Can you Cure Diabetes? | Does Fat cause Type 2 Diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association describes
type 2 diabetes as a chronic condition that
you have to live with, “One of the themes
that’s coming across is once you have diabetes
it is such a hard disease to manage and to
have treated because these are long term chronic
Considering that as of September 2018, A record
high number of Americans—40% are living
with diabetes or prediabetes, this would mean
100 million people are going to have to learn
just learn to live with this disease that
harms every single organ in the body.
British Politician Tom Watson recently made
a buzz by reversing his type 2 diabetes: “Well
I really did it by just completely changing
And here is Dr. David Unwin presenting data
on 66 diabetics who did a diet intervention
for 2 years: “Now, of the 66 cases, 33, 50%
are in remission after 26 months.”
So, it doesn’t sound like type 2 diabetes
has to be chronic.
This video is about 6 Myths that hamper your
understanding of diabetes and how to prevent
or possibly reverse it.
This was Myth #1, that Diabetes is a Chronic
Myth #2 – is the idea that Excess calories
are the key cause of weight gain and so we
should monitor calories to get a handle on
“The biggest impact is probably because restaurants
are reformulating their menus to offer lower
calorie products and they’re reducing the
calories in newly introduced items that are
constantly coming on menus by about 60 calories
At a population level, if you can extract
that number of calories out of the diet, it
can actually have a pretty big impact on levels
of both obesity risk and diabetes risk.”
The American Diabetes Association says that
because being overweight is a risk factor
for diabetes, calories, but not sugar are
what lead to diabetes.
Calories in calories out, it’s a rule of
physics – of thermodynamics, so it is of course
correct …but when it comes to understanding
weight loss, it’s practically irrelevant.
Well, Because while calories can be a rule
of thumb, they tell you pretty much nothing
So, let’s look at the hormone you’ve been
expecting me to talk about: Insulin.
In Chapter 4 of Robert Lustig’s book “Fat
Chance,” he tells the story of Marie, a
16 year old who had to have a tumor in her
hypothalamus destroyed with radiation, and
ever since that procedure she gained 30 pounds
per year, and weighed 99 kilos or 220 lbs
when Dr. Lustig first saw her.
“Her insulin levels spiked to incredible
heights every time she ate.
She had a form of intractable weight gain
due to brain damage called hypothalamic obesity.”
Dr. Lustig put her on a drug called octreotide
that lowers insulin release.
According to her Mom, after the drug, she
stops being hungry on half the amount of food,
she has more energy, and lost 21kg or 48lbs
in one year.
Dr. Jason Fung points out here that as early
as 1921 and in the 1930’s insulin was used
specifically as a “fattening agent” to
help chronically underweight children and
pathologically underweight patients gain weight.
“So, here’s a startling fact.
I can make you fat.
I can make anybody fat, how do I do that?
I prescribe insulin.”
A very clear display of insulin’s fattening
properties is “Lipohypertrophy” – a well
known phenomenon where people who inject insulin
will develop a bulb of fat at the site of
“So, if I prescribe insulin or if I give drugs
that increase insulin, you will gain weight
and every doctor and every patient who takes
insulin knows that already.”
There’s a dangerous condition called diabulemia
where type 1 diabetics wanting to lose weight
will deliberately skip injections risking
the serious consequences of unchecked high
Going back to Marie, she was less hungry and
more energetic on the insulin lowering drug,
so she did end up eating less and her resting
calorie burn went up, calories in calories
out checks out, but this was all thanks to
This leads to another very similar myth: “But
beating obesity will take action by all of
us based on one simple common sense fact.
All calories count, no matter where they come
Including coca cola and everything else with
Myth #3 A Calorie is a calorie
When you eat carbohydrate, especially low
fiber carbs, your blood sugar or “blood
glucose” goes up, and your pancreas pumps
out insulin because insulin’s job is to
get the glucose into the cell to be used for
On the other hand, eating protein elicits
only a moderate release of insulin and fats
elicit almost no release of insulin, so how
can all calories be equally fattening?
Keeping all this in mind by the way, what
are diabetics recommended to eat?
“General recommendations are to tell patients
with type 2 diabetes to consume 40 to 65 grams
of carbohydrates per meal plus more at snacks.
That’s a lot of carbs.”
Ironically type 2 diabetics are often told
that they need to lose weight to reduce their
insulin resistance and manage their diabetes,
…but in order to keep their blood sugars
in check while eating a high carbohydrate
diet, they are routinely prescribed to inject
insulin, a fattening agent.
Now, the problem with type 2 diabetes is that
the cells are insulin resistant to the action
of insulin, they are insulin resistant.
This means they need need more insulin to
get the same amount of carbohydrate processed.
But what is the cause of this insulin resistance
Insulin is a hormone, and hormones get their
job done by binding receptors on the surface
of their target cell, much like a key fitting
into a lock.
Insulin acts like the key, fitting into the
lock on the cell to open the door for glucose
to get into the cell so it can be turned into
Dr. Neal Barnard uses this analogy in a TEDx
talk of his to explain his theory of how insulin
resistance develops : “What if I get home,
and, getting up to my front door, I take my
key out of my pocket, I put it in the front
It’s not working.
And there’s nothing wrong with my key.
But I look in the lock – somebody put chewing
gum in my lock.
Well, when a person has diabetes, their insulin
key is not working.
Why would that be?
It’s not that there’s chewing gum inside the
What there is is fat.
Intramyocellular lipid is fat inside your
muscle cells and That is what interferes with
insulin’s ability to work like a key to signal
glucose coming in.”
This idea that fat from the diet is clogging
up the insulin receptor leading to insulin
resistance is what he’s talking about within
the first 10 minutes of Kip Andersen’s relatively
popular documentary “What the Health.”
“Ah you’re driving me crazy.
Diabetes is not and never was caused by eating
a high carbohydrate diet and it’s not caused
by eating sugar.
Here’s the thing, if I eat a sugary cookie,
the sugar lures you in like the trojan horse
but waiting inside that cookie is a huge load
of butter or shortening.
And that’s the part that leads to the diabetes,
it’s the fatty foods, not really so much the
The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds
up the amount of fat into the blood, I’m talking
about a typical meat based animal based diet.”
Now, Dr. Barnard did show in 2009 that a high
fiber low glycemic whole foods vegan diet
had better outcomes for diabetics compared
to the conventional recommended diabetes diet.
but I would assert that a lot of the benefit
comes from the protective effect of all that
fiber in all those plant foods.
Consuming carbs wrapped in a ton of fiber
in the form of vegetables protects you from
getting blood sugar and insulin spikes – fiber
is like an antidote to the carbohydrate.
Dr. Barnard’s diet is also very low in fat,
but that doesn’t mean fat is the bad guy.
Just because there’s fat in the muscle of
diabetics doesn’t mean that dietary fat,
rather than sugar, causes diabetes.
Now, Dr. Barnard is correct in that there
is at least an association between accumulation
of fat in skeletal muscle and insulin resistance.
But this leaves us with two questions
The first is how did how did the fat get in
the muscle in the first place?
Is it coming straight from the fat you eat?
Well, it’s a little complicated, but it depends.
As you’d expect, There is a process where
dietary fat is stored in your body as fat
and this process is called re esterification.
And, as this study found, high dietary fat
intake can lead to an increase of fat in the
muscle, intramyocellular lipid.
However, consider that this re-esterification
process is an insulin facilitated process.
So the fat you eat can go right to storage
in the body, and some of it may end up in
the muscle, but insulin, which rises when
you eat carbohydrate, is what stores the fat.
So to really test if dietary fat really is
the culprit of getting fat into the muscle,
you’d want to have the people doing a diet
that is high fat but very low carb and therefore
very low insulin.
This would be like the ketogenic diet, which
has only 5% of energy coming from carbs.
However, in the earlier mentioned study, “subjects
were put on a diet of (25% fat, 55% carbohydrate,
20% protein) for three days, and then for
three days they had the high fat diet.
But it was 60% fat, 20% carbohydrate, and
This is not nearly ketogenic and most wouldn’t
even define that as “low carb.”
With 20% carbohydrate there’s still plenty
of insulin to shuttle dietary fat into the
So what happens when you do restrict carbohydrate
This study, similar to the last one, compared
a low carb and high carb diet to see which
would put more fat in the muscle.
Except, the low carb diet of this study was
much lower carb with only 10% carbohydrate
and then 60% fat and 30% protein.
Their high carb diet was 60% carb, 20% fat,
This time, they found the “High-carb diet
increased fasting insulin and [fat in the
So it depends on the context.
Precise intramyocellular lipid kinetics are
not entirely clear yet, but fat isn’t the
bad guy it’s made out to be.
It seems insulin is peer pressuring the fat
to get into places we don’t want it to be
in like the muscle.
So this was Myth #4, “the fat you eat is
the fat you wear” Just because you eat fat
doesn’t you’ll store it.
A more correct version of that statement would
be: “The fat you eat might be the fat you
wear if there is enough insulin present to
make you store it.”
One other thing to consider in the second
study is that the carbohydrate could be getting
turned into fat and put in the muscle.
The process of turning carbs into fat is called
de novo lipogenesis.
And, it’s well known that refined carbohydrates
increase triglycerides and a high fat super
low carbohydrate ketogenic diet results in
the best reduction in triglycerides compared
to other diets.
If you want to see fat in the muscle, by the
way, look at cattle.
Grain fed cattle – cattle fed on a high carb
diet have a lot more fat marbling in their
muscle than grass fed cattle on a high fat
The grass fed cows have barely any fat in
Wait but they’re on a grass diet, not a
high fat diet… right?
Actually, up to 70% of the grass fed cattle’s
energy requirements come from short chain
fatty acids, which are produced as a result
of microbial fermentation of the grass in
the foregut of the cow.
So they are technically on a high fat diet
yet develop hardly any fat in the muscle.
There’s still one more question.
Is fat in the muscle, however it happened
to get there, gumming up the insulin receptor
lock and causing insulin resistance?
Well, some papers say fat in the muscle might
be one source of insulin resistance, but others
say it’s not a marker for insulin resistance.
In any case, consider this: exercise is well
known to have a beneficial effect on insulin
However, as this study found, “exercise training
increased IMCL by 21%” but at the same time,
it improved insulin sensitivity.
This phenomenon actually has a name, it’s
called “athlete’s paradox” “in which endurance-trained
athletes, who have enhanced insulin sensitivity,
also have higher [fat content in the muscle]”
So, fat in the muscle may be associated insulin
resistance, but it’s doubtful that it’s
the key cause of insulin resistance by gumming
up the insulin receptor lock.
In any case, because dietary fat doesn’t
reliably increase fat in the muscle cell regardless
of the context, and simply because many people
have improved insulin resistance and reversed
their diabetes on a low carb or ketogenic
diet, “at the ten week mark, nearly half of
our patients reversed their diabetes, and
by one year, that number increased to 60%”
we can safely mark the idea “Dietary fat
is the cause of insulin resistance, and therefore
diabetes” as Myth #5
Ok if that’s the case, Then what does cause
Well, insulin causes insulin resistance just
like smells cause smell resistance or alcohol
causes alcohol resistance.
When you first meet your girlfriend to hang
out you might be able to smell her perfume
very easily, but after a couple minutes you
no longer notice it.
If you start to drink a lot, you’ll find
you have to drink more alcohol to get the
Similarly If you keep getting a lot of insulin
in the bloodstream, your cells will get resistant
Jason Fung explains this in his book “The
He says “I can make anybody insulin resistant.
All I need to do is give them enough insulin.”
In Chapter 6, Dr. Fung presents three studies:
・In One maintained a forty-hour constant
insulin infusion into a group of healthy young
people and this increased insulin resistance
・In another, a ninety-six-hour constant
intravenous infusion of insulin into a group
of healthy young people increased insulin
resistance by 20 to 40 percent.
・And in the third experiment, patients initially
not taking insulin were titrated up to a very
high dose of 100 units of insulin per day.
Dr. Fung says: “The higher the insulin dose,
the more insulin resistance they developed—
a direct causal relationship, as inseparable
as a shadow is from a body.
Even as blood glucose levels got better, the
diabetes was getting worse.
Insulin causes insulin resistance.”
So in a high carb diet, unless it’s offset
with a bunch of fiber, a vicious cycle is
created where excessive carbohydrate consumption
raises insulin, insulin worsens insulin resistance
and fattens you up.
This insulin resistance means you’ll need
more insulin the next time you eat the same
amount of carbohydrate, speeding up the whole
Then, if you get to a point where you need
to inject insulin, then you are really speeding
up the cylce.
This finally leads us to Myth #6 – that You
need a certain amount of carbohydrate to be
Our bodies can make all the glucose we require
– this is called gluconeogenesis.
“We have essential amino acids, those proteins,
essential fatty acids, but nope.
No essential carb.
Our minimum daily requirement for carbohydrates
So when you think about all of this, it seems
like the simple solution to type 2 diabetes
would be to restrict these insulin raising
So, you could go on a low carb or ketogenic
diet or you could really lower insulin by
But of course all kinds of articles and guidelines
against doing this and there’s experts saying
you should definitely not do a keto or low
carb diet, and that it’s very dangerous in
the long run.
So it’s pretty confusing.
Stick around because next week I’ll be talking
about concerns like this along with more information
on diabetes itself.
This video was sponsored by Audible… which
is still something I use almost every single
I’ve gotten a lot comments before asking about
my research process.
And, a lot of it is just reading all the time,
and a lot of my reading is actually listening
to non-fiction books on Audible.
I really like their non-fiction selection,
but they have an unmatched selection of all
kinds of audiobooks, original audio shows,
news, comedy, and more.
I recently listened to Dr. Jason Fung’s
audiobook “The Diabetes Code,” the content
itself was very intriguing but what made it
special is that it is narrated by Dr. Fung
It was engaging enough that I ended finishing
it in a span of just two days.
Dr. Fung thoroughly covers the history, epidemiology,
cause and treatment of diabetes, putting complicated
concepts in plain English with a bit of subtle
humor here and there.
He also dispels many myths surrounding diabetes
and corrects several lines of incorrect education
we have received regarding nutrition.
If you’d like to check it out, go to www.audible.com/whativelearned
or text ‘whativelearned’ to 500-500 to
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