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January 16, 2008

Other, Research: Cure

Question from Santa Maria, California, USA:

We try to stay up-to-date on the latest diabetes treatments for our daughter who is 11, type 1, diagnosed in April 2003. We have close friends whose entire family is mostly type 2 and some type 1. We are feeling discouraged as parents hearing about how they have cured their diabetes with vitamins, herbs, supplements, change in dietary foods, etc. I just was informed that I am harming my child by giving her milk because it can cause her diabetes to worsen. We have her diabetes under pretty good control, with the exceptions of a few days we don't know what caused her glucose levels to spike. Has anyone heard of this "latest news" that MILK is harmful to diabetes? We attend conferences with childrenwithdiabetes and try to keep updated with ADA guidelines and latest research. I'm starting to feel like I'm failing my child with her diabetes because this other family is "curing their own" diabetes with supplements. What is your opinion? We do not see the endocrinologist for another month, so this is why I decided to ask the diabetes team.


I suspect that your friends are not really able to cure diabetes. However, if they or their family members are overweight and eat better, eat fewer fast acting carbohydrates or more high fiber, this would help control sugars. This is true for both type 1 and type 2. Almost all of the nutrition claims for curing diabetes are bogus, sadly. Increasing activity makes insulin more effective and in type 2 diabetes, kids or adults, such activity changes would control sugars, of course. It is the same with better or lower carbohydrate food choices like Atkins. None of this applies to type 1 diabetes, but more fiber, more complex carbohydrates and more intensive insulin management all help. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive demise of beta cell insulin production so, over time, it is virtually inevitable that there is less insulin and so the need for more pills, insulin etc.

There is no evidence that milk should be eliminated from diabetes meal plans. There is some evidence that milk proteins may be implicated in what might trigger diabetes. Another way of looking at this is exclusive breast feeding in babies prone to genetically develop diabetes, but current research suggests that this may be not from protections in breast feeding, but when babies are exclusively breast fed they, of course, also do not have cow’s milk proteins or wheat/gluten or other foods that could trigger the autoimmune reaction of type 1 diabetes. There is a big TRIGGR study that is looking at this in relatives of type 1s but it is not yet finished.

Please also read the labels of any nutriceutical products and notice that they have big disclaimers that say there is no scientific evidence and the claims should not be considered true claims. Why would such companies not want to do scientific studies to prove such claims if they were so spectacular? You can do some research on medical studies using sites such as PubMed if you have the specific names of products or herbs, vitamins, etc.

The bottom line: Don’t be guilty. Continue to do a good job delivering food and insulin with frequent monitoring even if it is not a perfect system. And, discuss any concerns with your diabetes team who knows your child the best and can give more individualized and specific answers to what you might consider or have heard about.