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David's Book Rack

Current books on diabetes reviewed by David Mendosa

Last Update: January 12, 2001

Current books on diabetes reviewed by David Mendosa

The American Diabetes Association
Complete Guide to Diabetes: The Ultimate Home Diabetes Reference
2nd Edition
January 2000
514 pages
Soft cover
ISBN: 1-58040-038-8
$23.95

Includes everything from complications to sex.

Most books about diabetes fall into the category of read and regret. After you've spent a few minutes with them, you're sorry.

Some are to read, remember, and recycle. With these books, once is enough and a revisit would be too much.

Relatively few books are to read and retain. In this category are reference books like the American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes.

Here is essentially an encyclopedia of diabetes for the consumer. Well organized and written in language that a typical person with diabetes will find easy to understand, this big book covers all those topics that would otherwise require separate books. Here is everything you need to control your diabetes in 15 well-organized chapters.

The Complete Guide covers all the basics that you would expect: your health care team, diet, exercise, drugs, and insulin. But befitting its name, it goes beyond the basics to include everything from complications to sex. The last four chapters on stress and depression, diabetes in family life and the outside world, and working with the health care system are new to this edition and are particularly valuable.

The complications of diabetes are something that I would usually rather not think about. But the Complete Guide handles the six most common complications of diabetes with a positive emphasis on prevention and treatment.

"Healthy Eating" is controversial
Generally, the Complete Guide is the American Diabetes Association's take on diabetes control. As the establishment position, it is generally accepted as the most authoritative advice on the planet. The only area of real controversy is in chapter 8, "Healthy Eating."

Everyone is, of course, in favor of healthy eating. To the ADA a healthy diet is one based on bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. However, there is a large and growing contingent of low-carb advocates in this country, lead by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, author of Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution (Little, Brown, 1997), who think otherwise.

In fact, low-carb diets are just now beginning to get official attention, if not yet from the ADA but from the U.S. government. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman organized February's "Great Nutrition Debate," which brought together some of the top advocates of both positions.

In the Complete Guide I don't find any specific recommendation for the percentage of calories in the diet that should come from high carbohydrate foods. The book does have a recommendation that less than 30 percent of total calories should come from fat with less than 10 percent from saturated fat.

The absence of a specific recommendation on carbohydrates is, in fact, consistent with the ADA's position statement on "Nutrition Recommendations and Principles for People with Diabetes Mellitus." A synopsis of this statement that was on the DiabetesWebSite said that for most people with diabetes, 10 to 20 of our calories should come from protein and "60 to 70 percent of total calories [should come] from monounsaturated fats and carbohydrates."

Dismisses the Glycemic Index
While the proper proportion of carbohydrates in the diet is a matter of dispute, I'm not the one to fault the Complete Guide for its dietary recommendations. What is less easy for me to accept is its apparent dismissal of two decades of research on the glycemic index. The statement on page 235 that "all carbohydrates will raise your blood glucose levels equally fast" does seem to do that. Still, the glycemic index is actually about how much different carbohyrates affect blood glucose rather than how fast they do it.

No book about diabetes that deals with diet can fail to upset someone. But for all its encyclopedic content, the Complete Guide is remarkably well written and presented. When I looked on the cataloging-in-publication page and saw Nancy Touchette, Ph.D., listed as the book's writer, I began to understand why.

The author of the comprehensive Diabetes Problem Solver (American Diabetes Association, 1999) and the first edition of the Complete Guide, Nancy has been writing about diabetes for a long time. It was, in fact, four years ago that she hired me to write a series of articles for a short-lived ADA magazine called The Diabetes Insider as I was segueing from writing about business and computers to specializing in diabetes. That assignment was what led to my "About the Internet" column, www.diabetes.org/mendosa, which I wrote for more than five years on the ADA Web site.

I offer this information in terms of full disclosure of my relationship with the author and the ADA. Still, I have to think that just about any objective observer would have to arrive at the same conclusion about the Complete Guide —that, when it's not on your lap, it belongs on your bookshelf. 


This article appeared originally on the DiabetesWebSite.com, which is no longer on-line.


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