Dr. Richard K. Bernstein has beaten his diabetes with a low-carb diet
I've interviewed a lot of people here at my blog, but there has been one interview I have been wanting to do for a very long time--Dr. Richard Bernstein, M.D., F.A.C.E., F.A.C.N., C.W.S., FACCWS (did I leave out any letters in the alphabet? *wink*). You've seen him on dLife on CNBC debating the so-called experts who say to just eat a low-fat diet and take your diabetes medications and insulin while Dr. Bernstein just keeps on smiling and living his life just as normal as a non-diabetic for the past 61 years and counting.
In fact, I so highly regard the work Dr. Bernstein is doing on behalf of diabetics that I named him one of my Top 10 Movers & Shakers of 2006 and he deserves the accolodes as much as anyone else in the low-carb community. I recently highlighted the fantastic work he is continuing to do in pursuit of giving people living with diabetes hope for a better future in this blog post and was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed by me for my blog.
Whether you have diabetes or not, we could all learn a lot from this man. Absorb what he has to say, let it permeate your thoughts, percolate a while, and then share the good news with a diabetic loved one in your life to let them know that livin' la vida low-carb could very well be their answer to a long and healthy life with diabetes. Let Dr. Bernstein encourage you today.
1. What an honor and a privilege to welcome the one and only Dr. Richard K. Bernstein to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog today. Dr. Bernstein is THE authority on the positive impact of low-carb diets on diabetes today and is living proof this way of eating works since he uses it to control his Type 1 diabetes. Thank you for joining me for this interview today since many of my readers are big fans of the work you are doing on behalf of diabetics.
You once described yourself as "an ordinary diabetic" before you found the low-carb solution to your diabetes. What changed about your life when you went from the recommended diabetic diet to your current low-carb dietary approach?
When I was on the ADA high-carb diet, it was impossible to approach normal blood sugars on a steady basis, no matter how I juggled multiple insulin doses. Once I cut my carb intake to the minimum necessary for consuming a reasonable amount of vegetables, my blood sugars leveled off.
2. Normalized blood sugar levels is the ultimate goal of everyone who has been afflicted with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. How were you as a diabetic able to control this disease that threatened to take your life at an early age for so many years and do you believe there is a better all-natural way to stabilize blood sugar than a proper diet plan like low-carb?
I don't know what you mean by an "all natural way" to stabilize blood sugar. A low-carb diet works. I know of no other approach that can remotely work. I have seen naturopathic physicians who were diabetics. I've seen diabetics on vegetarian and vegan diets and none of these people were able to remotely control their blood sugars until they abandoned their prior practices and embarked upon a low carbohydrate diet. I have seen some vegans and vegetarians who refused to consider a low carb diet and of course, they never attained anything approaching normal blood sugars.
3. Your discovery of the answer to the diabetes dilemma over three decades ago and your inability to convince the medical community of what you stumbled upon led you to go to medical school at the age of 45 to become a doctor. What barriers did you encounter when you were just a "layperson" and how were those barriers overcome once you became a part of the health establishment?
Becoming "part of the health establishment" only permitted me to get published. It did not change the minds of most of the physicians who were uninterested in normalizing blood sugars. To this day, professional diabetes associations are advocating elevated blood sugars for diabetics. Even many drug manufacturers and makers of devices are focused on profit rather than the well being of the patient.
I can say that I accomplished one thing, however. After battling the ADA from 1969 until the early 1980's on behalf of blood sugar self-monitoring, they finally caved in to a variety of outside pressures and approved self‑monitoring for those diabetics who use insulin. It is still, however, impossible to get Medicare to pay for enough blood sugar test strips for type 2 diabetics who do not routinely inject insulin.
4. Today you practice medicine in the state of New York helping literally hundreds of patients annually find the low-carb solution to their diabetes and obesity. Dr. Mary C. Vernon in Kansas is another prominent medical doctor treating diabetes patients with a low-carb diet, but you don't hear about many others. How many Dr. Bernsteins and Dr. Vernons are there using this treatment option for their diabetic patients across the country and do you see this field of medicine expanding in the coming years to accomodate the rising rates of diabetes?
The intensive treatment of diabetes is not a profit-making venture. It is, therefore, very unlikely that many physicians will pursue the intensive training and meal planning that I do with my patients. It should be possible, however, for large group practices and insurance based medical practices such as Kaiser Permanente, to train patients in groups and to have meal planning and medication planning put in the hands of paramedical personnel such as nurse educators.
This would be far more financially practical than the kind of medicine that I perform. I have, from time time, encountered physicians that actually did use my book as a guide and are achieving good results. For the most part, they have large practices and supervise non-physician personnel in the administration of the methods that I disclose in my books.
Dr. Bernstein recently revised and updated his classic diabetes book
5. Your book Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars became an instant bestseller in the late 1990's and has become like a virtual health Bible for people living with diabetes. How has the release of that book as well as The Diabetes Diet book made and impact on our culture?
If you look at the reader reviews on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, you will see the effects that these books have had on many of the readers who have put them into practice. Over the years I have read several thousand such reviews on both of these sites. I, therefore, have a rough idea of the effects that these books have upon diabetic patients and their families. I have no way of gauging "the impact on our culture".
Since the grand total sales of my books over the years is less than 400,000 copies, I haven't even touched 3% of the diabetic population in the U.S.A. alone. One thing that has occurred, however, is the formation of the Nutrition and Metabolism Society which now has a web site that publishes studies of low carbohydrate vs. low fat diets. Furthermore, the number of such studies have burgeoned in the past few years. Has my work had an increase in such studies? I have no idea but it would be nice if I could get a little bit of the credit.
6. I'm sure many would be happy to give you that credit you deserve, Dr. Bernstein. You recently released a revised and updated version of your Diabetes Solution book commemorating one decade since it first came out. What changes did you make to the original book and is there any specific new information about diabetes that may have come out even since the publication of this update?
The third edition of my book that came out in March 2007 was probably up‑to-the minute in terms of new developments as of February 2007. To my knowledge, there have been no significant discoveries in diabetes care since publication. Probably the single most important thing that I discuss in the book is the use of Symlin to treat overeating in diabetics and the use of Byetta to treat overeating in non-diabetics.
There are, of course, hundreds of changes in the book and discussion of many, many new products, new medications and so on. The basic approach to normalizing blood sugar, however, is essentially the same as before with a smattering of more advanced methodology.
7. Why does the American Diabetes Association (ADA) continually ignore the low-carb solution to diabetes? Dr. Richard Feinman from SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, New York told me last year in an interview that he believes they are "backing into supporting low-carb," but it certainly doesn't look imminent. What are your thoughts about this?
Although there have been one or two papers presented at ADA meetings demonstrating the value of low carbohydrate vs. low fat diets, I see no evidence that the ADA has any intention of backing off on their guidelines. There is, however, a lot of pressure from other professional organizations to lower Alc targets.
The ADA tends to follow the mob very slowly so when other organizations lower their Alc target by 1%, the ADA might lower theirs by 1%. I'm sure, however, that they realize that anything approaching normal blood sugars is utterly impossible with their dietary recommendations. I, therefore, expect they will never recommend normal blood sugars during my lifetime (Hgb Alc = 4.2 - 4.6%).
8. You assert that popular low-carb programs such as Atkins and South Beach are great only for short-term weight loss, but fail to provide people following these plans with a permanent way to keep the weight off for good. I went on the Atkins diet in 2004 and lost 180 pounds in one year. Since then, I have been able to keep the weight off by following the basic principles of the Maintenance phase of the diet. How does your program provide long-term support for improvements in both weight and health and where do you see those other plans falling short?
I read the Atkins' diet and found that it usually works initially, but when he backs off and permits the re-institution of high carbohydrate foods, such as bread, he is just reigniting the addiction to carbohydrates that has spawned the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. In my experience, any diet that permits carbohydrates other than vegetables and perhaps a few bran products is doomed to failure.
9. You have an outstanding online resource for diabetics (Diabetes-Book.com) looking for more information about the low-carb lifestyle and how it can help them with their disease. The posted testimonials are quite encouraging and compelling. Are there any specific testimonials that stick out in your mind over the years since you started helping diabetics that you will never forget?
I have seen so many testimonials that they've become a blur in my mind. I was, however, greatly impressed by the testimonials on Amazon.co.uk. It appears that the people in the United Kingdom are either better educated and therefore, more capable of writing impassioned prose or are just more capable of expressing their feelings. One could probably write a book based upon the stories that some of the readers posted on this site.
10. Again, I cannot thank you enough for coming on my blog today and sharing your wealth of wisdom with me and my readers. I remember seeing you at the Nutritional & Metabolic Aspects of Carbohydrate Restriction conference in Brooklyn, New York in January 2006 and most of the researchers there were confounded by not just your knowledge about low-carb living as it relates to diabetes, but also your experience living with this disease with relative ease for many years. Do you have any words of wisdom and encouragement to pass along to the diabetics who are reading this right now?
Jimmy, I could sum it up with one expression that strongly contradicts conventional medical wisdom: "Diabetics are entitled to the same blood sugars as non-diabetics." Thanks for inviting me to your blog.
As always, YOUR comments are welcome! What did you think of my interview with the great Dr. Bernstein? Do you have any pesonal stories to tell about how his work has helped you manage YOUR diabetes? Please share by clicking on the comment link below.