Diet management allows control and awareness of the types of nutrients entering the digestive system, and hence allows indirectly, significant control over changes in blood glucose levels. Blood glucose monitoring allows verification of these, and closer control, especially important since some symptoms of diabetes are not easy for the patient to notice without actual measurement.
When the insulin levels are unable to keep up with the increasing resistance, blood sugars rise and your doctor diagnoses you with type 2 diabetes and starts you on a pill, such as metformin. But metformin does not get rid of the sugar. Instead, it simply takes the sugar from the blood and rams it back into the liver. The liver doesn’t want it either, so it ships it out to all the other organs — the kidneys, the nerves, the eyes, the heart. Much of this extra sugar will also just get turned into fat.
Some medical professionals use an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) to test for diabetes. If you’ve ever been pregnant and had to drink the sickeningly sweet sugar cocktail and then have blood drawn, you are familiar with this one. Basically, a patient is given 50-75 grams of glucose in concentrated solution and his blood sugar response is measured. I’m not a fan of this test because no one should be ingesting that much concentrated glucose, and the test is not a completely accurate measure. (Just a side note: if you are a drinker of the “Big Gulp” drinks or large amounts of soda, you are putting your body through a similar test each day! Eventually, your body will respond, probably with something like “Fine, you want diabetes, I’ll show you diabetes!)
Suppose your friend is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, then works hard to lose 50 pounds. He takes himself off all his medications and his blood sugars are now normal. What would you say to him? Probably something like “Great job. You’re really taking care of yourself. Keep it up!” What you wouldn’t say is something like “You’re such a dirty, filthy liar. My doctor says this is a chronic and progressive disease so you must be lying ”. It seems perfectly obvious that diabetes reversed because your friend lost all that weight. And that’s the point. The disease is reversible.
The problem with the medication-based approach is that you’ll most likely have to be on these medications for the rest of your life. They are expensive and many come with a host of side effects. The medication approach focuses on management of diabetes, not reversal. Taking medications for type 2 diabetes combats the end result, which is rising blood sugar, but does not address the root causes—insulin resistance and carbohydrate intolerance.
The U.S. government’s study of the Diabetes Prevention Program found that in 3,000 people who had prediabetes, those who lost 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight reduced their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. The numbers were even more impressive in those over age 60. All study participants were overweight and had high blood sugar.
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.