Diabetics are routinely exposed to neglect, because of old ingrained dogmas on how they need to eat. Diabetics are getting sicker unnecessarily, and often often their attempts to improve their health are met by opposition from health-care professionals.
The following example is one of the worst I’ve encountered. A mother managed to help her 9-year-old son with type 1 diabetes to become healthier and feel better by eating fewer carbohydrates. The result of the mother helping her child? The diabetes clinic reported her to the authorities!
However, the report was soon abandoned – because everyone involved, including school health professionals, noticed that the child was doing much better than before – but the diabetes clinic continues to put up resistance.
Recently, the diabetes clinic sent a letter to the school, stating that the child needs to eat at least a pound of root vegetables per meal in order to “ensure that enough glucose reaches the brain”. The fact that the child was already feeling better than ever before doesn’t seem to matter. Here’s the full translation of the letter, signed by a dietitian at the clinic:
“The recommended intake of carbohydrates at lunch is no less than 30 g (1 oz).
In order to ensure that enough glucose reaches brain cells and other body tissues, a minimum of 30 g of carbohydrates is required at lunch.
If carbohydrate intake has to be in the form of root vegetables, then 300–700 g (about a pound) is required to get the carbohydrate intake up to 30 g (1 oz).”
This is a story from Sweden in the year 2014. A story that an appropriate investigative TV show should dig in to:
The Email Translated from Swedish
My son is 9 ½ years old and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years ago. Early on, our diabetes clinic prescribed eating large amounts of carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta and potatoes. As I was raised in a different country and environment I didn’t have any knowledge about how to treat diabetes and I did as the diabetes clinic recommended.
My son got an insulin pump early on, as injections worked poorly and his blood sugar was very unstable. He also has a very sensitive digestive system, which led to constipation lasting for days, due to all the potatoes, rice and pasta, and the blood sugar roller coaster continued. After about 1 ½ years with diabetes I contacted the National Board of Health and Welfare and read up on various guidelines used in both Sweden and elsewhere about alternative diets and then decided to remove all carbohydrate-rich foods and limit him to 10 % carbohydrates. I also started to cook all meals at home from scratch.
I quickly realized that he was feeling very much better on a slightly higher dose of basal insulin (about 15 IE), no mealtime insulin and a moderate low-carbohydrate diet. With time, his digestive problems improved a lot and he hasn’t had constipation since the diet change. His blood sugar rarely goes high, over 230 mg/dl (13 mmol/l), and it’s even rarer that it goes too low.
When I told the diabetes clinic how I’d changed his diet they reacted as if I’d committed a crime. I tried to explain that he eats an appropriate amount of complex carbohydrates, low impact on both his digestive system and blood sugar. After the diet change he’s now feeling a lot better, both body and soul, but the diabetes clinic didn’t want to listen but instead reported me to the authorities because of my choice of diet for my son. I felt like a criminal. The filed report was dropped after a very short investigation where the authorities soon realized that my son ate a good and well-considered diet, was doing great and was in good hands.
The school physician and nurse supported me in my opinion on diet and saw nothing wrong with his diet. The school sent a letter to the diabetes clinic where they advocated my diet choice because they could clearly see that his blood sugar control had improved, his numbers improved and he felt great. My son’s assistant also says that this is the first time that she meets a diabetic with such a stable blood sugar. She finds it very easy as his blood sugar is not on a roller coaster.
However, the diabetes clinic at Karolinska won’t give up the idea that my son has to eat more carbohydrates and they are doing everything in their power to influence me and the school. Recently, the dietitian sent a recommendation to the school stating that my son should eat at least 30 g of carbohydrates for lunch in order to “ensure enough glucose to the brain cells” (see picture). The claim lacks scientific basis, and I think it nearly constitutes child abuse to suggest that a 9-year-old eat a pound of carrots for lunch every day, and moreover, this would worsen his blood sugar levels.
What frightens me the most is the diabetes clinic’s attitude and how I, who finally think that I’ve managed to get my son’s diabetes under control just fine, have been treated. I’ve really experienced that I don’t have this right, but should obey the diabetes clinic’s health professionals, who assume that they are the ones to decide. I asked the dietitian for a reference to support her recommendation, but the only source she gave was the agency that issues the official dietary guidelines.
After 1 ½ years on a low-carbohydrate diet my son now feels confident in his diabetes and thinks it’s very easy to manage. I’m currently writing a book about children with diabetes and diet, hoping that others may benefit from our experiences.
Sincerely, Katrin, mother of a 9-year old with type 1 diabetes
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