Obesity, Diabetes and Nutrition — Comments by John McDougall, MD

Source: Dr. McDougall’s February 2004 Newsletter on his web site – www.drmcdougall.com


Type-2 Diabetes – the Expected Adaption to Overnutrition

Born in the year 2000, your male child lifetime risk of developing type-2 diabetes is nearly 33%, and females risk will be 39% when following the Western diet. …

The American Diabetic Association has remained steadfast in their recommendation of a portion controlled version of the Western (American) diet … made up of ingredients, like fat, sugars, refined foods, and cholesterol, that caused the patient’s problems in the first place. …

Worldwide, the incidence of type-2 diabetes increases in direct proportion to the consumption of meat, dairy products, sugars, fats, and calories by the residents. …

Diabetes is an Adaptive Response to Overnutrition.

The malnutrition caused by the high-fat, low-fiber Western diet places serious burdens on the body and requires it to make adaptions in order to survive under adverse conditions. The calories consumed in excess of our needs cause us to gain fat – this is a natural, expected change. Soon a point is reached, when this accumulation becomes counterproductive – a point when any further excess body weight is likely to cause serious physical harm. When this hazardous excess is reached, the body puts “the brakes on”, in order to slow the rate of gain. This is accomplished by a variety of changes that cause the hormone insulin to become less potent. In other words, our cells become resistant to the actions of the fat gaining hormone, insulin – a state referred to as “insulin resistance”.

One of the insulin’s primary jobs is to push fat into the fat cells – thus saving fat for the day when no food is available (which for Westerners never comes). If it were not for the adaptive mechanisms, which allow for the development of “insulin resistance”, people would commonly expand until they become so large that they could not get out of bed or fit through a doorway – a very rare condition that does occur in 1000-pound sized people who need a forklift to move them to the hospital. (They make headlines in the newspaper.).

One of insulin’s other important jobs is to let sugar into the body cells – with a state of “insulin resistance” the sugar cannot get into the cells easily – so it rises in the blood. The hallmark of the diagnosis of diabetes is an elevated blood sugar above normal …. With impotent insulin, the calories of fat and sugar we consume cannot easily enter the cells; the body is essentially starving itself from the inside in a desperate attempt to compensate for overfeeding coming from the outside. To further reduce the burden of obesity, the body eliminates calories by allowing sugar to spill over into the urine, like water falling over a damn. At this stage, sugar is found with the urine test – another common way to diagnose diabetes. Most doctors and patients view the elevated blood sugar as the enemy to be beaten down with medications – the result is a fat, sickly patient was slightly lower blood sugar.

The Reason Medical Therapy Should Be Your Last Choice

Diabetic medications have never cured anyone of diabetes and actually compound the patient’s problems. The patient goes to the doctor, is diagnosed with diabetes, placed on a medication, and told to lose weight. Unfortunately, these medications make insulin more effective, causing more fat to be stored in fat cells. The average initial weight gain when diabetic medications are started is 8 to 20 pounds – due to initially counteracting the protective effects of “insulin resistance”. Thus the well-behaved patient takes the medications as directed, but then gains weight and as a result of the added weight his diabetes becomes worse. The patient returns to the doctor, is given a firm scolding for gaining weight, and then more medications are prescribed, because his sugars are even higher than before – this additional medication makes the patient even fatter and the diabetes more out of control. The vicious cycle continues – and the patient and doctor are left guilt-ridden and confused about the obvious medical failure. After all, they followed the pharmaceutical companies instructions exactly. Worse yet, the patients are not one bit healthier from all this effort and expense.

The Treatment of Type-2 Diabetes with a Low-Fat, Plant Food Diet

Multiple studies dating as far back as the 1920s have shown the benefits of a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet in the treatment of type-2 diabetes. …

Relief of diabetic neuropathy pains, reduced lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), and weight loss have also been reported with a low-fat, pure vegetarian diet. … Many … people with type-2 diabetes are cured of their disease within three weeks, and most will be cured of their diabetes overtime as they adhere to a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, exercise, and lose all of their excess body fat.

The same kind of diet (in large part because of the restriction of animal proteins) has been shown to dramatically improve the health of the kidneys of diabetics (protein in urine, a sign of diabetic kidney damage, decreases and disappears). Research has also shown diabetic damage found in the eyes (retinopathy) can be reversed with a low-fat diet. It’s interesting how kidney and eye damage, the two purported benefits from drug therapy, are actually better treated with diet than with medications, at no cost and no side effects. A low-fat vegetarian diet has also been shown to reverse heart disease (arteriosclerosis), the number one killer of diabetics. Many other researchers have praised the low-fat vegetarian diet as the best approach to prevent and treat most diseases that plague people in modern societies, including people with diabetes. Possibly the most important effect of this dietary approach (combined with exercise) is the scientifically established fact that this is the easiest and most effective way to lose weight permanently. Obesity is the underlying cause of diabetes.

(Nutrition is a powerful medicine, and any diet program begun by a person taking diabetic medicine must be done under a physician’s supervision! Dr. McDougall reduces his patient’s diabetic medication when starting his recommended nutrition and exercise program. He states – )

If this reduction is not made in a timely matter, then they run a real risk of developing hypoglycemia (too low blood sugar).

Most diabetics respond within days – and with continued weight loss, most can be expected to stop all diabetic medications – and regain lost health and appearance.

The most difficult task for people with diabetes is to break from tradition – the following words may help. “The diet recommended by American Diabetic Association virtually guarantees all diabetics will remain diabetic”, claimed the pioneer nutritionist, Nathan Pritikin, 30 years ago. His experiences from treating thousands of people with this disease convinced him type-2 diabetes is largely curable by following a healthy diet and moderate exercise.

Dr. McDougall’s web site
contains many good and informative articles. I strongly encourage you to read this article, “Intensive Therapy Means You will Die Sooner with Good Looking Numbers”, in his February 2008 Newsletter. He also has an extensive recipe collection. The archived newsletters and recipes can be found be following the links on the home page of his web site.