December 27, 2007

Scams that Prey on People with Diabetes

It's time to hand out the lumps of coal. Here in no particular order are a list of scams that readers of this blog have asked me about.

1. Stem Cell "Cure" for Diabetes.

The weasels who run this one understand that most people know a lot more about Britney Spears' marriage than they do about science. They also know that you've heard dumbed down reports on TV about how stem cells might someday be able to cure diabetes. The result: an expensive scam that is 100% phony.

There is no technology available right now that will turn any stem cell into a beta cell. Just infusing a solution of stem cells into your body will NOT cause them to turn into beta cells, any more than swallowing a fertilized embryo would let you have a baby. End of story.

2. Herbal Substitutes for Oral Drugs or Insulin.

I get a lot of letters from people convinced that there must be some "natural" herb out there that will control their blood sugars and keep them from having to use oral drugs or insulin. Unfortunately, there isn't.

The oral drugs leave a lot to be desired, but at least when you take one of them you know what is in the pill and you can read peer-reviewed studies exploring what these drugs do. Herbs, in contrast, are completely unregulated and what little "research" there may be into the effectiveness of one of these herbs is almost always a tiny study funded by someone with a financial interest in the product that has been published in a vanity "Journal" which exists only to lend bogus credibility to what is actually an untested advertising claim.

Because there is no regulation of herbs and supplements most of the expensive bottles of supplements you buy--no matter who manufactures them--are full of mystery ingredients from from China and/or India including, at times, the toxins that notoriously pollute these countries' rivers and water supplies.

When these supplements are taken to the lab and tested, they frequently contain ingredients other than what are on the labels. More significantly, several "effective" herbal mixtures for diabetes sold in vitamin and "health food" stores have been found to be effective because they contain cheap first generation sulfonylurea drugs, which will lower your blood sugar dramatically--but which have been also found to cause heart attacks.

If you want to take a sulf drug, take a much safer second generation sulfonylurea drug like Amaryl. It is available as a generic for $4 at Wal-Mart. Why pay $30 for a bottle of chopped leaves and mystery sulf from China?

3. Sugar Free "Diabetic Foods"

Most of my readers know what a farce these are, but there are always new victims coming into the diabetes community who don't, to say nothing of their family and friends. I saw so many of these for sale this past Christmas season that I've concluded we can't warn people enough what a waste of money these are.

It isn't just "sugar" that harms people with diabetes, it is all carbohydrates. But almost all "Sugar free" and "Diabetic" products are full of flour and other starches. Most also contain maltitol or glycerine, which are not technically "sugar" but which break down into carbohydrates on digestion and can raise raise blood to surprising heights. If a "sugar free" food contains Lacitol, another sugar alcohol, it may not raise blood sugar that high, but it may give you a case of the runs that will ensure that your first experiment with "sugar free" products is your last.

If you are considering eating a "sugar free" or diabetic food, examine the nutritional panel closely and ignore any claim that the carbohydrates you see listed on it have somehow been magically relieved of their ability to raise blood sugar. It isn't true.

The one sugar alcohol that doesn't raise blood sugar is erythritol. Sadly, it can no longer be found in sugar free or "low carb" candies, probably because it was much more expensive than cheap maltitol. And even more unfortunately, though you can buy Erythritol at great expense in health food stores or by mail order, I have yet to find any recipe where the stuff you can buy is able to substitute effectively for sugar. It appears to need industrial food science techniques to work properly in candies.

This is only a start. What scams perpetrated on people with diabetes have you observed lately?


chez shoes said...

I consider Big Agribusiness' "whole grain" push to be a scam on everybody, not just diabetics. But especially troubling is how vulnerable newly-diagnosed diabetics are to this, particularly when so many docs and RD's are still telling their diabetic patients to eat whole grains.

We're inundated with messages telling us how important it is for us to eat whole grains, and we have a steady supply of readily available frankenfoods labelled "whole grain" (whole grain Chips Ahoy, anyone??), and this combination is disastrous to anybody who isn't 100% informed about our food supply.

nonegiven said...

OK, technically it's cookies but I made some of these, half teaspoon sized and rolled in erythritol, and they are as good as candy. No laboratory needed. I made some substituting DaVinci syrup for the rum that were also good.

Tim said...

Not sure exactly what you mean by herbal remedies.

I take one per day of a combination of resveratrol (20mg) plus quercetin (120mg) from Life Extensions (, and they do definitely lower my peak blood sugar. I haven't had it tested to see what is in it, but LEF has a good reputation.

I also find that taking 250mg of Magnesium plus 30mg of Zinc per day help quite a bit.

I took GTF Chromium and Silymarin for a while and they also helped, but I started having headaches after 3-4 weeks, so stopped taking them.

Jen said...

How about Dreamfields pasta. In searching the net, some diabetics think it's GREAT. Some say - test your glucose 3-4 hours later because the BG peaks later than expected.

Bob's A1C went up to 6.1. I was expecting 5.6. Pre-prandial and FBG were between 100 and 101. Dinner readings were below 100 for 5 days. Trying to figure it out for a month.

Could it be binging on goodies at our wedding? The last 32 days before the A1C test have the biggest influence - but the binge was only in a 24-hour period about 30 days before the A1C test.

We had three meals with Dreamfields pasta over time. Tested BG one hour after eating - no spike. Preprandial and FBG were normal.

I'm surprised we don't see medical people (doctors or the research literature) weighing in on Dreamfields pasta.

Jenny said...


Unless they themselves have diabetes, which few do, Doctors have no clue how food affect blood sugar. NONE. I tried to explain to my doctor some years ago why I was concerned that I was going to 140 mg/dl at 1 hour after eating 9 grams of carbohydrates, and all he said was, "That's not a bad blood sugar."

Dreamfields slowly raises blood sugar 4 or 5 hours after eating, maybe longer, so if a person has a strong but delayed second phase insulin release as many obese type 2s do, it may work. But for those of us who don't have much insulin production it will raise blood sugars, but not for several hours. People who don't test late miss the spike. For me it results in a higher blood sugar fasting blood sugar.

And if you leave it in the fridge after cooking and heat it up again, many people report that it loses whatever magic it seems to have.

A1cs don't match measured blood sugar. They don't for me, they don't for lots of other people I know including a few who have worn continuous glucose monitors for weeks to see if they were missing highs--but weren't.

I've given up figuring out why. There are lots of guesses, but mostly you have to remember all the data is averages, not individual experience.

Congrats on the wedding and I hope you enjoyed every minute of it, goodies and all!

stem cell girl said...

I am glad that you have a pull no puches attitude but i have one note of caution for you about stem cell treatments. While it is very true that what is currently being marketed to the masses is for the most part alot of BS it is not true that that there is nothng. There is something availble in regards to stem cells and clinical trails have just finished. The reports have not yet been published but will come out in 2008. How do i know this; because I work in this field and I have seen the results. People need to be educated and not be provided false hope but you also must not dash all hope because in the next 18 to 24 mnths viable options will come to light that can improve but not cure this disorder.

Jenny said...

Stem cell girl,

Thanks for the update about the legitimate stem cell research. I'm aware that a lot is going on with stem cells. Just not the cure currently offered by shady outfits that advertise on Google!

2BIG said... owner Kimmer claims her high protein VLCD is great foir diabetics even though it is nutrtionally bankrupt. even advertises it that way as good for diabetics

Anna said...

I am quite alarmed at the promotion of agave syrup/nectar for diabetics and anyone wanting to avoid refined sugars and High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is often found next to sugar and alternative sweeteners at health food stores and grocery stores like Whole Foods and it is quite expensive. I noticed even Trader Joes has their own private label Agave Syrup, further evidence that it is a rising trend. Lately I have even been seeing it as an ingredient in processed organic junk foods. I suspect it will become even more common before long.

However, from what I can gather about agave syrup, no matter how it is produced (enzymatic action without heat or with heat processing), it is very, very high in fructose, perhaps as much as 92% for some brands, according to Wikipedia (labels never indicate fructose %, though, but some brand's websites list the fructose content). Concentrated fructose isn't a good thing, particularly for diabetics. I think the confusion comes from fructose being metabolized in the liver instead of acutely raising glucose and prompting an insulin reponse. But except for honey, fructose in such concentrated amounts is never found in nature. I think the fact that the fructose name is suggestive of fruit confuses people because they generally consider fruit to be exceptionally healthful.

Like regular sugar, frequent, concentrated amounts of fructose aren't good, contributing to obesity, fatty liver, raised triglycerides, increased glycation damage (Advances Glycated Endproducts), etc. So in fact, agave syrup/nectar with its very high fructose content could actually be much worse for diabetics than either table sugar (50% fructose) or HFCS (55% fructose). Yet it is often suggested specifically for glucose control.

And as with many so-called "healthful" foods, many people think if a little is good, more is better. I know many people who use "healthy" or "natural" sugars with abandon because they think somehow the product doesn't have the harmful effects of plain refined table sugar.

Jenny said...


That's a really good point. Thanks for reporting it!

"Health food" stores are full of stuff that is so bad for people. I always feel so sad when I'm in the checkout counter behind some poor overweight person with a shopping cart full of fruit spritzers, low fat granola bars, and enough soy products to lower their thyroid hormones. To say nothing of the $200 worth of useless supplements.

I call Whole Foods the "Temple of Sugar" because so much of what they sell is full of carb and the near-religious atmosphere in which it is sold annoys me no end.

But I've also found that most people who eat the high carb "health food" diet under the illusion it is good for them are not very good at understanding science, don't read, and are naively trusting of the chiropractors, alternative medicine practitioners, and others of that ilk who give them their dietary advice.

And don't get me started on colonic cleansing . . . .