Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Treatment of Diabetes in 1915

If we could go back and take a look at the treatment for diabetes prior to insulin and oral diabetes medications, I think we might get quite an education.  After all, before there was any kind of medicine it had to be the goal to keep diabetics as healthy as possible for as long as possible.  Especially for those who were type 1 the goal would have been to keep them alive as long as they could because, let’s face it, before insulin, all type 1’s died.  The aim was to give them as long a life as possible.

 I was surprised to have found just such a book available as a free e-book on my Kindle reader.  I downloaded it the other day.  The book is called "The Starvation Treatment of Diabetes".  It was originally written in 1915 and was revised in 1916 and 1917.  What an interesting book!  It was actually written by a Dr. Allen for use by other doctors.  The treatment used at that time was a starvation diet.   It was the same for type 1 or type 2 diabetics.

 In those days there were no blood glucose meters.  They were only able to test for sugar in the urine.  For the first few days the diet consisted of only coffee and a few shots of whiskey to increase calories.  This treatment was the same for adults and children.  Once the urine showed no sugar in a day or two,  they very slowly added in some vegetables which had to be triple boiled to reduce the carbs to about half.   15-20 grams of carbs were allowed on day one after the starvation period.  They added a little bit of meat, no more than 2 oz’s to start with and allowed some cream, butter, lard and an egg or egg yolk.  Each day they increased the carbs by about 10 grams and the protein by about 20 grams.  The fat was also increased slowly.  They would check the urine for sugar each day and adjust the carbs and protein up or down based on whether or not any sign of sugar was in the urine and also watched for acidosis in the urine as well.  
If the urine showed even a tiny amount of sugar, the doctor was to immediately lower the carbs by 10 grams or more.  They usually left the protein grams the same or lowered them by a very little bit.   The fats stayed the same.    After about a week they found the correct number of carbs and protein that each individual could have and not show any sugar in their urine.   Some could only eat 15 grams of carbs a day and others could eat as much as 60 grams but no one was ever allowed more than 60 grams of carbs in a day.    Final diets ended up being , on average, in ranges between 20-50 grams of carbs per day with about 50 or 60 grams protein and 150 grams of fat.  This all depended on the size of the person, the type of diabetes they had and how long they had it.  In some cases bread, up to ½ to one piece a day was allowed depending on the person’s ability to tolerate it.
So what happened?   Why do modern doctors, diabetes educators and dieticians tell diabetics to do the exact opposite of what saved diabetics lives 90 years ago?   Why are they pushing high carb diets to diabetics?

I agree that the invention of insulin was a godsend!  Insulin has saved the lives of many type 1 diabetics.  For those who are type 2 however; the low carb, high fat diet clearly works.  It remained the treatment until the 1950’s when oral meds became available.   Why has the medical community abandoned the diet that worked and insists on promoting a diet that makes diabetics sicker?   This makes me angry. 

The food and drug companies are driving our treatment and our diet plans, and the doctors and dieticians just follow along mindlessly.   I have a choice though.  I am educating myself and I will educate the educators and the professionals when I have the opportunity to do so.

I’m glad I stumbled upon this old and wise book.   If you would like this book you can download it to an e-reader like Kindle.   It is free.   You can install a Kindle Reader right on your home computer or laptop and read it right there.    You can download the book to your Kindle Reader HERE.    To get a free Kindle reading app for computer, phone or other device, get it HERE.