January 4, 2011

For decades, diabetes writers have been ignoring glucose and insulin

Here is the prevalence over time of glucose, insulin, and diabetes in Google Books' database, since the pioneering work of the early 1920s that made the connection between those three things.

The trend for "diabetes" is steadily upward, even if there are cycles around that trend (each peak is higher than the previous one, and so is each trough). For awhile that was true for "glucose" and "insulin" as well, although the growth rate starts to slow down in the later 1970s and peaks in the early 1980s. After that, the trend for three decades has been down (the next peak during the low-carb craze of the early 2000s is lower than the early-'80s one).

So even though our sources of information have taken steadily greater interest in diabetes after we understood what caused it, and especially after it became so common, we are no longer interested in its causes or treatment -- namely keeping glucose levels low by removing most carbohydrates from the diet.

The anti-fat, de facto vegan push by nutrition experts that began in the late '70s has made it more and more dangerous to bad-mouth empty carbohydrates and praise fat and animal products. Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta are clean, while fats and oils are contaminated -- hey, the FDA's food pyramid says so.

If you question what the experts say, or if you disobey their suggestions, it's not as though you'll get arrested -- it's just that everyone else will look at you in disgust like you're a filthy hog who has no regard whatsoever for their own health. They'll downgrade your purity level in their minds and try to shun you into joining the (strangely obese) carb-scarfers' brigade. And if you're someone writing about diabetes, obesity, and other diseases within the larger cluster called Metabolic Syndrome, you can't point out the obvious solution without suffering the same consequences. Even if you get through to someone, how likely is it that they'll keep eating low-carb meals?

As I pointed out earlier, most people don't feel like sticking out, so only a small group of people who don't give a shit what a bunch of busybodies thinks will be able to stay on track. The only solution is to change what the experts say is clean vs. dirty to eat -- otherwise people will balk with anxiety about being seen as someone who eats stuff that the smart men in white coats have told us is dangerous for our health. Academia is one of the places that is protected from market forces, so all sorts of stupid, crazy, and harmful ideas can go on and on in popularity. We'll just have to wait for fashion to change among the experts, enjoy the public health boost we'll get as a result, while still realizing that sometime the fashion could swing back in the fat-phobic veganist direction and ruin us again, and that there would be little we could do about it if it did.


  1. Kurt Harris: "Fly your freak flag high, and refuse to eat cake."

  2. http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_4_weimar-city.html

    Not related to your post, but this piece may be of interest. Could not find your contact info.

  3. Agnostic:

    Possibly OT, but thought this might be interesting to you:


    "Time and again "diet pills" have turned out to be useless, dangerous or both – but now there may finally be a safe one that works.


    Zafgen, a start-up drug company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced that its first human test of a drug named ZGN-433 caused 24 obese women to lose, on average, a kilogram a week for a month – with no harmful side effects.

    This is a stunning rate of weight loss, especially as the women ate normally and were not given exercise advice. It is almost the maximum rate considered safe, and nearly as effective as surgery to reduce stomach size.

    Many companies are searching for drugs to combat the rich world's obesity epidemic, but the researchers say no other tested so far has worked as well.


    fat makes you lose sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which normally promotes the burning of fat and opposes its synthesis. ZGN-433 blocks an enzyme called MetAP2; Hughes says that experiments in animals show that this blocking causes the inhibition of several key genes which would otherwise activate other genes that boost insulin resistance , the overproduction of fat and the inflammation that accompanies obesity and may cause its unhealthy effects.

    "Indeed, it would appear that the drug increases the breakdown of fat," though the complete mechanism is not yet known,"

    Seems like someone has listened...

    I'm sure there will be more and better drugs. It'll be interesting to see if they help us kick the carb habit, or whether they have us run to stand still, or if they make a carb heavy diet a relative non-issue...


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