As a British GP just north of Liverpool, I have helped care for the same population of 9500 patients since 1986. Back then, we had 57 patients with type 2 diabetes; now there are 536.
Until 2012, I prescribed ever-increasing amounts of drugs for diabetes, but I was disappointed with the results. Then I met someone with type 2 diabetes who had put her diabetes into drug-free remission. She had come off all her medication and had normal blood sugar. In 25 years of medicine, I hadn't seen this before. If this miracle was possible for one person, why not for others?
Ten years later, 118 of my patients have achieved drug-free remission from type 2 diabetes, over 50 per cent of those who have tried cutting sugar and starchy carbs from their diet: a low-carb approach. In addition, 333 of my patients have lost an average of 10kg and improved their blood pressure, liver function and lipid profiles (cholesterol). Against all national trends, our practice uses fewer drugs for diabetes - a small but exciting beacon of hope in a world grappling with the twin pandemics of diabetes and obesity.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes caused 4.2 million deaths in 2019. The World Health Organisation says more than 1 billion overweight adults contribute to the global epidemic of chronic disease and disability. The increased consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor "junk" foods has much of our planet overfed but undernourished. About 4.8 million people in the UK live with diabetes. It's getting out of hand worldwide and causing much suffering, hence my excitement at using a low-carb approach to buck the trend in our small corner of Northern England.
Our results were published in BMJ Nutrition a year ago and include participants who have "cut the carbs" for an average of two years, recording not just improved weight, blood sugar control and drug-free type 2 diabetes remission but significant improvements in blood pressure, liver function and cholesterol levels. Not all doctors agree with me about low-carb, but most would say weight loss is the key to better health for many people.
With what I know now, I would go so far as to say that 95 per cent of all cases of type 2 diabetes are caused by what we eat. Just 5 per cent are due to other factors like stress or prescribed medication. Hidden in this is a message of hope: you have the power to change your health. You are in control of your eating, which can make a huge difference. The most prolonged remission of type 2 diabetes I have come across in our group is about eight years, and this isn't the record.
Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for the individual advice of your GP. If you are on prescribed medication, check major dietary changes with your doctor.
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