather inconsequential repercussions of it that take expression in the form of excess body fat. The only point I want to mention about this is that by correcting the causes of the disorder, excess body fat stores will melt away on their own. Some help from supplements and hormonal manipulation through diet and timing here and there will be useful. But, the point remains that if the body is in optimal biochemical balance, then physiological and metabolic functions will also be optimal, and no excess body fat will remain, no matter how young or old we are, and no matter what our genetic makeup happens to be.

The overview of the basic strategy for preventing and overcoming diabetes should make it clear that what it implies, although in some aspects quite specific and targeted, is very simple in that it relies mostly on drinking clean water, eating unrefined salt and clean foods, especially those that are chlorophyl-rich, eliminating damaging foods, chemicals and toxins, alkalising and detoxifying with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride, and finally, using a number of important supplements to correct deficiencies and restore optimal biochemical balance. In a subsequent post we will formulate a detailed programme that incorporates all of the elements and strategies discussed here in general terms, together with some additional considerations about details like the timing and amount of food, drink, exercise and supplements.

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Cure diabetes in a matter of weeks

Both the incidence and growth rate of insulin-resistant diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in many countries. It is most remarkable in the US with probably close to 30 million by now, and thus about 10% of the population (1, 2). Globally, the numbers are even more impressive: 370 million with diabetes predicted to grow to 550 by 2030 (3). This entails that as a disease, type-II diabetes (90% of diabetics) is one of the fastest growing causes of death, now in close competition with the well-established leaders, cardio-vascular disease and cancer, that each account for 25% of deaths in more or less all industrialised countries.

Insulin-resistant diabetes is very similar to both vascular disease (cardio and cerebro) and cancer, as well as intestinal, kidney, pancreatic and liver disease, arthritis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, in the sense that it is also a degenerative disease that develops over a lifetime, or at least over several decades. It is, however, quite different from all other chronic degenerative diseases because it is, in a way, the ultimate degenerative disease, in which the occurrence of all others increases markedly, and in some cases two to four times (4).  That’s not 10 or 15%, this is 200 to 400% more!

For this reason alone, it seems clear that all these degenerative conditions are intimitely related, and that furthermore, understanding insulin-resistant diabetes will most definitely give us keen insights into the genesis of degenerative diseases in general.

What boggles the mind is that, in a very real sense, we understand precisely and in exquisite detail how and why insulin-resitant diabetes develops, how and why it is related to all other degenerative diseases, and consequently, both how to prevent diabetes and all disease conditions for which it is a proxy, and why what is needed to achieve this actually works (5, 6).

In fact, type-II diabetes can be cured; not just controlled or managed, but cured; not just partially or temporarily, but completely and permanently. And this, in a matter of weeks.

This may seem simply impossible to the millions of suffering diabetics that live with their disease for years and more often decades, but it is the plain and simple truth, which has been demonstrated by more than one, but unfortunately rather few exceptional health care practitioners, already several decades ago by Robert Atkins (7), and more recently by Ron Rosedale and Joseph Mercola, for example (89), in a remarkably repeatable, predictable and immensely successful manner on most probably tens of thousands of people by now.

About insulin and glucose (or should it be glucose and insulin)

Insulin is a master hormone one of whose important roles is to regulate uptake of macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) by facilitating their crossing the cellular membrane through channels guarded by insulin receptors, from the bloodstream into the cell, either for usage or storage. It is for this role that insulin is mostly known.

However, arguably insulin’s most important and critical role is the regulation of cellular reproduction and lifespan, a role which is, as amazing as it may seem, common to all animals that have been studied from this perspective, from microscopic worms to the largest animals.

As such, insulin is a master and commander for regulating reproduction and growth in immature and therefore growing individuals, and regulating lifespan and ageing in mature and therefore full-grown adults (10).

Insulin is absolutely essential to life because in its absence cells can neither use glucose—a most basic cellular fuel, nor reproduce correctly—making growth impossible. It is, however, needed in only very small amounts. Why? Because insulin is very damaging to tissues and especially blood vessels, something that has been well known for a long time (look at this short review on the role of insulin in atherosclerosis from Nov 1981—that’s 32 years ago!, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to glucose concentration inside of these. As blood passes through the pancreas, these special cells that produce and store insulin, sense how much glucose there is by taking it in, and release insulin into circulation proportionally. This release is pulsed (while eating, for example) with a period of between 5 and 10 minutes, but only in response to blood sugar concentration, meaning that insulin is released only if blood sugar rises above the individual’s threshold, which depends on the metabolic and hormonal state of that individual.

However, it is important to note that pretty much no matter what the metabolic or hormonal states may be, eating fat and having fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream does not stimulate the release of insulin, while eating protein, in particular the animo acids arginine and leucine, does, albeit a lot less than glucose. This is because insulin is generally needed for cells to take in and use amino acids.

An insulin molecule that has delivered a nutrient to a cell can be degraded by the cell, or it can be released back into the bloodstream. A circulating insulin molecule will be cleared by either the liver or the kidneys within about one hour from the time of release by the pancreas.

Exposure to most substances, including lethal poisons such as arsenic and cyanide, naturally and systematically decreases sensitivity, or from the reverse perspective, increases resistance to it (as demonstrated by generations of Roman emperors and their relatives). This applies to cells, tissues and organs, and happens in the same way for biochemical molecule like messenger hormones, for the one that concerns us here, insulin. Thus, as cells are more  frequently and repeatedly exposed to insulin, they lose sensitivity and grow resistant to it.

Insulin primarily acts on muscle and liver cells where glucose is stored as glycogen, and on fat cells where both glucose and fats are stored as … fat, of course. Muscle cells grow resistant first, then liver cells and in the end, fat cells. Fortunately or unfortunately, endothelial cells (those that line the blood vessels), do not become resistant to insulin, and this is why they continue to store glucose as fat, suffer severely from glycation, and proliferate until the arteries are completely occluded and blocked by atherosclerotic plaques.

What happens when a large portion of the muscle and liver cells, and enough of the fat cells have become insulin-resistant? Glucose cannot be cleared from the bloodstream: it thus grows in concentration which then stays dangerously high. This is type-II, adult onset, or most appropriately called, insulin-resistant diabetes.

Unnaturally high glucose concentrations lead to, among other things, increased blood pressure, extremely high rates of glycation (typically permanent and fatal damage) of protein and fat molecules on cells throughout the body, heightened stimulation of hundreds of inflammatory pathways, and strongly exaggerated formation of highly damaging free radicals, which, all in all, is not so good. This is why insulin is secreted from the pancreas so quickly when glucose is high in the first place: to avoid all this damage and furiously accelerated ageing of all tissues throughout the body.

The five points to remember

  1. Insulin is a master hormone that regulates nutrient storage, as well as cellular reproduction, ageing and therefore lifespan.
  2. Insulin is vital to life, but in excess concentrations it is highly damaging to all tissues, especially blood vessels.
  3. If blood sugar is high, insulin is secreted to facilitate the uptake of the glucose into cells, but at the same time, because it is present, also promotes the storage of amino and fatty acids (protein and fat); if blood sugar is low, insulin is not secreted.
  4. Chronically high blood glucose is remarkably damaging to the organism through several mechanisms that are all strongly associated with degenerative disease conditions in general.
  5. Chronically high blood glucose concentration leads to chronically high insulin concentration; chronic exposure to insulin leads to desensitisation of muscle, liver and fat cells, and, in the end, to type-II or insulin-resistant diabetes.

And in this succinct summary, in these five points to remember, we have the keys to understanding not only how diabetes develops and manifests, to understand not only the relationship between diabetes and other degenerative diseases, but also to understand how to prevent and cure diabetes as well as degenerative conditions in general.

And I’m suppose to say …

But you already know what I’m going to say:

Because the basic, the underlying, the fundamental cause of insulin-resistant diabetes is chronic over-exposure to insulin, it means that to prevent—but also reverse and cure it—what we need is to not have chronic over-exposure to insulin. And this means to have the very least, the minimal exposure to insulin, at all times, day after day.

The good news, which is indeed very good news, is, on the one hand, that it is utterly simple to do and accomplish, and on the other, that almost independently of how prone we are to insulin resistance (genetically and/or hormonally) or how insulin-resistant we actually are right now, insulin sensitivity can be recovered quite quickly. And here, “quite quickly” means in a matter of days, which is truly remarkable in light of the fact that our state of insulin resistance grows over decades, day after day, and year after year. It is rather amazing, miraculous even, that the body can respond in this way so incredibly quickly.

Now, type-II diabetes is nothing other than extreme insulin-resistance. Naturally, the longer we are diabetic, the more insulin-resistant we become. But unbeknownst to most (almost all MDs the world over included), if your fasting blood glucose is higher than 75-80 mg/dl or your insulin higher than 5 (mU/L or microU/ml), then the muscle and liver cells are insulin resistant. And the higher the insulin, the more resistant they are. In fact, if you have any amount of excess body fat, your cells are insulin resistant. And the more body fat, especially abdominal but also everywhere else, the more insulin resistant they are.

Because insulin sensitivity is lost gradually over our lifetime through daily exposure, some consider that everyone is becoming diabetic more or less quickly, and that eventually, if we live long enough, we all become diabetic. But this is only true in a world where virtually everyone suffers from chronic over-exposure to glucose and insulin. It is not true in a world in which we eat and drink to promote optimal health.

In practice, because basically everyone is more or less (but more than less) insulin-resistant, concentrations around 10 mU/L are considered normal. But when I wrote earlier that insulin is vital but needed in very small amounts, I really meant very small amounts: like optimally between 1 and 3, and definitely less than 5 mU/L (or microU/mL; and the conversion from traditional to SI units is 1 mU/L = 7 pmol/L).

So how do we do it?

You already know what I’m going to say:

Because insulin is secreted in response and in proportion to glucose concentration, when it is low, insulin is not secreted. Therefore, insulin sensitivity is regained by completely eliminating insulin-stimulating carbohydrates. This means zero simple sugars without distinction between white sugar, honey or fruit; zero starchy carbs without distinction between refined or whole grains, wheat or rice, bread or pasta, potatoes or sweet potatoes; and zero dairy, which triggers insulin secretion even when sugar content is low. It also means minimal protein, just enough to cover the basic metabolic needs (0.5-0.75 g/kg of lean mass per day). Consequently, it means that almost all calories come from fat—coconut oil, coconut cream, animal fats from organic fish and meats, olive oil and avocados, as well as nuts and seeds—and that the bulk of what we eat in volume comes from fibrous and leafy vegetables.

And what happens? In 24 hours, blood glucose and insulin have dropped significantly, and the metabolism begins to shift from sugar-burning to fat-burning. In 48 hours, the shift has taken place, and the body begins to burn off body fat stores, while it starts the journey towards regaining insulin sensitivity. In a matter of days during the first couple of weeks, the body has released a couple to a few kilos of water and has burnt a couple to a few kilos of fat. We feel much lighter, much thinner, much more flexible and agile, and naturally, much better. In four weeks, blood sugar and insulin levels are now stable in the lower normal range. All of the consequences and side effects brought on by the condition of insulin-resisitant diabetes decrease in severity and amplitude with each passing day, and eventually disappear completely. In eight weeks, the metabolism has fully adapted to fat-burning as the primary source of energy, and we feel great. (See 11 for more technical details.)

The result is that within a matter of weeks, we are diabetic no longer: we have regained insulin sensitivity, and have thus cured our insulin-resistant diabetes. Over time, a few months or maybe a few years, feeling better with each passing day, there remain very few if any traces of our diabetes, and we live as if we never were diabetic. Amazing, isn’t it? So simple. So easy. So straight-forward. And yet, still so rare.

And what about the relationship between diabetes and heart disease, diabetes and stroke, diabetes and cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s? Why do diabetics suffer the various health problems that they do, like high blood pressure, water retention, blindness, kidney disease, and how do those come about? What of the lifespan-regulating functions of insulin, how does that work? All these interesting and important questions and issues will have to wait for another day. This article is already long enough.

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Two articles that changed my life

Two days ago, on October 23, I turned 40. For me, it feels different than every other birthday I have had: it feels like the marker of the transition between what can be considered young adulthood from 20 to 40, and middle adulthood from 40 to 70, which is then simply followed by old age. Maybe this is also linked to the fact that from the time I started competing, first in running track and field, then in road cycling, duathlon (running and cycling), off-road cycling and eventually in long distance running, I have always been in the normal, standard 18-40 category (like almost everyone else, I thought). And now, starting with my first race in the first level Seniors from 40 to 50 a couple of weekends ago in Bordeaux at the Ariane Cross 2012, I am definitely, and will be for the next 10 years, in the over 40 category. So, I have been reflecting a little on the past and the future: What is really important to me, what have I done and accomplished, what do I want to do in the future and how can I get there? Simple questions whose answers are not so simple.

In this context, I want to share two articles that completely changed my life, and completely changed my state of health, in some respects, rather suddenly, and in others, gradually over the years. Interestingly, I stumbled upon and read them both in the same week almost exactly five years ago. I won’t summarise, discuss their contents, nor describe the positive effects the simple but radical changes in dietary habits they prompted me to instil have had on me, on my wife Kristin and on our son Laurent. I simply encourage you to read them for yourself, and sincerely hope they will benefit you as much as they have us, and, I am sure, everyone who has ever read and applied the information they contain to their diet.

What is clear to me now much more than it has in the past, is that no matter what information we are presented, its impact depends entirely on how receptive we are to it. And this depends on all of what we know and think we know, on how we understand the connections between everything we have been exposed to, on our habits and tendencies, on previous experiences throughout our life, and very importantly, on the circumstances that form the context in which the information is brought to our attention. Thus, let me hope that these two articles come at a time that is ripe for you to appreciate their importance in regards to your own health, that of the people you care about, and everyone else for that matter.

The two articles are Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects by Ron Rosedale, MD, and The Skinny on Fats by Mary Enig, PhD. After reading them, please consider sending this link to those you know will or even might possibly appreciate it. As you will see from the few case histories at the start of Rosedale’s presentation, it is really a matter of life or death.

A diabetic’s meal on Air France

A few days ago, I was updating a reservation on the Air France website in anticipation of my trip from Madrid to Toronto on my way to the Origin of Stars and their Planetary Systems conference at  McMaster University. Looking through my personal profile, I found a section where to define a preference for the meals served on long flights. Looking through the list, I was intrigued by the “Diabetic” option.

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The fact is, I’ve read more than I ever intended about diabetes. That’s because the authors of most, if not all books that relate to natural health and nutrition in some way or another, usually have something to say about diabetes, more specifically, insulin-resistant or adult-onset or type II diabetes. One simple reason for this is that diabetes is so widespread in the populations of industrialised countries that it is almost ubiquitous. Another reason, certainly just as important if not more, is that the most common causes of death in industrialised countries—heart disease, stroke, alzheimer’s and cancer—are all much more common in diabetics than they are in non-diabetics, and in all cases, several-fold more common. Doesn’t this very naturally suggest that there is a fundamental relationship between insulin-resistant diabetes and these other conditions? Maybe even that what causes the development of the diabetic condition also causes the development of the others?

Type II diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, should instead always be referred to insulin-resistant diabetes in order to highlight the actual problem—insulin resistance. Unfortunately, it is only rarely referred to as such. Insulin resistance is a description of the state of a cell that does not allow insulin through its membrane to carry glucose to the inside of the cell—it resists insulin’s plea to let the glucose enter. The consequence of this is high levels of blood-glucose and insulin that don’t drop down as they should to acceptable, let alone ideal physiological levels. In fact, as far as I know, the primary, if not the only criteria used by  most MDs to diagnose the onset of diabetes is blood-sugar levels. It is considered normal to have blood-sugar levels anywhere between 65 and 110 mg/dl, but at 120 or above we are considered at risk of developing diabetes.

Interestingly, although fasting insulin concentration is a much better, more robust, indicator of not only the condition of insulin-resistant diabetes, but also of the gradual development of it, which does not appear from one year’s blood test to the next but rather develops over an entire lifetime, slowly and surely, it is almost never performed in standard blood tests ordered by general practitioners. It should.

And why is it better? Because instead of being subject to large fluctuations due to a myriad of different factors as is blood-sugar, such as carbohydrate intake, stress and physical activity, for example, fasting insulin is much more stable, decreasing steadily over the course of several hours, and reflects well the overall state of insulin resistance or sensitivity of our cells.

There is another more direct and accurate way of testing insulin sensitivity that involves measuring blood-sugar and insulin concentrations at regular intervals after ingesting a large amount of glucose. But this method is much more involved and lengthy. Fasting insulin is simple, easy, accurate and cheap. It really should always be done in standard blood tests. Request it on your next blood test. Although, if you follow the dietary advice on this blog, you should never even have to think about getting any blood tests done at all. I just do them because I find it interesting.

I discussed the insulin mechanism in We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, and also in When you eliminatie insulin-stimulating carbohydrates. But for just a second, forget what you remember about it, and consider the following:

Insulin is necessary to clear out excess sugar in the blood: it is the hormone that regulates fat storage. The greater the amount of sugar, the greater the amount of insulin required, and the greater the fat storage. The more often there is sugar, the more often insulin is needed. Insulin resistance in cells develops over time due to over-exposure to insulin, snack after snack, meal after meal, day after day and year after year.

Would we not then immediately conclude that in order to avoid developing insulin resistance we simply and straight-forwardly need to avoid raising blood-sugar levels? Furthermore, would we not immediately hypothesise that in order to reverse insulin resistance and regain insulin sensitivity we need to do just that: avoid raising blood-sugar levels? And how might we do that? You already know this: by not eating simple or starchy carbohydrates. Instead, eating most of our calories from fat to provide all the energy and calories needed for healthy cellular and hormonal activity throughout the body, and never or rarely be hungry.

Now, what was I served as the special order diabetic meal on the flight from Paris to Toronto that I am still sitting on? The salad was of grated carrots sprinkled with super dry, also kind-of-grated white meat, either of chicken, turkey of tuna, (I can’t tell because it didn’t have a smell and I don’t eat meat, so I didn’t taste it). The main course was of a piece of super-dry white fish on a bed of pre-cooked, dry, white rice with boiled frozen ripple-cut carrot slices. This was accompanied by not one of the classic crusty, refined white flour, mini-baguettes they serve on Air France flights, but by two of them. There were also two deserts, a small, dry-baked apple cut in two halves, and a soy-based pudding-like desert. Needless to say that I didn’t eat much of this meal. It was an experiment anyway: I was curious to see what a diabetic would be served, and now I know.

Before reading the next sentence, could you now tell me what is the main characteristic of the meal I just described?

It is a low-calorie, low-protein, super-low fat meal. As a consequence, it is a very high carbohydrate meal: there’s obviously nothing else it could be. Well, that’s not quite true: it is a very low-mineral and enzyme content meal, highly processed and totally dead. But that’s not really important, right? Only calories are important, right? And it is only important that it be low-fat, right?

Therefore, a diabetic that goes to the effort of ordering a special meal instead of the standard menu will end up consuming less protein, a lot less fat, and a lot more carbohydrates. This will cause a much greater rise in blood-sugar levels, that will in turn cause a much greater rise in insulin, and in the case of most diabetics will, in fact, require the injection of additional insulin because their cells are already mostly insulin-resistant. This will inevitably cause increased insulin resistance. But to make matters even worse than this already is, because they are eating very little fat, they will be increasingly hungry after each meal, and thus tend of overeat every time they get the chance. And overeat what? … carbohydrates. This is the definition of a vicious cycle. How sad. How incredibly sad.

I was just offered by second meal: it was pretty much the same thing with a cold dry meat salad instead of the re-heated dry fish with rice dish. What a laugh. This time, I just turned in down.

Oh, and by the way, the first meal was frozen almost solid. Every component, including the carrot salad, baked apple, soy desert and water: everything except for the main course that had been heated. And the second meal was also frozen, but this time, the air flight attendant felt quite sorry about it, and was rather sheepish when offering it to me. How funny! It’s a good thing I am used to fasting.