First up- there are three types of diets that are shown to have a positive correlative effect on mitigating type 2 diabetes. They go by names like The Paleolithic Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, and the Atkins Diet. There are a massive number of variations on these themes, but they can be separated into these three main categories.The Paleo Diet: Essentially that modern agriculture is only 10,000 years old and we have not evolved to eat any of modern agriculture. Thing like grains and sugars are detrimental to health and to have optimum health, we need to only eat the things our Paleolithic ancestors ate- the diet of Hunter/Gatherers. It focuses on grass fed meats, fish, lots of veggies, some root veggies like sweet potatoes and absolutely no grains, rice, or even dairy like milk or cheese.
The Mediterranean Diet is similar, but adds in a few grains and cheeses, but focuses primarily on fish, natural oils, whole grains, and lots of veggies, but with saturated fat items like cheese and red meat being eaten much less.
The Atkins Diet is similar to both of these except that it removes all grains and starches/sugars and concentrates primarily on meats/fats and green veggies. Unlike Paleo, Atkins allows cheese and dairy; unlike Mediterranean, it allows naturally occurring saturated fat- in large quantities. You basically replace all of your starches and grains with fat, not protein. It is not a high protein diet, it is a high fat diet.
Of these three, all are known as low-carb diets but there is a critical distinction that separates Atkns from the other low carb diets. Atkins is what’s called a Ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diets are very low carb/high fat diets that wean you off of glucose entirely so your body begins to burn fat as its primary energy source. Due to agriculture, we are now eating mostly starches even though we evolved to eat primarily meats and fats. When a starch hits your body, it digests quickly, breaks into glucose and fructose and hits your blood fast; you get an insulin dump to clear the sugar out of the blood because if blood sugar goes too high or too low, we die. It is a tightly regulated system that we have been overloading for centuries with too much starch and sugar.
As cavemen, in times of excess sugary/starchy food, like late summer when fruit is in bloom, the fruit sugars helped us pack on pounds of fat to prepare for the lean winters- it served a very defined purpose to keep us alive. But without those sugar calories, we survived and flourished eating fats. Our mammalian digestive tracts work very similar to a canine’s; it is made to digest animal products. Out of our entire body, the only organ that requires glucose is a small structure in the brain; and not surprisingly, our bodies are built to pull that glucose from our own protein so we never need to eat starch or sugar. Ever.
Every other system of our body runs perfectly on fatty acids and ketones which are made from protein and fat. In fact, one of the most important muscles in your body SOLEY runs on Fatty Acids… your heart. We’ve evolved that way because once your glucose stores in your body are gone (which happens in a few days without replenishment ), we would die if the heart ran on glucose. By running solely on fat, we can starve for more than a month before death because the heart and brain can run on the body’s extensive muscle and fat. It really is an ingenious design.
A ketogenic diet simply replicates pre-agricultural eating.
A common slam against Atkins/ketogenic diets is that since they are high fat diets, they’re going to kill everyone of heart disease due to the saturated fat, cholesterol and red meat. That is simply not true.
The American heart association and many others have been trying to prove that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease for 50+ years and they have failed miserably to even show a correlation, let alone causation. In fact, Time magazine just recently ran a large article summing this up-
The entire philosophy behind ketogenic diets is that by eating fewer than 30-50 grams of carbs a day, you force your body back into ketosis- a state of producing ketones & fatty acids that your body will use for energy instead of glucose.
I think you already know this but just for a refresher: every carb you eat breaks into sugar. It doesn’t matter if it’s whole wheat, whole grain rice, a leafy green vegetable or a spoonful of organic honey. It all breaks into sugar in your blood. That sugar breaks into glucose and (usually) fructose. The glucose dumps directly into your blood where your body releases insulin to capture the excess and stuff it into whatever cell can take it. The fructose cannot be used directly by your cells so it goes straight to your liver to be processed- just exactly the same as ethanol (alcohol). In your liver, it’s broken down and then repackaged into triglycerides for transport to the rest of your body. If you have high triglycerides, it’s because of carbs and alcohol… not meat.
An excellent lecture on this is Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Dr. Robert Lustig http://youtu.be/dBnniua6-oM (it’s 90 minutes long, but well worth it.)
Now… with Diabetes Type 2 (DT2), what happens is a long process where the cells in your muscle tissue start to get a little tired of working with all the glucose we dump into our bodies. The cells start getting resistant to the insulin and their receptors start to shut off from fatigue. In response, your blood sugar elevates, which freaks your body out so it pumps out even more insulin to try and clear the excess glucose. This is insulin resistance, now called Metabolic Syndrome, which is a pre-cursor to DT2. It can go on for years before it’s noticed and it may never develop into DT2 at all, but it can have devastating effects on your health.
As you suffer with Metabolic syndrome (formerly called Syndrome X) your pancreas starts to burn out from producing so much insulin… eventually the cells that produce the insulin begin to burn out completely and stop producing any insulin at all. At that point, your body can no longer clear the blood sugar and all sorts of horrible things begin to cascade… and boom, you have full blown Diabetes type 2 and you’re shooting insulin for the rest of your life. We measure our insulin two ways- through standard glucose monitoring- a pin prick and blood test and via what’s called an A1c test. It’s measuring a type of hemoglobin that carries insulin; its far more accurate than a pin prick. An A1c can be seen as a 3 month snapshot of how well you handle glucose. The higher the A1c, the more insulin your blood is carrying and the closer you are to DT2. That is something to avoid.
I have studied this stuff for about 2 years to learn about weight loss and the health effects of different types of nutrition. I am convinced that the only disease we have nearly 100% control in avoiding is diabetes type 2. It is the cause of so much heart disease, cancer and death that anything we do to avoid metabolic syndrome and DT2, will prolong our life and preserve our health. Of all the diets I’ve read about, ketogenic diets are the only thing that has been shown to correct/cure DT2 and Metabolic syndrome.
And now for some links:
Dr. Peter Attia- a very well educated guy who eats a primarily fat based diet. He works extensively on this stuff, trying to correct all of the erroneous data that exists on fat, cholesterol and health in general.
His blog at Eating Academy was set up for the research organization he and Gary Taubes are creating to do research into keto based diets.
This is a nine part series on cholesterol- its thick, dense, tough to understand at times but the bottom line of it is: normal cholesterol tests don’t matter. The only number that does is the type and amount of small, dense LDL particles. If you have high triglycerides and low HDL, chances are your blood has the bad type of LDL. Contrary to current dietary guidelines, you change that triglyceride to HDL ratio by cutting carbs and eating more meat… which lowers your triglycerides and raises HDL. Diet is a far better way to control this stuff than meds.
As you may notice, a lot of these links are about losing weight. That’s simply because diabetes, weight loss and nutrition are all tied together.
Now, this next guy primarily does research on Paleo based diets, but he has a lot of stuff about why calorie counting is stupid and is just kind of pointless- which is a common theme in Keto diets. This series of article- There is no such thing as a calorie to your body is a must read:
Ok, almost done here.
A great movie about all of this stuff that is entertaining is Fathead: The Movie. Only about 90 minutes and very worthwhile. It’s a counter point to the documentary Supersize me- the one about the guy who are McDonalds for 30 days straight and gained 25 pounds in a month.
http://youtu.be/evcNPfZlrZs (you may have to sign in to youtube to watch it)
Tom Naughton’s website/blog about keto and nutrition and other pointless crap:
A few links about ketogenic diets and diabetes:
And finally, my go-to site for all things Keto- the first search is for just diabetes, but there is a ton of community support for keto.
Good luck and let me know if you need more links or info- I have a lot.