Breaking news: American Diabetes Association CEO manages her diabetes with a low-carb diet
Here’s some highly encouraging news: the influential CEO of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is on the record as a low-carb eater.
In a recent podcast interview that is setting the low-carb world abuzz, ADA CEO Tracy Brown said she successfully manages her own type 2 diabetes, and has come off all her insulin and three other medications, by mindfully avoiding sugar and carbs.
Commentators are calling it a pivotal “tipping point” and hugely significant milestone in the acceptance for low-carb eating for diabetes. It marks the first time a high-placed ADA official has described personal success with a low-carb diet.
Brown, who took over the helm of the organization in 2018, is the first head of the ADA in its 80-year history to actually have diabetes, which was diagnosed 16 years ago. She says she is on track now to remove the final, fourth medication, by the summer because her blood sugar control is so good.
The 60-minute, two-part interview with journalist Stephanie Gaines-Bryant, of the Sisters4Fitness podcast, ran January 28th. It is being widely shared on Facebook and Twitter.
The conversation occurred at the 22:06 minute mark of the interview. Here is an edited version of what Brown said:
Here is what I do. And it is pretty simple. Elevated blood sugars happen when you have sugars in your body and you don’t have insulin to manage the sugars in your body.
Carbohydrates turn into sugar. So I just try to get people to be aware of how many carbohydrates you are actually putting in your body.
Carbohydrates come in many shapes and forms. Bread is a carbohydrate. Pasta is a carbohydrate. Actually fruits …. some people go, “fruits?”…. but some fruit are high in carbohydrates.
So as someone living with diabetes, you have to be mindful [of sugars and carbohydrates]..
Even with fast food….. If I am in a pinch, running through an airport and I have to get something. And the only thing I see is a fast food … I can still go in there. Usually they will have a salad option. And if they don’t have a salad, they will usually have a sandwich, a burger, chicken something. I take that and I toss the bun.
So there is always a way for you to work around it. But my advice to people is start paying attention to sugars and carbohydrates. And those are listed on nearly every package. And, with cell phones today, you can look up on the internet how many carbohydrates are in x,y, or z and it will tell you.
In the first part of the two-part interview, Brown talks about her journey from a chemical engineer working for Procter and Gamble, to earning her MBA and then holding a number of leader positions in top companies like American Express and Exxon, before running “Sam’s Club,” a members-only part of the vast Walmart empire. She was asked to lead the ADA, she said, after she became very involved as a volunteer to raise money and awareness about diabetes in her local chapter in Arkansas.
She told Gaines-Bryant that she began to take her own diabetes seriously when her daughter, then five, asked her if she was going to die from the disease. “I made a commitment to be the poster child for how you thrive with diabetes — not just live or exist, but thrive.”
Her own journey to better blood sugar management was aided by using a continuous glucose monitor and seeing first hand what various foods, especially carbs, did to her blood sugar readings. She urges everyone with diabetes to “know your numbers” by testing their blood regularly in response to various foods.
The entire podcast (both parts one and two) provide a fascinating and inspiring glimpse into a dynamic and powerful woman who could be highly influential in changing diabetes management around the world.
In part two of the interview, she talks about her goals for the ADA to become more transparent and to do a better job supporting people with the condition, which she called a “silent killer.” She notes that in the US because of diabetes, every two minutes a person has a stroke or heart attack, every five minutes a limb is amputated, and every ten minutes a person is diagnosed with kidney failure.
While this was the first time Brown has described her own low-carb eating, in the past year she has given other encouraging interviews that indicate she wants the organization to “step up” to do a better job at helping people with diabetes.
She told Healthline in 2019:
When I speak with people who are living with diabetes, I believe we’re coming up short of truly meeting their needs. That pierces my heart. We have an opportunity to step up in a different way than we have before, to be able to deliver on that half of our mission to help those [people with diabetes] and their families to thrive. There’s an opportunity to show up in a different way than we have for that audience.
Also in the Healthline interview, Brown declares that she wants to form “disruptive” new partnerships and collaborations:
We’ve got to be more intentional about who we partner with. I believe the whole world is connected through diabetes for life, and to stop this epidemic and do better it’s only going to happen through collaborations and only if it’s intentional and disruptive.
Here at Diet Doctor, we say a great big congratulations and welcome to Tracey Brown’s refreshing and inspiring role at the helm of the ADA. We’d love to form an “intentional and disruptive” partnership with her organization. Together, we can spread the word that restricting carbohydrates can help those with diabetes control their blood sugar levels and reduce medications.