Remembering Dr. Sarah Hallberg, a global low carb hero

Sarah Hallberg tribute

The low carb world, including all of us at Diet Doctor, is mourning the passing of Dr. Sarah Hallberg. Dr. Hallberg was a tireless low carb champion who improved countless lives with her advocacy and research around the reversal of type 2 diabetes with carbohydrate restriction.

Dr. Hallberg, a non-smoker, has died of metastatic lung cancer. She was medical director of Virta Health and medical director and founder of the medical weight loss program at Indiana University in Lafayette, Indiana. She leaves her husband and three children and many mourning colleagues and admirers.

“Sarah Hallberg was a true hero for me and so many others,” said Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, CEO and founder of Diet Doctor. “It’s such a loss — for her family, her friends, and for the world.”

Dr. Bret Scher, Medical Director of Diet Doctor, has created a tribute video in her memory, and we have a dedicated page with all of our videos with Sarah.

 “We can’t begin to do justice to all that Sarah meant to us as individuals, as patients, and as colleagues,” said Dr. Scher. “She will be forever missed, but her mission for patient advocacy will live on in all of us. She has touched and inspired so many lives and we owe it to her, and to ourselves, to continue her mission. We grieve for her loss and for her friends and family.”

Dr. Hallberg first burst onto the low carb scene with a 2015 TEDx Talk: Reversing type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines. The video advocated using a low carb diet — eating minimally processed whole foods like eggs, meat, and vegetables with butter or cheese — to improve blood sugar and reverse diabetes symptoms.

The video went viral and has now had more than 8.6 million views. As news of her passing spread, hundreds of viewers posted on the site saying how her advice had saved their lives.

Dr. Hallberg has been featured in many Diet Doctor articles and videos, and was an early guest on the Diet Doctor podcast

She was the subject of an in-depth Diet Doctor profile in January 2018, where she described the many surprising “pivots” in her life journey. 

She started out earning her first degree in exercise physiology. Her frustration with a cardiologist who ignored her advice in a cardiac rehab program convinced her that she had to go to medical school to be heard. 

As a young doctor, she was asked to start a weight loss program at Indiana University, where she found that getting her patients to restrict carbs led to the most dramatic health and weight improvements. Once again, not feeling heard, she did her TEDx Talk and challenged the medical establishment over the (inadequate) standard medical guidelines around type 2 diabetes care.

The refusal of the medical establishment to adopt a low carb diet as a recommended therapy for diabetes astonished and angered her.

“Why was [low carb] not what everyone was doing? Why was this not commonplace?” she said in the profile. “We are having such an impact on all these people’s lives. It was infuriating. So I went from being a clinician to being a researcher.”

She joined Virta Health as medical director and became principal investigator for the online company’s 5-year clinical trial of the low carb diet, co-authoring more than a dozen research articles.

 “She has spoken to congressional members, CEOs, physicians, and nearly every influential group you can think of to advocate on behalf of the patient. She literally rocked the world of diabetes care!” said Virta in a post in her memory.

In May 2020, in a podcast with Dr. Peter Attia, she described how since 2017 she had been living with metastatic lung cancer. One day in the summer of 2017, out of the blue, she’d suddenly lost the ability to speak. Rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke, she was found instead to have a large brain tumor and multiple tumors in her lungs. Given only months to live, she believed that she had been able to live well, and much longer than expected, due to her adherence to a low carb diet. 

“Sarah has been open about her condition,” said the Virta article. “In a 2020 piece she explained what it was like to live with stage IV lung cancer during a pandemic, despite having never smoked and being only in her 40s. Given the grim prognosis several years ago, it’s remarkable that she lived until today.”

Author and journalist Nina Teicholz, who worked with Dr. Hallberg at the Nutrition Coalition, set up a GoFundMe page to honor Dr. Hallberg’s legacy. The fund will be used to establish a non-profit organization to educate healthcare professionals and the general public “about the very real possibility of reversing a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.” 

Rest in peace, Sarah. You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.


44 comments

  1. 5 comments removed
  2. Margie Cloud
    Was so sad when I learned of Sarah's passing.

    Such an inspiring, remarkable person. Prayers to family and friends and all those that were so positively affected by her. RIP🙏🙏🙏

  3. Rose Harland
    Such an inspiring human being changing the lives of so many , your family can be sustained as you live on in their hearts and the minds of all those you gave courage and hope to by your example and earnest endeavour in the cause of a better health choices for all. Sarah lives on in our memories with gratitude
  4. Tiffanee
    Dr Hallberg was tiny but a force to be reckoned with! I remember hearing her speak when I first got going on my journey. She was a true inspiration. Many thoughts and prayers to her family, colleagues and to the patients whose lives she touched so deeply. I'll always smile when I remember seeing her and hearing the words coming from her mouth "I went to med school because I was pissed off"...RIP Sarah
  5. D davidson
    She started me on the low carb approach to diabetes management and reversal. Truly a ground breaker. I’ll miss her so much.
  6. Debra Larabee
    Words cannot describe how much I appreciate Dr. Hallberg. For those with diabetes, she was a selfless pioneer. Her legacy will live on, and others will carry her torch forward. There is a special place in heaven for people like Dr. Hallberg. May she RIP.
  7. Jennifer Bowerman
    So many adjectives do not begin to do her justice. Brave, passionate, curious, caring, vibrant, transparent, alive, inspirational. I could go on and on. Would that the medical profession was filled with Sarah Hallbergs! Thank you Sarah for being you!
  8. Line
    A great loss...she will be missed for sure.
  9. Chris Lloyd
    I am shocked as i just found out. Condolences to all her family and friends.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤️
    From Melbourne, Australia.
  10. Kelly
    Big shock and am very sorry to hear this, and I am not saying that this is what happened to Dr. Hallberg, but hearing about 'weird' instances of lung cancer like this always make me shout the message loud and clear: have your homes tested for radon, a radioactive, colorless, odorless, naturally occurring gas that can accumulate in your homes. Hopefully this is not what happened to her and her family is safe.
  11. Mary Smythe
    Rest in peace Dr Hallberg, when I started on this low carb journey 5years ago you were one of the first Doctors that o followed. Huge condolences to your family and friends x
  12. Lisa Cussans
    Sarah Hallberg was the voice of reason that gave me hope after my T2 diabetes diagnosis three years ago. She achieved so much, has had such a huge impact on diabetic education, and I am very sorry that the world, and her family, has lost her way too soon. Thank you, Dr. Hallberg, Rest In Peace, you will not be forgotten.
  13. Lisa
    I’m one of those people who found keto/low carb directly from that 2015 Ted talk. So sad to hear of Sarah’s passing. Rest In Peace
  14. Satyajit Dash
    Her that viral TED Video on YouTube is the reason for me today, a person after spending 22 years in Oil & gas industry as a geoscientist, is now an LCHF coach. That video created a spark within me, when I understood, why I am not able to getting myself out from my metabolic conditions. After following Dr. Hallberg's other videos in her YouTube channel & then my encounter with Diet Doctor website, I completely reverse all my then existing metabolic conditions (obesity, Pre-diabetes, fatty liver grade2) ..... and then i decided to spread the words of Low carb around me. 2019, I quit my corporate Carrer, and today i am helping people here in India to address their obesity, type2 diabetes & other metabolic condition with Low carb nutrition therapy. I was on my seventh heaven, when I could connect Dr. Hallberg over LinkedIn sometime in 2017. She was a real Low carb, Champion.
  15. SUBRAMANIAN RAMASAMY
    May Her soul
    rest in peace
  16. Annette
    How desperately sad that someone with so much to offer this world, should be taken from it so young. RIP
  17. Janet Pomery
    Vale Dr Hallberg
  18. Gilly
    Such sad news. Rest in peace Dr Sarah. Taken too young 🙏
  19. Linda Branch
    Rest in peace.
  20. Carol
    RIP. Prayers for her family and friends.
  21. Gillian
    Awful news. Dr Hallberg has been one of the most influential people in the struggle to get in place appropriate dietary advice, particularly for those with diabetes, type one and two. Not least because she had type 1 herself as well as being a doctor and a wonderful presenter of important crucial information. She was one of the first people who's TedX talks I saw when I was searching for some advice for a friend with diabetes who had been following the advice (harmful advice) of the public health service in the UK. Dr Hallberg has made an outstanding contribution to the fight against dietary advice - low fat, low salt etc - which has turned out to be the biggest driver and cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemic and other metabolic health conditions. A life cut short. Dr Hallberg will be greatly missed. Condolences to her family, colleagues and friends.
  22. Denise Givens
    Her Ted Talk just as I was starting LCHF was not just inspiring -- it was transformative. I love her so much. Although I saw her interview with Peter Attia, somehow, I thought she would beat the monster. I know she lives on, not just in the hearts of her family and colleagues, but in thousands of people whose lives she changed.
  23. Darren Elwood
    That she had such positive effect on so many lives even while facing her own challenge is a lesson to all of us. I know she helped me greatly.
  24. Margaret Nelson
    I hadn't known of her illness or loss. I am so sorry. We will miss her!
  25. Jan Davis
    Thankful for Dr. Hallberg's legacy, have followed low carb for 5 plus years. My employer, Purdue University, offered the VIRTA program as a benefit and I'm quite sure the intervention kept me from Type 2 diabetes. Dr. Hallberg was a trailblazer, willing to buck the system. She is an example for us all.
  26. Sandra
    What a tremendous loss to the world. She leaves behind a very large absence, but it is entirely eclipsed by the amazing impact she made while she was with us. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.
  27. ProVita Semper
    I’m so sorry for the loss of a fabulous doctor! I’m actually quite intrigued by the back story of the metastatic lung cancer…I’ve lost several associates and family to sudden and metastatic cancers since the certain medical shots being taken or forced upon people. I’m curious about the timing —if a recurrence of cancer after the shot, or a new cancer after the shot, or if something long-term? Also related to low carb—many I am acquainted with have started low carb since taking a particular medical shot, to help reduce inflammation and other symptoms, along with large amounts of certain supplements. Low carb diet is excellent for those reducing inflammation.
    Reply: #42
  28. Belinda Whittle
    The world has lost such an amazing person!
    I never seriously considered low carb until I happened upon her TEDx Talk in August 2021. She was so passionate and convincing. It inspired me to do more research and then adopt low carb eating (and find Diet Doctor). She changed so much of my life and health for the better.
  29. B. Hartmann
    Dr. Halberd’s ted talk excited and inspired me to adopt a low carb diet. It led me to the Diet Doctor site and to going from pre- diabetic to normal health. My sympathy to her family and friends.
  30. Mike
    So sorry to hear about this. I found her to be a real heavyweight in the field, and a force to be reckoned with. We will definitely miss her energy, enthusiasm, and remarkable intellect in this field. I enjoyed listening to her lectures both her and on the Peter Attaia podcasts as well. She left a real impact on all of us. God speed Sarah and family. Wishing you and your husband and children the best during this very difficult time.
  31. Mary
    Very sad to hear of her passing. She stood out to me for her ability to communicate in clear and accessible language. That she was energetic, bright, and compassionate came through in all her talks. My condolences to her family on their loss.
  32. Peter
    I'm so saddened to hear this awful news. Condolences to Sarah's family.

    My story is a long one. Progressive weight gain in my late 40' and early 50's resulted in a DKA in 2014. At age 53 came out of hospital a newly diagnosed T2 diabetic having to inject 60 units of insulin a day along with one gram of Metformin. Having done lifelong exercise I did the only thing I new and flogged myself to death in the gym as well as many dietary experiments along the way. Discovering later on that exercise is a poor way to lose weight made me quite cross as indeed have many other discoveries along my journey. It took around 4 months for me to wean myself off the insulin. In a further 2 months I stopped the metformin.
    Nearly 8 years on I'm still drug free. Losing 140 Ibs in weight in that first 10 months most definitely helped in this.

    The whole point of this, and I know its not ideal, is I had to work all this out on my own.

    When Sarah's TedX came out in 2015 it helped me so much to understand what I had done. Listening to Sarah's powerful delivery in this presentation helped me greatly and I'm so appreciative to her and the other trustworthy doctors in this space.

    RIP Sarah. I'm 61 now and never thought I would get to this. Sarah I owe you my life!

  33. Linda
    Dr. Hallberg was my PCP when I lived in West Lafayette IN and I remember when she was starting on this journey and knew she would be an advocate for all. She was truly compassionate about her patients and she was someone I knew I wanted in my corner. Dr. Sarah is the reason I have been a Diet Doctor member since 2017. Thank you Dr. Hallberg and may you rest in peace.
  34. Stephanie
    Dr Hallberg changed my life! I had been searching for what was making me ill. Diabetes? It runs in my family. My blood numbers looked great but I felt awful. Searching the internet I came across her videos. It was like a light went on. How could we be so ignorant to what was making us sick. When cooking fresh low carb my symptoms seemed to disappear. Then the pandemic and I started to emotionally eat. And as expected the symptoms have reappeared and even worse. Proof what she has been telling us all along. I can't thank her enough for opening my eyes. I have shared her advice with many people. She had a huge impact on many peoples lives. Her loved ones should be very proud. She will be remembered by all.
  35. Jan
    It’s so sad to lose Dr Hallberg. She had such passion for this way of life and worked tirelessly to spread the word and help others.
  36. Alain
    Such sad news. Dr Hallberg's TEDx talk started my journey.
    RIP, Sarah. Sincere condolences to her family and loved ones.
  37. Malia Chapman
    It is heartbreaking to have lost such a warrior and fearless hero for the Food as Medicine community. Like many others it was her TEDx talk that gave me the courage to research and begin a low carb and ultimately Keto journey. My own successes along with her research, tenacity and impact, gave me the courage to continue my education and become a Primal Health Coach. I now have the ability to share this information with others and ultimately pay this valuable information forward. Thank you Dr. Sarah Hallberg. Peace be with your family and may your soul rest in peace.
  38. Fgibson
    The recent loss of your loved ones is tragic, but whatever the cause of their diagnoses, they are not to be conflated with that of Dr. Halberg and to do so demeans her years of fighting an awful disease. As indicated in the tribute, Dr. Halberg was diagnosed in 2017, not recently. Her lifestyle and medical choices extended her life years beyond the few months she was expected to life.
  39. Mark
    A great person gone to soon!
  40. Barbara
    Dr. Hallberg was such an inspiration to me. I saw her Ted Talk and some of her talks online at the Low Carb Conferences. I also watched her testify when they were reevaluating the USA food guidelines. Her testimony was so good backed up with real life examples and science. I often referred other people to her as a resource. I was so saddened when I learned she had lung cancer several months ago. I watched her video interview With Dr. Attia. It amazed me how much she still advocated for those suffering from metabolic diseases while sick herself, and then took on the challenge of advocating for those who do not have good access to healthcare. I will always be grateful for Dr. Hallberg helping me and so many others on our low carb journey to a healthier lifestyle. My prayers for Dr. Hallberg's family and friends.
  41. Mark
    Dr. Hallberg's TedX talk from 2015 was the pivotal piece that started me on a low carb journey which has transformed my life. After a lifetime of obesity and failing health in my mid 50's I finally heard something that worked and something that gave me hope. I am eternally grateful for the part she has played in my life despite being never having met her.
  42. Marlo
    Sad to hear she passed. :-( The TedX talk video which I watched in 2018 convinced me to go on keto and low carb. My blood sugar level has been normal since 2018 and I'm no longer overweight.
  43. Sandy
    Sad to hear about her passing, such an incredible women with a passion for what's right. I will miss listening to her and her love for good health the dietary way. Dr. Sarah made a gigantic impact on my journey to better health and was one of the starting points into doing my own research on low carb eating. My sincere condolences to her family ♥ Gone too soon!
  44. Margaret OConnor
    So sad to hear she has passed. Watched her TED talk and many talks on Diet Doctor. She was always so gentle, caring and inspiring. Sarah touched many hearts and was encouraging in low carb when many doctors didn’t even know about it. She touched my life and has inspired me to practice a healthy lifestyle when it wasn’t popular. Thank you and God be with your family and bless them always.
  45. 1 comment removed
  46. deventerja
    I just found out Sarah passed away, I must thank her for her work. It changed my life.
    In the town I live we have a reverse t2 diabetes group, thanks to Sarah many have reversed their T2 diabetes, many have lost weight.
    Becoming healthy because someone took their time to explain very clearly what is wrong with our food and what to do about it.
    We never met each other, but you will for ever be in my heart.
    Thank you Sarah.

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