By Michael Dansinger, MD, with Caitlin Quinn, RD MS
“It is a well documented fact that bleached white flour is contaminated with alloxan…which is known to destroy pancreatic function”. When I read this sentence in the first few pages of Suzy Cohen’s Diabetes without Drugs-The Five Step Program to Control Blood Sugar Naturally and Prevent Diabetes Complications, I admit that I was not sure what she was talking about. I am familiar that alloxan is a chemical given to rats to induce diabetes for medical research, but in bread? I wasn’t so sure. Regardless, the opening few pages of this book certainly convinced me to keep reading, and I’m happy that I did.
Author Suzy Cohen is a pharmacist and a proponent of functional medicine, a practice that believes in treating diseases using supplements and only using prescription medication when absolutely necessary. She believes that the health care system is too focused on creating medicine to mask the symptoms of disease rather than treating the root cause. I was intrigued that a pharmacist was writing a book that actually talks about the dangers of prescription medications and uses her experiences in the field to share the ins and outs of several classes of drugs.
The book is divided into six sections. The first two focus on the different types of diabetes, possible causes, and how to detect and monitor your disease. Sections three and four discuss all the different complications that may develop due to diabetes and the various supplements to combat or prevent them. The final sections continue to discuss supplements but also focus on styles of eating and recipes that will help reverse your disease. Throughout the book the author reminds readers to always consult their doctor before starting any new supplement and to wait one month before adding any additional supplements to your regimen. Strong evidence is lacking about the effectiveness of many of her recommended supplements.
While heavy on the scare tactics, the author takes you through all of the possible complications of uncontrolled diabetes and the supplements you can take to combat these issues. She also discusses her views about how dairy and gluten can play a role in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes development. While the discussion of supplements is lengthy, the author does spend some time talking about how to change your eating to help reverse diabetes. I felt this section was rushed and less organized than the first four sections but she does lay out some rules to follow including daily green drinks, vitamin D supplementation, eating more fiber, and avoiding all white carbohydrates. There are no meal plans to follow but she does include 52 recipes including dessert.
When reviewing a book that deals with diabetes reversal or management, I like to think about how realistic the eating plan is. For this book in particular, you would need a good amount of money for supplements if you were to follow all of the author’s suggestions. In addition to a daily multivitamin supplementation, she advises that you take multiple supplements to help reverse different diabetic complications and medications. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and are taking Metformin she recommends 11 supplements to help reverse and treat those conditions. With the average cost of a supplement being 15 dollars for a 30 day supply, you are looking at 165 dollars per month, and this doesn’t include her green drink products, or the foods to keep on hand! While it is certainly less expensive than being on medication for the rest of your life, spending that money on supplements which may or may not work is not feasible, and would not be much use if your eating and exercise did not improve. Also, several studies have come out recently that question the overall value of supplements in general.
As for her alloxan claim, while she states that it is a well known fact, she does not provide any references. From what I have been able to gather small amounts of alloxan may be produced during the bleaching process to make white flour. I was not able to find any reputable research studies that test the actual amount produced during the bleaching process. Despite her exaggeration, she is right to encourage readers to ditch white bread. I think the best way to adopt the suggestions discussed in this book would be to start making changes to your eating habits, add in exercise, and then address supplements if you feel the need. I can say that I have seen significant improvements in diabetes from smart eating and exercise alone without the use of expensive products. Unfortunately this book does not have the most detailed nutrition plan but it does give some great tips and recipes to help you get started.