According to a new comprehensive financial analysis reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Washington Post diabetes leads a list of just 20 diseases and conditions that account for more than half of all spending on healthcare in the United States.
U.S. spending on diabetes diagnosis and treatment totaled $101 billion in 2013, and has grown 36 times faster than spending on heart disease, the country's No. 1 cause of death, researchers reported.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor of Nutrition Barbara Gower, Ph.D., conducts research on diet composition and disease risk and says that diabetes can both be prevented and reversed with a carbohydrate restricted diet.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet alone in many cases. However, this message is not getting to the patients; they are told to take drugs. A clinic at UAB treats diabetics with a diet that dramatically reduces carbohydrates. In most cases, patients can eliminate all medication.
"They are thrilled to stop injecting insulin, and they question why "no one ever told them" they could control their diabetes diet alone," Gower said. "The conventional advise to diabetics is to eat carbs, and then inject insulin - or take other drugs.
Why do this?
"The medication is needed because diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance; if the patient does not eat carbs, they do not have to use medication," she said.
"I use the 'cigarette' analogy. We know it is bad to smoke, so we tell patents not to smoke. Why don't we do the same thing with sugar and processed starches? The excuse I hear is that 'people won't stop eating sugar and starches.' However, by the same analogy, we could have thrown up our hands and said, 'people can't give up smoking.'"
"We need to treat diabetes like lung cancer and COPD; all of these diseases are preventable with lifestyle," Gower said. "Further, even with established, long-term, type 2 diabetes, it can be managed with diet. It is not impossible to eat a low-carb diet that is healthful and satisfying. We do it all the time, and we teach our patients to do it. They love it.
"Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients for the human body, and with proper instruction, patients can adjust their diets to minimize them."
University of Alabama at Birmingham