Merseyside doctor, David Unwin, suspects that a high-carbohydrate diet may have the opposite effect to that intended for those with diabetes
There are around three million people in Britain with diabetes, type 2 is more common than type 1 which generally appears in childhood and is not linked to obesity Photo: Bill Cheyrou/ Alamy
By James Le Fanu
There have been several gratifying instances reported in this column recently where readers have proved a lot more successful than their doctors in treating, and indeed "curing", their diabetes, usually by switching from the currently recommended "high–carb/low–fat" diet to its opposite, which involves a plentiful intake of meat, milk, butter, cream and similar delights. This might sound a bit too controversial for some, but is vindicated by the impressive results achieved by Merseyside family doctor David Unwin.
A few years ago, Dr Unwin began to suspect that the advice favouring complex "high–carbohydrate foods" such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice might have the reverse effect to that intended, by acting to increase the blood sugar level in those with diabetes. "Bread should be recognised as a concentrated sugar with a higher glycaemic index than sugar itself," he writes.
Accordingly, he proposed that all the patients in his practice who had been newly identified as having type 2, or "pre–", diabetes should adopt a high–fat diet. The results, published in the journal Practical Diabetes, are truly astonishing – an average weight loss of 9kg with a reduction in waist circumference from 120cm to 105cm. There was also a striking improvement in both their blood sugar levels, with only two still in the abnormal range. Seven patients were able to come off their medication.
Their blood pressure also improved and the average cholesterol reading fell from 5.5 to 4.7 – seeming to disprove the persistent rhetoric of the past 20 years implicating "high–fat" foods as a cause of raised cholesterol.
Meanwhile, a straight comparison of the two dietary approaches in 150 people in the US produced similar results. Dr Lydia Bazzoni reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month that those on a high–fat diet benefited from considerably greater weight loss, while also reducing their 10–year risk of heart disease.
There is not the slightest hint that the experts have any intention of acknowledging (or reversing) the potential harm of current dietary recommendations, though readers can draw their own conclusions. As for Dr Unwin, he is not a diabetic himself but has adopted the high–fat diet he recommends for his patients. "I am much more alert and surprisingly it helps me run faster," he writes. In fact, he has just completed a 10km race in 46 minutes – "my best for years".
This week's medical query comes courtesy of Mrs AN from Bath, who for the past few years has had a mild but constant skull–crushing pressure on the sides of her head, "as if I had clingfilm wrapped tightly around my temples". This is certainly not a conventional headache and has baffled her family doctor, proving impervious to the usual remedies. Might anyone, she wonders, be able to clarify what is amiss.
Persistent itching can be a most intractable problem, so my thanks to a reader from Derby for passing on his remedy that exploits the physiological fact that both itching and pain share the same nervous pathways. When standing under the shower and turning up the temperature until "it is almost unbearably hot", he finds the itchiness of his legs and feet transmutes into pain, which is then mitigated by turning the temperature control to cold. "This does not cure the itch," he writes, "but does result in instant and relatively long–lasting relief."
Finally, from the "you couldn't make it up" department of current medical follies, a reader from Dover writes that her slim, fit husband in his mid–sixties, with normal blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, has just "failed" his routine health check because he neither cycles nor swims. When he protested, pointing out that he gets more than enough exercise by working in his garden six hours a day during the summer and walking the dogs for a couple of hours, he was informed that the computer "does not recognise these activities".
Concerned about aches and pains? Worried about a medical condition?Email medical questions confidentially to Dr James LeFanu at firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers will be published on the Telegraph website every Friday, at telegraph.co.uk/ health