Tom Hanks announced on the David Letterman Show that he was diagnosed with diabetes after many years of struggles with blood sugar. All the news media have captured the story; here’s the USA Today story.
Mr. Hanks seems like a genuinely nice guy. So here is my open letter to him. Should he stumble on it, it provides the blueprint that I have been using to get rid of diabetes, a very realistic prospect for most people with diabetes–if they choose to do it and stick to it.
Now, not knowing the full details of Mr. Hanks health and lab values, I make the assumption that he is a type 2 diabetic. Adults can indeed develop type 1 (which is often triggered by wheat, by the way, via autoimmunity). Adults can also develop a sort of diabetes often regarded as in-between types 1 and 2 called the Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood (LADA), though it behaves more like type 1. (There are also other forms, though rare, such as type 1 diabetes that develops from pancreatic disease beyond autoimmune beta cell destruction.) Because type 2 diabetes is, by far, the most common and the form that is driving the nationwide epidemic, I will assume that is the form Mr. Hanks shares. (LADA is next in line.)
Dear Mr. Hanks–
I believe it was very courageous to share your diagnosis on television with a national audience. I am sure you will be flooded by well-wishers as well as many people with advice. I’d nonetheless like to alert you to several issues relevant to diabetes:
–The majority of diabetes is reversible. Most people can make the choice to have diabetes or to not have it. I hope that you choose not to have it. This is because it is caused by diet. Sadly, it is caused by conventional advice to “cut your fat and eat healthy whole grains.” People often blame too many soft drinks and junk food, but there are many people like you who, I’m sure, try to eat well and don’t drink or eat sugary foods–yet have diabetes. This is due to grains.
More than sugary foods, grains raise blood sugar to high levels. The glycemic indexes, for instance, of whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and multigrain breads are among the highest of all foods. They ENSURE having high blood sugars. (To see for yourself, use your glucose meter and check a blood sugar immdiately prior to a meal; consume the food in question, then recheck a blood sugar at 1-hour after eating, not 2 hours as often advised to assess the adequacy of blood sugar control on diabetes medication. You want the blood sugar peak, which is around 1 hour. You will see blood sugars of 200, 250, or 300 mg/dl after eating grains.) High blood sugars from “healthy whole grains” are also toxic to the beta cells of the pancreas (“glucotoxicity”), making blood sugars go even higher. In some people, the loss of beta cells means there can be no reversing diabetes, but this is less common early in the diagnosis.
–Ignore conventional dietary advice. Even better, do the opposite. Unfortunately, in the world of conventional diabetes advice, including that from most healthcare professionals, “Stupid is as stupid does.” The diet advised for people with diabetes makes fasting blood sugar and HbA1c (the 90-day measure of blood sugar) go higher, not lower.
–There are a number of other reasons that grains, especially wheat (white and whole) can be blamed: The gliadin protein of wheat is degraded in the gastrointestinal tract to small peptides that act as opiates and bind to the opiate receptors of the human brain. This triggers appetite for carbohydrates, the worst foods to eat for anyone with diabetes. Wheat germ agglutinin, another protein in wheat, blocks leptin and cholecystokinin, both of which should trigger satiety. In the presence of wheat, appetite is not satisfied.
Beyond the powerful strategy of grain elimination, we do not restrict fats but get plenty of olive oil, coconut oil, and the fats from animal organs and meats and supplement with:
–Vitamin D–The insulin-sensitizing effects of raising your 25-hydroxy vitamin D level to 60-70 ng/ml helps regain control over blood sugar. A typical male requires 6000 units of D3 in gelcap form to achieve this level.
–Magnesium supplementation–While the effect is modest, correcting common magnesium deficiencies stacks the odds in your favor of regaining control over blood sugar. I advocate magnesium malate, 1200 mg, twice per day.
–Omega-3 fatty acids–from fish oil. After eating a meal, there is a flood of particles in the bloodstream (lipoproteins), representing the digestive byproducts of the foods consumed. These particles can block insulin. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil activate an enzyme that accelerates clearance of after-meal lipoproteins, reducing their insulin-blocking effect. I advocate 3000-3600 mg per day of the EPA + DHA omega-3 fatty acids, divided in two doses for assured day-long reduction of lipoproteins.
Those of us who follow the above principles drop fasting blood sugar and HbA1c precipitously, often enough to get off medication, reduce HbA1c into the 5.0% range, and become assuredly NON-diabetic. Even if you are among the few who have impaired pancreatic beta cells and produce insufficient insulin, elimination of grains will minimize need for medications. And, by the way, we should also pass this information onto David Letterman, who also admitted to having high blood sugars during your interview.
My sincerest hopes that you benefit from these suggestions, I remain
William Davis, MD
Author, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health