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Type 1

Diabetes Diet

Potato Poison

Many people with diabetes have already stopped eating potatoes for several reasons. Now we have one more.

Some varieties of potatoes raise our blood glucose level faster and higher than just about anything. The glycemic index of a baked russet potato is 111 on the scale where glucose equals 100.

A cup of hashed brown potatoes has 46 grams of carbohydrate. That’s more than a whole day’s ration of carbohydrates for people following the best known very low-carb diet for people with diabetes.

About 80 percent of a potato’s carbohydrate comes from starch, a white, tasteless, and odorless powder. But starch is cheap, and adding salt and fat can make it palatable.

Since hashed brown potatoes and french fries count as a vegetable, the potato is America’s most important vegetable crop. More than 30 percent of the vegetables that we eat are potatoes, and we eat 142 pounds of them each year.

Maybe people with diabetes eat fewer potatoes than other Americans. I hope so. But everyone who eats lots of potatoes not only indulges in a very high glycemic and very high carb food but also is at risk of potato poisoning.

Potatoes are a member of the deadly nightshade family. This family includes Jimson weed, mandrake, belladonna, tobacco, as well as potatoes and tomatoes. While potatoes, tomatoes, and other members of the nightshade family are important food sources, they are often rich in alkaloids, which are toxic to humans and animals and can range from being mildly irritating or fatal, depending in part on how much we eat. By affecting the nervous system, this poison causes weakness and confusion. Some people are especially sensitive to foods in the nightshade family and experience allergy-like symptoms from the alkaloids. These alkaloids protect the plant from attacks by microbes and insects by dissolving their cell membranes.

But this poison hasn’t discouraged us from eating lots and lots of potatoes. Cooking them long enough and avoiding the green parts and sprouts reduces their toxicity. But when people eat foods in the
nightshade family, the alkaloids can create pores in the lining of the gut. This increases intestinal permeability, and if enough of the alkaloids gets into our bloodstream, this destroys the cell membranes of our red blood cells.

The large amount of potatoes that we eat is what makes them a concern to Loren Cordain, who has been has been a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University since 1982. His new paper, “Consumption of Nightshade Plants, Human Health and Autoimmune Disease Implications,” interested me so much that I bought a copy for $21.29. It was worth the money.

We eat somewhat less tomato products, and relatively few bell peppers, chili peppers, and eggplants, some of the other food crops in the nightshade family.

“When the gut becomes ‘leaky,’ it is not a good thing,” Dr. Cordain writes, “as the intestinal contents may then have access to the immune system, which in turn becomes activated, thereby causing a chronic low level system inflammation.” The increased intestinal permeability, particularly in people with diseases of chronic inflammation — like type 1 diabetes — and diseases of insulin resistance — like type 2 diabetes — particularly troubles Dr. Cordain.

His conclusion is “to eliminate or drastically reduce potato consumption, and for autoimmune and allergy patients to be cautious with the consumption of tomatoes, chili peppers, and eggplants.”

Until recently, I had a weakness for hashed brown potatoes, as I have written here. Even though I knew that potatoes are both high glycemic and high carb, that wasn’t enough to stop me. But knowing that they are poisonous did.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

Diabetes Complications

Intensive Glucose Control Works

The American Medical Association today published the results of a large and long study that is good news for anyone who has diabetes. The study shows that intensive control substantially lowers the risk of some serious complications of diabetes.

No surprise that intensive control works. But the surprise is how well it works.

The study followed 1,375 people with type 1 diabetes for 30 years of their diabetes. The complications measured were proliferative retinopathy, nephropathy, and cardiovascular disease. Conventional treatment led half of them to proliferative retinopathy, one-quarter to nephropathy, and 14 percent to cardiovascular disease.

Those in the intensive therapy group has substantially lower rates of these complications — 21 percent, 9 percent, and 9 percent respectively. Fewer than 1 percent became blind, required kidney replacement, or had an amputation because of diabetes during those 30 years. Continue Reading

Diabetes Medication

The Vitamin D Window

When he examined the young lifeguard, he saw that almost every square inch of her body was well tanned. She had been wearing practically nothing when she worked at the beach.

Neil Binkley, M.D., told me about his patient because she had the highest physiologic level of vitamin D in her system of anyone he ever saw. Her level was 80 ng/ml.

I had to look up the word “physiologic” to make sure what Dr. Binkley meant. Physiologic in the sense that he’s using it is “something that is normal, neither due to anything pathologic nor significant in terms of causing illness,” according to a medical dictionary.
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Emotional Diabetes

We think about controlling our diabetes with diet and exercise and usually with medication too. Seldom do we even consider the fourth leg.

But a study published in the latest issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine and a forthcoming one by a Ph.D. student who just wrote me emphasizes the importance of our emotions for controlling our diabetes. Emotional health and diabetes health are a two-way street — a bidirectional relationship. When our emotional level is positive, we can more easily control our diabetes. And when we control our diabetes, we feel better.
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Diabetes Testing

Vitamin D Testing

Vitamin D testing has been in the news lately. But the mainstream press covered only the bad news. You would have to read the medical press to learn about better choices.

The country’s largest medical laboratory, Quest Diagnostics, just sent out thousands of letter to doctors who ordered Vitamin D tests for their patients. The letters say that results of their Vitamin D tests during the past two years are “questionable.” Quest’s screw up could mean that thousands of people aren’t taking vitamin D supplements when they should.

Testing our levels of vitamin D has surged recently because of studies suggesting that too little can raise the risk of all sorts of complications. More and more recent studies link a vitamin D deficiency to diabetes. Other studies link it to bone weakness, cancer, heart attacks, and other illnesses.
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Diabetes Basics

Killing T Cells to Cure Diabetes

Dr. Richard K. Bernstein knows how to cure diabetes, and researchers are ready to start the research. All they need is money. Does anyone have enough money and care enough about curing diabetes to fund this research? Do you?

Even if you have type 1 diabetes, you almost certainly still have some of your beta cells. If your body stops killing them, they will replicate and produce insulin — and then you will possibly have a cure.

When I talked with Dr. Bernstein a few days ago, he told me that he knows how kill the specific killer T cells. Most famous as the leading proponent of a very low-carb diet, Dr. Bernstein is a diabetologist with a practice near New York City. He was also an engineer before he got in M.D. degree in his 40s.
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