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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

Potato Poison

August 30th, 2010 · 2 Comments

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 is a mirror of one of my articles that was originally published on Health Central.

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Posted in: Diabetes Diet

Intensive Glucose Control Works

July 28th, 2009 · 2 Comments

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. [Read more →]

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Posted in: Diabetes Complications

The Vitamin D Window

May 18th, 2009 · 7 Comments

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.
[Read more →]

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Posted in: Diabetes Medication

Emotional Diabetes

March 9th, 2009 · No Comments

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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Posted in: Psychosocial

Vitamin D Testing

January 18th, 2009 · 1 Comment

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.
[Read more →]

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Posted in: Diabetes Testing

Killing T Cells to Cure Diabetes

December 21st, 2008 · 12 Comments

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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Posted in: Diabetes Basics

Regenerating Islet Cells

December 10th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Maybe it won’t cure diabetes. But a compound slated to begin a new Phase 2b clinical trial early next year stands a good chance of knocking diabetes back into remission.

Almost never do I write about new drugs unless they are at least in in the final stage of development, a Phase 3 trial. The odds are against them.

Of 100 drugs for which developers submit investigational new drug applications to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, about 70 will successfully complete Phase 1 trials and go on to Phase 2. About 33 of the original 100 will complete Phase 2 and go to Phase 3. And 25 to 30 of the original 100 will clear Phase 3.
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Posted in: Diabetes Medication

A Better A1C Test

November 9th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Even in these difficult times when almost all of us are learning how to become frugal again, money isn’t everything. Especially when it comes to our health.

For those of us who have diabetes the A1C test is the best measure that we have of the state of our health. The A1C is the only commonly available check that we have of our average blood glucose level for the past two or three months.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have health insurance usually go to the lab at our doctor’s office or local hospital for their A1C. I know that’s what I was doing several times a year ever since my diabetes diagnosis in 1994. My health insurance provides up to two A1C tests annually for a modest $15 co-pay each time for my visit to my primary care physician.

But until now I didn’t take into account how much time getting an A1C test at the lab took out of my busy schedule. And most importantly, I didn’t realize that the lab’s results may not be right.
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Posted in: Diabetes Testing

Cutting the Cost of Diabetes Care

October 15th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Seeing your doctor probably costs a lot more than you think. Even if you have health insurance with a minimal co-pay, that’s not the half of it.

If you need to see your endocrinologist every quarter, these costs can really add up. You need to factor in the cost of travel, which can include meals out and even overnight accommodations, particularly if you live a long way from the doctor’s office. If your child is the one with diabetes, one or both parents will need to take off from work.

Until Kevin McMahon, the president and CEO of Diabetech in Dallas, told me about a new online cost calculator I hadn’t realized what a financial burden these doctor visits could be. Kevin just told me about this neat way to help you determine the cost of these visits.
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Posted in: Diabetes Basics

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes

June 27th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Lots of people write books about diabetes (myself included). Few have made diabetes movies. But only Gabriel Cousens, M.D., did both this year.

First came his book, There is a Cure for Diabetes (North Atlantic Books, ISBM 978-1-55643-691-8). Then on June 5 the Newport International Film Festival previewed his documentary, “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.”

Scott Mader, one of the film’s executive producer, subsequently sent me a “screener copy.” This 91-minute documentary just got here, and I have enjoyed watching it again and again in the last couple of days.

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Posted in: Diabetes Diet

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