Dr. Mary Vernon educating Type 2 diabetics about the low-carb solution
Following on the heels of her presentation on Friday at the 66th Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, Dr. Mary Vernon agreed to give the “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb” blog an exclusive interview regarding the incredible new Duke University study results that found people with Type 2 diabetes can almost completely control their disease with the Atkins diet.
Dr. Vernon is a woman who has dedicated her life to helping people fight obesity and diabetes and is one of America’s foremost experts on both subjects. I had the distinct privilege of meeting her in January at the Nutritional & Metabolic Aspects of Carbohydrate Restriction conference in Brooklyn, NY and was most impressed by how clearly she articulates what she believes and why she believes it. I think you’ll sense that as you read my interview with her as we discuss Type 2 diabetes, the work of the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins, the need for more low-carb research, the treatment of low-carb in the media, the safety of the Atkins/low-carb nutritional approach, and what people who support the low-carb lifestyle can do to help educate people about the life-changing health benefits of livin’ la vida low-carb.
1. Dr. Vernon, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed at my blog about this exciting news about a new study that looked at various treatment options for people with Type 2 diabetes. And lo and behold, look what they found was likely the “best solution” — The Atkins Diet! Are you surprised? Why or why not?
It’s not at all surprising that controlling dietary carbohydrate controls Type 2 diabetes. In fact, Dr. Atkins understood this connection for many years and had been using his nutritional approach to help people with diabetes for decades. What does surprise me is that this appears to surprise the scientific community.
When I became frustrated with my ability to help patients by giving the standard advice I was taught in medical school, I pulled out my biochemistry textbook and read it again. (I got a good grade in that class the first time, so I am certain I read this chapter in 1974.) I was amazed at the discussion of the effect of dietary carbohydrate on insulin secretion. Right there, in my old textbook, it was clearly stated that dietary carbs caused insulin levels to rise.
How did this information get deleted from everyday medical knowledge?
2. You worked alongside the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins as he attempted to battle the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity for most of his career. What is it about the Atkins low-carb approach that helps people manage their diabetes so well and also lose weight in the process?
You mention that Dr. Atkins and I worked alongside each other. Actually, we worked in parallel paths. Both of us used carbohydrate control to help patients in our practices. I read all the available approaches and thought the approach that he outlined would work the best for my patients.
Carbohydrate control is the best way to manage both types of diabetes — the type with high levels of insulin secretion (usually called Type 2) and the type with no insulin secretion (usually called Type 1). In the case of high insulin secretion, low levels of dietary carbs bring the insulin levels down, which stops your body from storing fat and allows your body to begin to burn fat. This allows your body to begin to return to normal levels of blood sugar.
In the case of diabetes caused by absent insulin secretion, the patient can maintain blood sugar levels within a range that avoids either the lows or highs usually associated with the need for insulin. Insulin administration can be at the lowest dose possible with blood sugar numbers showing excellent control. This helps prevent or delay the usual complications of diabetes like heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.
3. Diabetes has grown to astronomical proportions with 73 million, or 1 in 3, Americans who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic and the numbers are expected to get even worse in the next decade unless something drastic is done to reduce these numbers. The preponderance of the evidence is continuing to show that the low-carb nutritional approach may just be the answer diabetics have been looking for. With study after study (including this recent one) coming out pointing to the Atkins diet as an effective way for diabetics to greatly reduce and even eliminate their dependence on insulin and other medications, what is it going to take to finally convince health care leaders, government health officials, members of the medical community, and the general public to embrace this healthy way of eating to take on diabetes and obesity?
I wish I knew what is needed to get the scientific community and the government to support implementing this simple, life-changing intervention for Americans. There are several issues that may contribute to the confusion: The USDA Food Pyramid is designed to support the agriculture industry (USDA) and is not based on any scientific studies. This is what we teach our children in school. It is also what national organizations use to build their recommendations. Additionally, the medical establishment customarily resorts to drugs for every problem. So you can see why little support exists for such a simple, impactful treatment as I outline in “Atkins Diabetes Revolution.”
4. Speaking of your book “Atkins Diabetes Revolution,” which you co-authored with Jackie Eberstein, you’ve been talking about this method for treating diabetes for years. Now that the research is catching up to the ideas you put forth in your book, do you feel somewhat vindicated? What do you think Dr. Atkins would think about all of this research coming out in favor of his diet if he were still around today?
I’d love to feel vindicated. Instead, I see the many changes that need to be made. Insurance companies and national groups that make recommendations about patient care could save many lives and dollars in care and medication cost if physicians were encouraged to use this technique. Physicians do need to be trained in this method — it works so well that most physicians aren’t aware of how to manage patient