One of my type 2 diabetic patients, Sarah, came to see me recently. She was cross – really cross. Her blood sugars were back to normal, she had lost weight, been able to stop taking her diabetes medication and was feeling ‘far better than I have for ages. But if I’d known that I could reverse my diabetes by changing my diet, I would have done something about it years ago!’
I’ve been a GP for three decades and seen hundreds of people with diabetes, which we know can lead to numerous health problems. Until recently, my stock advice was to ‘cut the sugar, eat less and move more’. If this failed, which it usually did, I’d add medication, and keep on adding it – usually until they ended up having to inject insulin.
It was not until my husband, Dr Michael Mosley, reversed his own diabetes by changing his diet that I started to look at things differently. On the NHS website, diabetes is defined as ‘a lifelong condition’ that ‘causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high’. But, in a study published last year, Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University has shown that around half of type 2 diabetics can reverse their condition by losing weight on an intensive low-calorie diet. Michael’s book The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet an 800-calorie-a-day, relatively low carb Mediterranean-style eating plan, is based partly on Professor Taylor’s research. I then wrote the follow-up recipe book.
The standard dietary advice for diabetics was always to eat a low-fat diet with plenty of starchy carbohydrates such as rice, bread, potatoes and cereals. But these carbs convert into sugars almost as quickly as eating refined sugar, and over the past 40 years of eating that way diabetes and obesity have continued to soar.
However, a Mediterranean diet (one containing plenty of vegetables, whole grains and pulses, along with food rich in natural fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocado and oily fish, and relatively low in sugar and starchy carbs) has been proven to halve your risk of heart disease and reduce the risk of diabetes and strokes. And it’s easier to stick to.
Sarah, having followed this approach, found that as well as losing weight, she was no longer hungry all the time. She has also been able to stop taking her blood pressure medication, because that has improved, too.
Another patient, Wendy, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in her early 50s two years ago, tackled it without medication by combining a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean-style diet of 800 calories a day with increased exercise. Within four months, she had lost 15kg and her blood sugars had returned from dangerously high to normal. Wendy has remained diabetes-free ever since. She is thrilled. And if her blood sugars creep up again, she knows what to do.
If you have type 2 diabetes it is important to talk with your doctor before doing anything, particularly if you are on medication or have other health conditions. Many doctors and health professionals are now working with patients to help them reverse their diabetes or pre-diabetes through diet so they can look forward to a healthier future.
Embarrassing bodies: thinning hair
Q: Help! My hair is thinning three months after giving birth to my daughter.
A: When I had my first baby, my hair started thinning, too. If this happens to you, don’t reach for a wig just yet. Distressing though it is, postnatal hair loss – telogen effluvium (TE) – is usually temporary: mine started to grow back after a few months. However, if your hair isn’t recovering after about six months, visit your GP to consider a blood test for iron deficiency, low thyroid levels or low vitamin D. Also make sure you eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein, so your hair gets the nutrients it needs.
In some rare cases, according to consultant dermatologist Dr Clare Tait, ‘TE can unmask early female-pattern hair loss. If it is not self-correcting by nine to 12 months, consider seeing a dermatologist to ensure there is no other process adding to it.’
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