What all these doctors have is common is this: little or no experience treating people with diabetes and grandiose claims that they have discovered secrets that will cure or reverse your diabetes. They publish bestselling books that propel them to TV stardom without anyone in the publishing or media community ever checking what happens to people with diabetes who follow their advice.
Barnard, in case you've been living under a rock, is a vegan activist who heads the PETA front group misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. His books claim that the cure for diabetes is a vegan, extremely low fat/high carbohydrate diet--a diet that leaves most people with diabetes fighting ravenous hunger, rollercoastering blood sugars, and advancing complications.
Barnard has no training in endocrinology. He's a psychiatrist who doesn't appear to have practiced much in his specialty. But he is a genius at self promotion and over the years he has promoted himself to where he is on peer review committees funding diabetes research and is a darling of the American Diabetes Association. This should be no surprise. The ADA is so invested in the low fat/high carbohydrate which it has promoted to people with diabetes for decades that they gravitate to anyone whose charisma might postpone the day when America discovers how poorly it has been served by the organization whose flawed advice, maintained in the face of decades of evidence against it, has been killing their loved ones with diabetes.
What you won't find on Barnard's TV show is any advice about testing after meals to see what foods raise your blood sugar, of course. But he's convincing (as so many psychopaths are). So Barnard will retire a multi-multi-millionaire and tens of thousands of people with diabetes who see him on legitimate looking TV shows will end up with unnecessary compliations as a result of eating the diet of grains, fruits, pasta, and soybeans he has convinced them are a healthy diet.
But there plenty of questionable self-promoting doctors who have jumped on the Low Carb bandwagon, too. Dr.(DO not MD) Joseph Mercola is the most notorious. Mercola won his first adherents in the alternative health community by turning against grains. Fine. There are problems with grains and I'd be the first to admit it. Since then he's jumped on whatever is the currently fashionable cure all, (right now it is Vitamin D).
But the problem with Dr. Mercola is that if you visit his site you'll see that he popularizes health ideas that are true (though discovered by others) so that he can sell you cures that are highly questionable verging on the fraudulent. His site funnels you into the "Products" and "Services" sections that sell branded worthless supplements like acai berry, and overpriced items like a $39 Vitamin D spray that will give you the same dose as a bottle of $6 capsules from Walgreens.
But Mercola doesn't stop there. Having lured you in with not entirely unreasonable content (available on hundreds of other sites) he does his best to sell you some some very bogus natural health cures. These include homeopathy, acupressure (though Mercola is NOT a trained acupuncturist, a discipline that takes several years of training), and chiropractic (though Mercola is also not a trained chiropractor). His articles on media outlets like the Huffington Post start out by citing some natural health idea beloved by the alternative health community--something along the lines of the ever popular "Aspartame is poison!" but then seguey into promoting his branded higly fringe cures.
In fact, a careful look at Mercola's credentials suggest he's a marginally trained D.O. with very little clinical experience treating metabolic disease. The hospital he cites on his web site as being the one he was once affiliated with, St. Alexius Medical Center, Hoffman Estates, IL, turns out to be a small Catholic mental health hospital. He is not board certified in any specialty that would suggest he has expertise in treating metabolic disease and his "professional affiliations" are not impressive. Most are fringe groups or things you can join if you have a medical degree and write a check. His publications appear to mostly be letters to various journals citing his personal theories not actual research.
This is not to say that all Mercola's health post are wrong. Only that he picks up ideas from elsewhere and uses them to lure people in so he can profit from selling his questionable products and services. And because he is plugging so much questionable content, his site is not helpful to people with diabetes.
These are just two of the celebrity doctors who want your money and who don't care that they are selling you crap that will not keep you from developing diabetic complications. There are plenty more. My site has become so visible I'm getting inundated with PR mailings from a host of celebrity doctor wannabes, all of whom have in common that they have something to sell and web presences that make it clear they have no clue what it takes to control diabetic blood sugars.
And that is the crux of why I'm posting this. It's one thing when money-hungry celebrity doctors market themselves to "the worried well," all those vaguely hypochondriac people who have nothing wrong with them except, perhaps, boredom or normal age related ailments. The worried well respond strongly to placebos and that is what most of these celebrity doctors' branded products really are.
But it's another issue entirely when they move from fleecing the worried well to pretending they have real solutions for people with diabetes. Diabetes does not respond to placebos.
Diabetes does not reverse in response to any supplement. Chiropractic can not lower your blood sugar. Acupuncture will not cure diabetic neuropathy. There is, in short, nothing any celebrity doctor is selling that will cure your diabetes and a lot that they promote that will make it worse because the false hope they give you keeps you from learning about the tried and true tools that could lower your blood sugar and keep you healthy.
What these effective tools have in common is that they don't require you to buy much beyond a blood sugar meter and possibly some safe prescription drugs any family doctor can prescribe--the most effective of which is $4/month generic metformin.
The only diet that will keep you healthy if you have diabetes is one that keeps your blood sugars below 140 mg/dl (7.7 mmol/L) at all times. What this diet will be varies from person to person. For many of us it will be a diet low in carbohydrate. For a very few who have a rare subset of diabetes where they are fat sensitive it may be one lower in fat. You won't know what diet will control your personal form of diabetes until you employ a blood sugar meter as described HERE. Follow the technique described on that web page and within 2 weeks you should have a very good idea what foods make up a safe diabetes diet for you.
But even that diet will not "reverse" your diabetes, because nothing has ever been shown to truly reverse established diabetes. Diet and medications can stop your diabetes from destroying your body and give you normal health, which is good enough for most of us. It isn't a miracle. It requires self-discipline and daily choices about what to eat and how to use our energy. But it works. Unlike the one-size-fits-all miracle cures of celebrity doctors.
There is no miracle cure for diabetes. It takes work, study, and an annoying amount of daily effort to preserve your health if you have abnormal blood sugar. Doctors who claim to have discovered health secrets usually have one real secret--they've gotten bored with treating patients and have decided to take the quick way to making a fortune and retiring from practice.
How To Evaluate The Credentials of Any Would-Be Celebrity Doctor
When someone with M.D. after his name sets himself up as a diabetes authority--or tells you that he has found "secrets" that will cure all that ails you--ask the following questions.
1. What is this doctor's board certification (if in fact he has one)? An endocrinologist or cardiologist should be board certified and actively practicing in that specialty for years before self-appointing himself an expert. A legitimate doctor should have completed a residency in the field he purports to be an expert in. Look at what medical school the doctor attended too. Brighter doctors get their degrees at schools associated with major teaching hospitals.
2. What hospital does he practice out of? Legitimate doctors have hospital privileges at good hospitals. A doctor who only practices out of his own clinic may be a doctor who was kicked out of his last hospital for harming too many patients or one whose credentials are very marginal.
3. How much time has this doctor spent treating people with diabetes and what evidence is there that his patients do better than the average besides his say so?
4. If his ideas are not mainstream, how much evidence does he give to support them and what is the quality of that research? Typically celebrity doctors will cite only three or four studies--sometimes without giving you any citations to the actual studies. The studies they cite may be small poorly conducted studies that were cherry picked to support the simplistic theory the doctor already came up with before doing any research.
5. What is this doctor selling? The more branded products and non-physician services you see for sale, the more dangerous the doctor is likely to be to your health. Doctors who no longer practice medicine except on TV shows are often the most dangerous to your health because it is years since they've actually treated a patient with a serious medical problem.
6. Does the doctor promise a miraculous cure available only with his products or services or only to those who follow his advice? If so remind yourself there is NO one cure for any form of diabetes. There is no one diet or drug that works reliably for every person with diabetes, either.
7. Check out what real people with diabetes have to say about any celebrity doctor's approach on online discussion groups. You'll see several linked on the right column of this blog. Be aware that there are shills promoting supplements on all online groups, so if you see someone enthusing about something expensive, click on their profile and see if they post about anything besides that supplement or treatment. But besides the shills most online discussion groups have a core of regulars who have been posting for years and whose comments may be useful. Read their opinions before you become just another victim of a doctors whose concern for his own fame and fortune is greater than his knowledge of what it really takes to survive diabetes.