Expert: We're Managing Diabetes Completely Wrong

According to Gary Taubes, low-carb diets should be the norm for patients with diabetes
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2024 3:35 PM CST
Updated Feb 11, 2024 3:45 PM CST
Investigating the 'Awful' Science Behind Diabetes Management
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / StephanieFrey)

Insulin was a game-changer when doctors started giving it to patients with Type 1 diabetes in the 1920s. At the time, science journalist Gary Taubes explains to the Guardian, most people with the disease died. Insulin not only saved lives, but offered patients the ability to eat basically as they normally would. Years later, it became clear that there were long-term complications including, Taubes says, heart disease, atherosclerosis, neuropathy, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations. Physicians at the time considered these complications of diabetes, but Taubes argues they were actually complications of the disease when insulin therapy is used to control it. Taubes has also researched the low-fat dietary advice that ran rampant for a while, and which he has called "a big fat lie" that's behind America's obesity epidemic. Carbs, he's argued, are more dangerous than fat.

Put it all together, and the argument Taubes is making is this, in his words: "If I tell you not to eat the carbs and we minimize the insulin use—which for type 2 [diabetes] could be no insulin—I might keep you alive" longer than if insulin therapy alone is the treatment. The extensive article also delves into the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which are so significant some see it as odd the two share a name (while insulin is strictly necessary for survival in type 1 cases, diet and lifestyle changes may be sufficient for type 2). And it looks at the controversy surrounding Taubes' ideas, which are far from widely accepted in the scientific community, while also talking to patients who've experienced success with low-carb diets—as well as those who cast doubt on the idea. Ultimately, Taubes says, more must be researched: "The science has been pretty awful." Read the full piece at the Guardian. (More Longform stories.)

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