The blind leading the blind: New study proves how dismal diabetic nutrition counseling is

According to a new study, people who know they have diabetes tend to eat healthier than people who have yet to be diagnosed.

The researchers evaluated 3725 adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes, who were a part of the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

They found that men who knew they had diabetes consumed an average of 87 grams of sugar per day, whereas undiagnosed men ate an average of 117 grams. Likewise, diagnosed men consumed fewer carbohydrates and more protein than undiagnosed men.

Women showed similar trends: Those with diagnosed diabetes consumed less sugar—an average of 79 grams per day, vs 95 grams for their undiagnosed counterparts. They also ate more protein—67 grams vs 57 grams in undiagnosed patients.

I think it’s great that diabetics are making an effort—I really do. But let’s not break out the balloons and party hats just yet…

If I ate 235 grams of carbohydrates a day, I, as my mother liked to say, would be as big as a house (and probably the lot next door too). And 87 grams of sugar?!  I haven’t eaten 87 grams of sugar in the past six months… let alone in one day.

Honestly, if this is a good thing, Lord help us!

Which leads me to the next study I want to tell you about…

It looked at the importance of nutritional counseling and healthy diets for prediabetics. While I consider this a normal—and essential—part of every office visit, most doctors don’t. In fact, most patients with pre-diabetes never get a single word of advice from their doctors about what they should—and shouldn’t—be eating. But guess what this study showed?

That’s right—people who were counseled to eat right and exercise were able to lower their blood sugar levels. And they did it following some pretty dismal dietary advice:  a calorie-restricted diet, in which 60 to 70 percent of the energy came from carbohydrates and monounsaturated fat, 15 to 20 percent from protein, and less than 7 percent from saturated fat.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again! Eat like that and you might improve your blood sugar by a hair…temporarily. But eventually you will get fatter—and you WILL wind up with diabetes.

If you truly want to take control over your blood sugar, you have to eliminate sugar. “Reducing” your intake to 87 grams per day isn’t going to cut it. And the simple, refined carbs have to go too.

But you don’t have to spend every waking minute tracking your calories and denying yourself all the foods you love.

Juicy steaks, gooey cheese omelets, rich dark chocolate—all of these decadent “treats” are perfectly OK. In fact, they’re good for you! Combine them with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits—and that daily walk I’m always encouraging you to take—and you’ll balance your blood sugar without even thinking about it.

It really can be that simple—if you have the right tools and information.  Stick with me and I’ll make sure you do.

The sweet solution for a sharper brain

Yet another check mark on cocoa’s scorecard: A new study revealed that cocoa flavanols (compounds naturally found in cocoa beans) can help stave off age-related memory loss.

In the study (led by Columbia University Medical Center), 37 participants aged 50 to 69 were given a cocoa beverage that contained either 10 mg or 900 mg of flavanols every day for three months. Researchers conducted memory function tests on both groups at the study’s outset and then again at the conclusion.

They found noticeable improvements in memory function in those who consumed the high-flavanol drink. The study’s lead author put it into quite a staggering perspective. He said, “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

The study also showed positive changes in the brain’s “dentate gyrus,” an area of the brain associated with age-related memory decline.

While there’s more to study here, this is extremely encouraging. And further evidence that cocoa can be a serious brain boon. Just make sure to steer clear of milk chocolate. Opt for dark chocolate that’s at least 80 to 90 percent cacao. Or you can go for 100 percent cocoa powder. Mix it with hot, unsweetened almond or coconut milk, along with a little bit of stevia (just enough to cut the bitterness), and you’ve got a delicious treat that will keep you warm—and healthy—this fall and winter.


“Does Knowing One’s Elevated Glycemic Status Make a Difference in Macronutrient Intake?”  Diabetes Care, epub ahead of print 9/9/14

“The Effect of Medical Nutrition Therapy by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Patients with Prediabetes Participating in a Randomized Controlled Clinical Research Trial.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, epub ahead of print 9/14/14

“Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults.”Nat Neurosci, epub ahead of print 10/26/14