Yesterday I made a speech at the International Diabetes Summit which ruffled a few feathers, for those not there here is my speech in full:
We’ve been here for over 2 hours
We’ve had 12 speakers
Yet I am the first speaker who actually has type 2 diabetes.
I guess that means that I am representing the 3.5 million people in this country with type 2 diabetes, and I have five minutes, forgive me chair, but I may go a minute or two over
In 2014 I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I had an Hba1c of 76, I was 44, 4 stone heavier and running an ad agency which marketed junk food.
They sent me on a course called DESMOND - here's what I learned, I have an incurable disease which will inevitably progress, it's all my own fault for being fat, lazy and greedy and if I want to avoid a long, slow and ugly death I should eat a diet based on starchy carbs and fruit, a sort of banana sandwich diet.
So I did, and I got more active and nothing really changed, my waking blood glucose levels stayed high. So I started to feel depressed.
A report published this year showed that DESMOND in Leicester shifted the baseline from 64mmol to 55mmol, now I'm not an esteemed diabetologist but even I understand that 55mmol is still diabetes, right? Yet they celebrate this failure as a success and persist with this programme.
Then I read about Roy Taylor & Mike Lean’s brilliant work using a very low calorie diet to “reverse” type 2 diabetes.
I followed their programme, which at the time was 8 weeks, maybe 12 weeks, I can’t recall. 800 calories, shakes and leaves. I lost 15kgs, my hba1c dropped from 76 to 56, not quite enough, but there’s no doubt that it works.
But. But I couldn’t function as a human being, I was exhausted. I couldn’t do my job, I actually fainted twice, It was insanely difficult. Yet it didn’t quite work for me.
I fell into a deep depression, my doctor said take pills, I stopped seeing my doctor.
Then I read this book, Reverse Your Diabetes by Dr David Cavan. Inspired by Roy & Mike’s work David, and others, have looked more closely, with more precision and realised that the same results could be achieved with a diet either moderately low or very low in carbohydrates.
So I went to talk to my diabetes care team – they said didn’t approve of fad diets – I should takes pills.
I ignored them, I followed David's advice, I have since followed a moderately low carb diet, and have had my diabetes in remission for nearly 2 years
Over the last 70 years big food has systemically corrupted nutritional science in favour of the refined carbohydrates they make in factories and at the expense of the real food from nature. The New York Times recently reported that Coca-Cola alone, just in the USA, had spent in excess of $100m corrupting the evidence base and influencing so called independent nutritional organisations. Our own Diabetes UK just took £500k of sponsorship from the company which gives us Pepsi and Mountain Dew – how is that any different from Cancer Research taking money from Mallboro? Douglas (from Diabetes UK, and present) I am sorry to put you personally on the spot but this is a disgrace and a leaves everyone with diabetes feeling betrayed by the people we trust to help us.
Professor Louis Levy of Public Health England described low carb as a “non-evidence based view” just “noise”. Last time I was at one of the Diabetes APPGs, Jonathan Valabhji and Chris Askew described low carb as an “EFI”, “Evidence Free Ideas”.
I get that you have some concerns about the evidence base, the long term effect, concerns about increased cholesterol, I'm sure they are sensible and reasonable concerns for people with your responsibilities.
You should be saying that the available scientific evidence is really exciting, the large scale anecdotal patient evidence is clearly significant but there are shortfalls and concerns. But given the absolute failure we have on every metric and the huge sums our country is spending getting this wrong I struggle to think of anything more important than further research of low carb.
Ah, I hear you say, but we have the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, and we have the low calorie trials we have just announced
The NDPP is a step in the right direction. I understand that those results are now being analysed. I also understand that one of the four providers leaned away from the eatwell plate and towards lower carbs. I also understand that recent instruction has insisted on adherence by all providers to eatwell. So today I challenge you to publish the results comparing the four providers and if the one which veered towards low carb shows better results you change that instruction.
I am delighted that the NHS and DUK finally acknowledge that type 2 diabetes can be put into remission through diet. It just beggars belief that you would subject 5,000 people to a brutal starvation diet when surely good science would trial low cal, against the moderately low carb vs keto options too so we can all discover which is the most effective way to help people.
During the course of my journey I had an epiphany. I realised my work was part of problem, I closed my agency.
Today I work closely with Jamie Oliver, and the Obesity Health Alliance to reform junk food marketing. We are holding the food industry to account and we are winning.
I lead a project called Veg Power which seeks to inspire kids to eat more veg, to reengage with real food, we’ll be all over the telly come 25th January
I am now turning my attention to type 2 diabetes, and here’s why...
My every known blood relative has struggled with obesity and diabetes. Both my brother and I have it, and it sits like a ticking genetic time bomb in my child. I’m here to save him, I feel let down, I am angry, but I am just one guy.
But the thing is that I am not
I’m with Tom Watson, and an increasing cadre of the MPs who have type 2
I’m with Jon Gaunt, journalist and broadcast. There’s a growing tide of journalists who are very keen on to this story
Thanks to the work of PHC I am with more and more GP surgeries turning their back on PHE, the NHS and Diabetes UK
Above all I am with the growing tide of thousands quietly getting on with saving their own lives.
We feel failed, so we are throwing off the heavy blanket of shame which has silenced us for too long.
There are many things we can do to prevent type 2 diabetes, but none is more important than for the NHS, Diabetes UK and many esteemed leaders to follow the example of one very humble doctor. For years he pushed pills and poor advice and watched patients decline. Then a patient, a single patient opened his eyes, he realised and was humble enough to admit he had been wrong, so he tested a little here, refined a little there, proved what could work and now his pre-diabetes programme has a 96% success rate, his full blown type 2 diabetes programme has an average of over 20 mmol reduction and a 24% rate of full sustained remission and he returned £57,000 of money he didn’t need to spend on medication. That of course is Dr David Unwin, Jen and their team.
The single most important thing is for the diabetes establishment to show humility, admit they have this very badly wrong, to look up at the world around them, speak to real patients, take what is working, test it, refine it, prove it and use it. On behalf of those 3.5 million who are suffering I am asking you to do that and do it now.