We have come full circle. We are again in touch with an essential truth that our ancestors knew without a shadow of doubt: the life-giving and healing power of food to nourish and sustain us and the fact that food can truly be our medicine.
In his groundbreaking book, Dr. Barnard shares his scientifically proven programme for preventing, controlling and reversing diabetes with a simple set of diet changes. Dr. Barnard is a medical doctor as well as a clinical researcher and was the Principal Investigator in a major study on ‘Diet and Type II Diabetes’. This approach is essentially an entirely new one to diabetes that has been tested and proven.
The book translates the scientific breakthroughs into tools that can be used, including an easy-to-follow plan with simple diet guidelines. The book is divided into four sections – ‘The Breakthrough’, ‘The Programme’, ‘Complete Health’ and ‘Menus & Recipes’. The first section examines some basic assumptions about the disease and reviews it in the light of new findings. Diabetes, for long, has been perceived as a life sentence, an irreversible condition. Those diagnosed with it have to resign to life with medication that promises only to slow the disease’s inevitable damage. The author begins with the basics – What is Diabetes?, and what is the difference between Type I and Type II diabetes? “A diagnosis of diabetes means insulin in your body is not doing its job adequately. Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar from your bloodstream into cells of your body, among other functions. It acts like a key, opening a door to the cell, so to speak, and allowing glucose to enter the cell, which uses it for power.”
In Type I Diabetes, the pancreas has stopped making insulin and in Type II diabetes, the pancreas is usually able to make insulin, but the body’s cells resist its action. Research has shown that insulin’s ability to work is blocked by accumulation of fat within the cells. Then, each cell of the body is rather like a gummed-up lock. But the question then arises as to how do these fats build up? This happens when ‘fat burners’ or ‘furnaces’ within our cells – mitochondria – are failing at their job. In Type II diabetes, the problem is of fewer mitochondria than needed to burn up accumulated fat. Surprisingly, the number of mitochondria one has depends on what one eats. The author gives a plausible reason for this. Our body chemistry began to take shape long before fast food restaurants and convenience stores. On the rare occasions when our ancestors ate fatty foods, their bodies may have actually tried to save some of the fat in case they needed it to power their muscles. Thus a sudden influx of fat in the cells was a signal to turn off the fat-burning to save fat for future needs. Today, that’s the last thing we want – to turn off the furnaces to eliminate fat.
Another assumption strongly held is that diabetes runs in families. The author asks us to re-examine this assumption. Even if children are born with genes that make it possible for them to develop diabetes, most of them never do. He makes a distinction between dictator genes and committee genes. With dictator genes, like the genes for eye colour and hair colour, one can’t argue. But the genes for diabetes are like committees who make suggestions. Thus if those call for diabetes, we do not necessarily have to listen. Accumulation of fat in the cells and all the problems it causes are not simply a matter of genes. Genes do play a role but these effects are as much a matter of diet too. However, the usual diabetes diets are not designed to alter what goes on inside the cells. Instead they have been designed to compensate for the problem of insulin resistance in the body.
There are three simple guidelines to follow –
• Set aside animal products
• Keep vegetable oils to a minimum
• Favour foods with low glycemic index
This needn’t be a tall order if one focuses on eating regular meals but around the ‘New Four Food Groups’ –
* Whole grains
Another important thing to remember is that these guidelines work together and are a powerful combination. However, just meeting one of them is not enough. For e.g. jelly beans can be vegan and are low in oil but have a high glycemic index.
Although one needs to make major changes in menu planning, this is one of the easiest diets to follow and stick with in the long run. Partly, this is because it is not a ‘diet’. It is a different way of regarding food - a much better way of thinking about and enjoying it.
The book includes many absorbing case studies, wherein the reader gets a first-hand account of how people have cut their blood sugar levels, increased insulin sensitivity and reduced or eliminated medication. People have also talked about ‘side effects’ – weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and increased energy.
What is refreshing about the book is that it is a light read, extremely reader-friendly and keeps your interest alive. The author weaves in research studies and findings brilliantly to illustrate his point and takes the reader ahead. It is also packed with the latest nutritional information, guidance and alternatives to enable anyone to follow it through. It has an interesting section on how to track your progress in multiple ways and also how to stay on track. The last section is dedicated to delicious recipes and menus developed by Bryanna Clark Grogan. They seem simple and uncomplicated.
I had believed that since diabetes runs in my family, a similar diagnosis could be my destiny as well. However, this book has helped me question many of the myths and assumptions that I have held. It has truly been a revelation that ultimately, it is all in our hands and we have more control over our wellness than we might imagine.