I’m a Type 2 Diabetic and in September of 2013 I decided to control my blood sugar levels by adopting the Paleo lifestyle and the results have exceeded my expectations as evidenced by the fact that my A1C measurements have been indistinguishable from someone who is not a Type 2 Diabetic but being the man of science I am, I decided to really test out how well my body has adapted to insulin sensitivity by performing a short experiment and I’ll share these results in this post.
When I decided in September 2013 to stop taking my medication (Janumet) and adopt the Paleo lifestyle I first kick started my body by going on an extremely low calorie diet for 1 week that had scientific roots in a clinical study performed by Newcastle University.
This diet is not for the faint of heart and consists of only 700 calories a day and requires consumption of only vegetables and 3 shakes per day (complete diet details can be found here). It’s not an actual fasting diet in the truest sense of the word but it’s as close as you can get. Its a low carb, no meat, no dairy, no processed foods, no sugars, no grains, no fruits, no alcohol type of diet and I’m not going to lie, it’s tough. But I noticed phenomenal results when I first employed it and I wondered what would happen now if I tried it again.
I didn’t “need” to do this as my A1C measurements and fasting blood sugar measurements were within the normal range but I knew that I still had an insulin sensitivity that caused my blood sugar levels to spike if I intentionally ate grains (which I was prone to do to test my body). I wondered if I could improve my insulin sensitivity by going on this diet for a few days so that is what I did.
I was on this diet for 4 days starting on 11-APR-16 but when I finished I occasionally ate foods that I knew would spike my blood sugar levels (fried chicken/duck, potatoes, rice, corn, etc.).
The graphs below show my morning and evening blood sugar levels before, during and after this diet experiment. The days preceding the diet are marked in blue, the days on the diet are in black and the days after the diet are in red.
The first observation from this experiment was that during the 4 days I was on the fasting diet my fasting (morning) and bedtime (evening) blood sugar levels were almost identical. This is not too earth shattering since this low carb/low caloric diet should have kept my blood sugar levels stable since I still have a functioning pancreas.
But the real surprise was the week after I went off the fasting diet. Notice that my morning blood sugar levels were significantly lower for about a week (magenta rectangle). It should be noted that the morning blood sugar measurement in the green ellipse happened after a dinner the night before of fried duck wings when my evening blood sugar measurement was 258 mg/dL.
So, what did I learn?
I think this fasting diet has some real benefits and I should try this again for a longer duration. It was obvious that my body responded the week following this diet but then my insulin sensitivity reverted back to its normal level. I would obviously desire that my morning blood sugar measurements would be in the 70 – 90 mg/dL range than the 90 – 100 md/dL range so maybe staying on this diet for 10 days may yield longer-term benefits.
It’s obvious that I’ve met my goal of controlling my blood sugar levels without medication but my stretch goal is to eventually get my body back to the point where my insulin sensitivity level is on par with someone who doesn’t have Type 2 Diabetes. Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve seen the benefits of the Paleo lifestyle and I’ll never go back to eating grains but I’d like to know that my body has “reset” to the point where my blood sugar levels are in the normal range when I unknowingly eat something that will spike my blood sugar levels. I only have 1 pancreas and I want to keep those beta cells happy so they don’t die off and I turn into a Type 1 Diabetic.
Remarkable results! Congrats!!!
After spending several thousand hours reading on this subject and conducting my own N1 experiments, my conclusion is type2 disbetes is completely explained by Dr.Roy Taylor’s discovery that, “type2 is precipitated by the single cause of intraorgan fat.”
Genetic variability also appears to play a role as there are morbidly obese people who never develop diabetes and a small percentage of “skinny fat” people who will. If someone is genetically predisposed and has too much fat in their liver and pancreas for too long, diabetes develops.
Lose the organ fat and diabetic symptoms symptoms disapear as long as the pancreas is still working.
With severe calorie restriction weight loss, excess fat preferentially leaves the pancreas and liver first, which is why diabetes symptoms can quickly recede while excess fat continues to exist elsewhere in the body.
Google “diabetic athletes” and you will discover there are professional and Olympic athletes with type 1 diabetes but there are zero type 2 athletes.
Type 2 only develops once a retired athlete’s body fat percentage increases. Someone with 7% body fat may develop type 1 diabetes but it is impossible to have type 2 with 7% body fat and a working pancreas.
This tells me if you want to eat whatever you want, just get down to 7% body fat.
But then the natural response will be, it’s impossible for most people to get down to 7% body fat if they eat anything they want and don’t exercise.
Thanks Blaine, I think you are dead on with this! The fact that I saw such improvement the week after spending only 4 days on the diet proved that fat loss is key. More of this fasting and more weight training added to my running/cycling is what I plan to do.
OK, now let’s talk about scientific theory and the ideal diabetes diet because I think potatoes and corn may be unnecessarily demonized.
In order for a scientific theory to be valid, it has to explain all observable facts. So how are the following facts possible?
1. The potato diet, where only potatoes are eaten for a week to 30 days, results in dramatic reduction in blood sugar levels.
2. The Dr. Kempner rice diet, which consisted of white rice, white sugar and fruit juice, completely reversed type 2 diabetes in hundreds of severely diabetic patients.
3. The Pritikin diet which is high carb and low fat has reversed diabetes for thousands of diabetics.
4. There have been hundreds of thousands of competitive body builders over the last 50 years who ate very high carb, low fat diets and never developed type2 while they were competing.
5. Mexican Pima Indians eat a very high carb diet consisting of corn and legumes for the bulk of their calories, yet they have a low incidence of type2. However, their cousins, the Arizona Pimas who don’t eat this diet anymore, have one of the highest diabetes incidence rates in the world.
6. Blood sugar levels even improve on the “Twinkie diet”
These facts tend to support the hypothesis that it is not so much what is eaten as it is how much.
For long term health, I believe a largely plant based, moderate fat, moderate protein diet may be best while avoiding processed foods, manufactured oils and liquid calories. Eat whole foods almost exclusively and not too much and it’s hard not to be healthy.
I also believe if a diabetic has not achieved their ideal weight and exercise regime with normal blood sugar levels, they should “eat to their meter” until they no longer have to.
There is some evidence, although not definitive, that in the process of developing type2, the pancreas is damaged to a point where intakes of some foods should be moderated.
For me it’s a moot point because if you don’t eat to your meter and gain even small amounts of fat in your liver and pancreas, diabetic syptoms will return.
Very interesting. And I think this gets back to your previous point, if you are exercising and have minimal body fat, you don’t have to be so selective about your foods as long as you’re eating real food and not processed.
I also love your point about how pro athletes are never diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. And they eat a huge amount of carbs although there are a few (Djokovic) who adopted the gluten free diet and said it changed his performance. But that was more of a celiac thing I believe.
Very interesting. Especially this one but love all of your N=1 research.
I’ve been fasting too. We started fasting with the Ketogenic diet in 2015. This was a fasting period every day from dinner at 6PM til our breakfast at 12 noon. Recently I began fasting additionally 1.7 full days/week-usually Mondays. From 6Pm in the evening through the next day and until noon the second day, I fast, drinking lots of water and, of course, must have my coffee! I fix the 2 meals for hubby and it doesn’t bother me. I’m looking for lower insulin/blood glucose numbers and so many studies show increased life span and less disease with fasting and decreased food intake. (I truned 70 last Christmas.)
I was amazed last year when I went to the local ER with an abnormal heart rhythm. It was 2 hours post prandial at 8PM. They did a full battery of blood chemistry and my glucose 2 hours post prandial was 81! That is so low! Unless it was a mistake.
I really need to test my fasting sugars at home more. I just hate sticking my fingers. And I’m a nurse. 😳
Even though I’m vasovagal, I don’t mind pricking my finger. I guess since I’m in control my mind doesn’t freak out!
I don’t think I could last 24 hours without eating due to my fast metabolism but the 700 calories a day ‘fast’ is something I can handle for a week and it’s no big deal. I’m going to make this something I do quarterly.
Naked and Afraid, the TV show, has demonstrated pretty conclusively it is possible to go 3 weeks while eating virtually nothing. No one likes it, in fact, everyone hates it, but it won’t kill you.
Going several days, to even a week, without eating a single calorie is not only not harmful, it’s actually beneficial and quite natural from an evolutionary standpoint.
There is virtually no difference in lean muscle mass loss with a one week, 700 calorie a day, protein sparing modified fast advocated by Paleo followers and a one week, 700 calorie a day, green drink fast, advocated by vegetarians.
Neither approach is healthy long term as it will lead to lean muscle loss with both diets.
After 3 days adjustment, most people find they are no longer hungry with either approach. Drinking 700 calories of green drink is difficult, if green leafy vegitables are the only thing you’re drinking or eating.
The evidence is pretty clear, the best approach is the one that you can stick to that causes the least discomfort. For some people that’s a PSMF, for others it’s a vegetarian green drink fast.
There is some evidence protein is satiating with a protein fast and other evidence, the greater volume of food consumed with a vegitarian approach is satiating.
I call bullshit on both positions. It’s uncomfortable whichever approach is used for the first three days. After that, hunger usually diminishes for most people with either diet. It’s strictly a matter of personal preference and to some extent, a psycological belief system as to which diet is “best.”
I just had a further thought I wanted to share. If a severe hypocaloric diet causes fat to leave the pancreas and liver first, thus improving function quickly, is the reverse also true?
When you eat more calories at a single meal or a series of meals that you don’t quickly burn, are excess calories stored first in the liver and pancreas thus quickly degrading function?
If true, this might explain a lot. For instance why someone with a single digit percentage body fat fat level, eating a eucaloric diet can eat anything they want.
It would also explain why just brisk walking after eating a meal instead of sitting on a couch, will lower blood sugar for almost everyone who is normally sedentary. The mechanism involved is causing glycogen to be more quickly absorbed by muscles thereby diverting fat from being stored in the liver and pancreas.
Seems like common sense but I’ve never thought of it this way before. Interested in your thoughts.
I find that exercise does lower my blood sugar levels and I’ve found that short durations of high intensity exercise do a better job than long distance type workouts.
I wrote about it here – https://cosmoscon.com/2014/04/07/the-effects-of-high-intensity-exercise-on-blood-sugar-levels/
But your theory about fat first going to the liver and pancreas sounds intriguing. I don’t know if that is true but I do know that the more a person can tax the muscles and start burning glycogen then sugar in the blood can be used to replace it. Of course if you are severely insulin resistant there would be a limit to that.
Looking back, there was an early indicator of my insulin resistance long before I was diagnosed. I noticed that I was getting cramps in my quads during long bike rides and this was unexplainable because I carbo loaded before and drank gatorade during like normal. My insulin resistance wasn’t allowing my muscles to replenish their energy stores and therefore I was getting cramps. At least that is how I explained it.
Now that my body has adjusted to burning fat, I can go ride 2 hours after eating a LCHF meal and only drink water during the ride. No cramps!
Dr. Tim Noakes who wrote, Joy of Running, is perhaps the biggest advocate for a low carb/high fat Paleo diet for endurance athletes. He makes a pretty good case for it.
The body only has a few hours worth of glycogen stores in the muscles and if it is not replenished you, “hit the wall.” Fat burning for endurance may be especially beneficial as people age.
However, at the highest levels of athletic performance, it still appears carbs have it.
Loren Cordain, the father of Paleo, wrote a book called, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, where he advocates a high carb diet for peak performance.
Certainly, every single rider on the Tour de France eats a high carb diet but then most of them have a 5% to 7% body fat composition and not much body fat to burn. They also aren’t old with type 2.
The take away seems to be either approach works pretty well. I personally prefer lower carbs; about 100g a day which is less than a third of what most people eat and avoids the blood level spikes that a high carb meal causes.
However, I’ve found I can eat a very high carb meal if I do a intense cardio and weightlifting within an hour or two of eating and have found there are no long term elevated glucose levels.
I think different people may have very different results depending on the extent to which they have damaged their liver and pancreas developing diabetes and the level of fat they have impeding normal organ function.
I think insulin resistance is pretty much a function of body fat percentage. People with single digit body fat composition, aren’t insulin resistent.