Sunday, December 23, 2018

Easy Sweet

This is a hard time of year for those of us with diabetes, especially when we're on low-carb diets. We're surrounded by sweet treats we can't have, and it's sometimes difficult to refuse. A few minutes ago, a neighbor showed up at the front door with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. I thanked her and then said unfortunately I couldn't eat them because I'm diabetic. She said then I could give them to someone else, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I took them.

I haven't had a chocolate chip cookie for 22 years, so I decided to try a small bite. The first bite wasn't bad, so I ate the whole cookie. As a result, my blood glucose level went up to 187. Not something I want to make a habit of.

Mostly, I don't miss sweets, although I do eat homemade kefir with berries mixed in. But occasionally I do crave something intensely sweet, and I've come up with a quick solution.

I coursely grind together walnuts and 100% chocolate. You can use baking chocolate, but I find Kakosi's chocolate wafers much easier to grind. I'm sure other brands would be the same, but my favorite grocery store carries these.

Then I add some heavy whipping cream and sprinkle with some fake sugar. I like the erythritol-based sugars for this because they have crunch. If you want, you can add a few berries.

That's all there is to it. You can make it as sweet as you want, and it does satisfy that craving for sweetness.

A few years ago I posted a recipe for almost-instant chocolate cake. That's another option, but it takes a few more seconds to make and I'm always in a hurry.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Evesdropping Viruses

This has absolutely nothing to do with type 2 diabetes. At least not yet. But it's fascinating.

Apparently, viruses can intercept molecules bacteria use to communicate with themselves and use that information to time their attack on the bacteria.

Are bacteria and viruses intercepting molecules human organs use to communicate? Or are various organs hijacking molecules other organs use to communicate with their kind?

It opens up a whole world of new ways of thinking about physiology.


A recent press release reported on a link between high blood levels of a compound called TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) and heart disease. Then they said high TMAO levels are linked to a diet rich in red meat, and such people have TMAO levels three times as high as those who eat mostly white meat or no meat.

The authors defined "rich in red meat" as about 8 ounces of steak daily.

Horrors! Sounds as if we should all avoid red meat and try to lower TMAO levels.

But wait! Another recent press release says we should all eat more vegetables and fish because these foods increase our TMAO levels, and "low-dose treatment with TMAO reduced heart thickening (cardiac fibrosis) and markers of heart failure in an animal model of hypertension."

The authors of the second study write, "It was previously thought that TMAO blood plasma levels--and heart disease risk--rise after the consumption of red meat and eggs. However, "it seems that a fish-rich and vegetarian diet, which is beneficial or at least neutral for cardiovascular risk, is associated with a significantly higher plasma TMAO than red meat- and egg-rich diets, which are considered to increase the cardiovascular risk."

Is it any wonder that people are confused about which diet is best to follow in order to reduce the risk of heart disease?

The effects of diets are complex. For one thing, different people may react differently to the same thing, and rodents may also react in a different way. For another, it's not usually just one component of a diet that is important; it's the diet as a whole. A red-meat and chocolate cake diet is different from a red-meat, vegetable, and salad diet. A 16-ounce steak has a different effect from 4 ounces of steak.

And TMAO could have a U-shaped effect so that small increases were beneficial but large increases were not, or vice versa.

Rat experiments don't always translate into effects on humans, but they're suggestive. Also, the second study was done in an animal model of hypertension.

Today, certain memes are popular, including "eat more fruits and vegetables" and "avoid red meat." But most fruits raise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes, and also to some degree in those without the disease. Sometimes it seems as if research is designed to prove these memes rather than to learn something new. It's easier to get research grant money if you are supporting the current dogma. Not long ago, that was low-fat, and people who didn't support that concept had trouble getting research grants. The South African scientist Tim Noakes, was accused of "unprofessional conduct" for advising a mother to wean her infant onto a low-carbohydrate diet. He was eventually found not guilty of any wrongdoing.

So we don't yet know if TMAO is beneficial or detrimental. As most research papers say, "More research is needed."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Offering Hope

Charles Mattocks is passionate about diabetes. Controlling diabetes, that is.

He understands that because it's difficult to live with diabetes, some people just give up and don't try to help themselves.

Mattocks understands how difficult it is to live with diabetes because this celebrity chef, author, and TV producer has type 2 diabetes himself. He was diagnosed in 2011 at the age of 38 and was determined not to let the diabetes ruin his life. At first he controlled with diet and exersise, but then when his dietary vigilance relaxed a bit too much, he went on medication. A year after getting back on the wagon, he was able to come off the medication.

"Diabetes could kill me, but being diagnosed has saved my life and put my health at the forefront," he said." But Mattocks is concerned with more than just his own health. He wants to help other people deal with their diabetes, and especially to help people not yet diagnosed with diabetes avoid ever getting that diagnosis.

He realizes that most people don't know much about diabetes and feels that if he'd known when he was a kid what he knows now about diabetes, he never would have gotten it. For that reason, he's written a children's book titled "Diabetes and Healthy Eating." He's also involved with an RVcalled "Diabetic You RV" that travels around the country and offers information and free blood glucose and foot checks for anyone interested. In addition to calling attention to diabetes with its colorful decorations, the RV is staffed with medical people who can offer help to those interested.

Currently being worked on, the RV should be back on the road in a few months.

But Mattocks' primary focus is a TV reality show that takes a small number of people with diabetes to a resort in Jamaica, where he was born, and has various diabetes experts work with them for a week. His goal is to give hope to people who are struggling, and to give the viewers of the reality show hope as well. He feels that showing real people, not actors, with type 2 struggling but eventually succeeding in taking control will inspire others to do the same.

Some episodes from the first season, produced in 2017, can be seen here. He is currently working on a second season.

Mattocks has done many things in his life so far. He's traveled around the world to see how diabetes is affecting people in other nations. India is especially hard hit. He's also been involved with cooking and had a TV show called "The Poor Chef." Before his diagnosis he published a cookbook called Eat Cheap, but Eat Well, and in 2014 the American Diabetes Association published his The Budget-Friendly Fresh and Local Diabetes Cookbook.

Like Mattocks, because I know how very inconvenient, not to mention expensive, it is to have type 2 diabetes, I would also like to do what I can to prevent others from following in my path. But it's difficult. Most people simply aren't interested. When I suggested to a sister that she test members of her family once a year so that if they had the genetic predisposition, the disease would be caught early, when it's easier to control.

Her answer: "Why worry about a disease you may never get?"

If someone in a family in which the disease has occurred several times isn't interested, what is the likelihood that the average person would be? Most people assume it will never happen to them, even when it runs in the family and even when they're overweight. So I got discouraged at trying to help people prevent the disease and have focused instead on reading about research and trying to communicate the most interesting research results through this blog.

Hence it's good that people like Mattocks, who has a lot of energy and the ability to communicate well through talks and TV shows, are still in there fighting for people who might not be able to fight on their own.

There's a vast difference in how people with type 2 diabetes are learning. At one end of the spectrum are people who get all kinds of expensive gadgets like continuous glucose monitors and fancy software, document everything they eat in a nutrition program, join online Facebook groups and exchange information with others with the same interests. At the other end are the people who get a diagnosis, get medications, and expect the medications to control their disease while they continue to eat the same unhealthy food they've always eaten and continue to avoid exercise whenever possible. Sometimes, because of the cost, they don't even take the medications. Then they get complications like having a leg amputated or losing most of their sight. Of course, most people are somewhere in the middle of these extremes, but sadly, I think most patients are closer to the latter group than to the former.

Perhaps a reality show on TV will reach some of these people. I do hope so.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Mattocks and his show can go here.