November 29, 2007

Lessons for the Diabetes Community from the Cancer World

I just read a very disturbing book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis. Suffice it to say that if you are easily scared, you should not read this book.

Dr. Davis is a distinguished epidemiologist. Her subject in this book is how the companies that profit from selling cancer causing products coopted the very organizations and government organs set up to "fight cancer." She describes how the American Cancer Society was taken over by people from the tobacco industry who used the mantra, "This needs further study" to keep the organization from letting the public know that as early as the 1930s scientists had proved very conclusively that cigarettes caused cancer, and that the more a person smoked the more likely they were to develop cancer.

The tobacco industry provided a great deal of funding for the American Cancer Society and one way it kept the public from learning how dangerous their products were was to fund research into other obscure causes of cancer, which was done to downplay the role their product was playing in the huge rise in lung cancer that followed the addiction of millions of soldiers to cigarettes in World War I.

An even more disturbing finding that Davis documents is the way that industries that produce cancerous chemicals have for decades paid researchers to research the cancer causing properties of their products and the chemicals used to make their products, but kept their results hidden from the wider scientific community. Companies have known for decades that workers in their plants were dying horrible deaths from exposure to chemicals used in their workplace, but kept this secret. In some industries, chemicals were used that caused 100% of all workers to get cancer after 25 years on the job. Nevertheless though scientists working for these companies knew this, the information was kept completely secret, because revealing it would reduce corporate profits. That people died because of the secrets they kept was just too bad.

What does this have to do with diabetes?

Well, the ADA has had the same role in the diabetes world that the ACS had in the cancer world. Funded largely by companies that make the high carb products that worsen blood sugar and the drug companies that profit mightily when people eat those products, the ADA has fought for decades against letting the public know that it is carbohydrates that raise blood sugar and that people with diabetes can control their diabetes by lowering their carbohydrate intake substantially.

Any time research proves that cutting out most carbohydrates from your diet--especially those supposedly "healthy whole grains"--improves the health of people with diabetes, the ADA says, "More studies are needed." Meanwhile they put their stamp of approval on high carb junk foods made by companies like Campbells "One gram of salt per serving" Soup.

The ADA has put millions of dollars into convincing people with diabetes that sugar is good for them. Not so coincidentally a top ADA sponsor is Cadbury Schweppes, the candy and soda maker. Check out the annotated list of ADA sponsors as of August 2006 . The company has removed the list of sponsors from the page linked on that entry, probably because it was so damning. But their sponsors continue to be companies that sell you food that makes you more diabetic or expensive drugs you will need if you eat that kind of food.

Like the American Cancer Society, the ADA raises huge amounts of money from the victim of the disease their policies have made more widespread. These donors do not realize that just as the ACS's leadership was full of chemical industry and cigarette company lobbyists, the ADA's leadership is not made up of people with diabetes or of doctors, but of laymen whose corporate connections are not made public, but who probably have long histories of connections with the drug and junk food companies.

Just as the ACS kept the public from knowing for 20 years that cigarettes caused cancer, the ADA has fought to keep you from knowing that it is carbohydrates that raise blood sugar and that a "healthy diet" for a person with diabetes is one that does not raise the blood sugar over normal limits.

Recently a news release went out to say that the ADA has decided to soften its long held hostile stance against recommending low carbohydrate diets for people with diabetes. Well, don't get your hopes up. The outcry against their dangerous and outdated dietary advice has gotten so loud they have to do some kind of spin control. But a "diabetes" organization that in 2007 still defines "tight control" as a blood sugar that drops to 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/L) at 2 hours after eating, and does not mention the word "carbohydrate" once on their Tight Diabetes Control web page is not about to tell anyone to stop eating the diet that is killing them. Not when the funds that pay the salaries of the mystery people who run the organization are paid by huge corporate junk food and drug makers.

The venality documented in Davis' book is terrifying. I had naively thought that the mess that is diabetes treatment was the result of our having a non-glamorous disease people think is caused by our own bad habits. Davis' book makes it clear that callous disregard for the public, deceptive advertising, and cooking the research to hide results that might cost some company money are standard operating procedure throughout the health establishment.

The end-of-life repentances of the cigarette and chemical executives who spent their lives misleading people about the safety of their products do not begin to atone for the hundreds of thousands of people they killed. Will the ADA executives and their self-serving sponsors who fund the organization to ensure that their products continue to find a market, ever come to grips with the way they have caused generations of Americans to go blind, lose their feet, and go on dialysis?

Probably not. After all, unlike those cigarette industry folks who eventually got cancer from their own product, the ADA denizens don't have diabetes, they only profit from it.


Big boss said...

well friend, for fighting any disease you mostly need determination & courage, specially cancer or diabetes.

cancer survivor

Scott S said...

Sad, but entirely believable. The ADA's nutrition guidelines are so badly outdated, and the partnerships the ADA has signed with processed food companies are even more embarrassing. Can anyone tell me why Log Cabin Syrup is an official ADA food? That is certainly not an appropriate partnership in any way, yet the ADA logo is emblazoned on the label.

Sad commentary on what diabusiness has become.

Eopper said...

Quite agree with the article. ...and it does make me angry when I see in DB magazines recipe with white potatoes or noodles. These are the experts at keeping us chained. I have had 3 doctors shout at me because they think I should be on meds(because that is all they know no evil just ignorance). Type 2 controled with diet and exercise/dx 11/99 68 white male with good eyesight(most of the time). Mom died of old age and DB at 94.

The Old Man and His Dog said...

I just want to thank you for your wonderful blog. I discovered it yesterday and have been reading ever since. For a while I thought I might be the one lone crazy person that felt every Dr that I've seen was useless. I've received more GOOD information from your blog in 1 day than I have from many Drs since I have been diagnosed with type II in Sept 1995. Seems most of the Dr's are less informed then the patients and pretty much all they no how to do is put us on the prescription merry go round. Try this for a while and try that is this doesn't work or try this in combination with that for a while. All the while the Dr's don't even know what the drugs do, but just prescribe whatever the latest "cheerleader" has told them to push. I'm so tired of it. And the ADA diets NEVER made sense to me. I thought maybe I was missing something or was stupid. Just never made sense to eat that much in carbs.

I now have better goals than any dr could possibly give me. My latest a1c is 8.1 thanks to all the Drs advice I've received. I have better goals now. I plan to join the 5% club. Thanks again!!!


Jenny said...


Thanks for the very kind words about the blog. Come back and let me know when you reach the 5% range! The more, the merrier!

Bernard said...


This is a great write-up, thanks.

What shocks me is how long I believed the junk that ADA was feeding all of us. My eyes are truly opened now.

Dr. William Davis said...


Wonderful post. I, too, have been shocked by the outrageous bunk that emerges from the ADA.

It unfortunately reminds me of what I see from the American Heart Association, the sort of financial games that created the "Heart Healthy Check Mark program" proudly borne by Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp cereal, and Berry Kix.

Robert Rister said...

I had a long talk with a retired director of the ADA in my home state, Texas, about this subject maybe six or seven years ago. His take was closer to yours than you might imagine, but the people he was trying to reach was a subset of south Texas diabetics who live on an all-carbs-except-lard diet and typically have HbA1C's in the 20+ range. It's not uncommon in the Rio Grande Valley for people to suppose "you are just supposed to feel bad" after the age of 40. The state doesn't assist with testing or medication (at least the last time I checked) for families with total incomes over $453 a month.

For people with uncontrolled type 2 (and there are tens of thousands of them in Texas) the ADA diet is a drastic improvement. My friend told me it was important to recruit the assistance of companies who, unfettered, could make the situation even worse. While I most certainly do understand what you're saying, and I endeavor to keep my HbA1C's to 5.0 myself, I'm less inclined to condemn an incremental approach--after all, those of us who have the luxury of reading and understanding this discussion don't need the ADA to tell us how to manage our disease. There are others who would be worse off without them, as hard as it may be to believe.

While I have a different perspective on this one issue, I greatly appreciate your blog. It's a tremendous service to diabetics. Thank you!

Jenny said...


If the ADA cared about the poor, they would have done something to investigate why, while every other electronic device you can buy has dropped in price dramatically, meters and strips have risen in price over the last decade.

They'd have put their weight into joining the outcry for a fairer health insurance system in this country. One that doesn't depend on where you live and how wealthy you are.

Any organization that represented the concerns of PEOPLE with diabetes would have done this.

To argue that their suppressing all mention of the fact that carbohydrates raise blood sugar somehow helps the poor seems pretty lame to me. Poor people are poor, but they aren't dumb. In Jame's Hirsch's book about the history of diabetes, Cheating Destiny, one of the only Type 2s he interviews is a Black woman from the South who laments about how people in her community don't get the same information about how to treat diabetes that wealthier people get and are told by doctors that high blood sugars are "just a touch of sugar."

Imagine what might have happened if the ADA had put its huge resources into getting good information to poor people, and perhaps making the public aware that instead of channelling the huge amounts of money that go into treating people on medicaid AFTER they need dialysis and amputations into they might instead give them access to the kinds of foods that could avoid both.

But the owners of national chains of dialysis centers probably fund the ADA too. They ought to, since the ADA's policies guarantee them a steady stream of new customers.

Robert Rister said...

My point was not to defend or indict the ADA. I believe we'd all be better off if they became simply irrelevant, and in the more or less distant future, they will.

My point was that even an ADA-style diet including whole grains and dried fruit can be an improvement over beans, lard, tortillas, and rice or 7-11 hot dogs and Big Gulps. Or that doing no home testing at all and maintaining HbA1C's of 10-12 is preferable to doing no home testing at all and maintaining HbA1C's of 25.

Having grown up in a family of migrant workers in south Texas, being poor is not a purely cerebral concept for me. The one thing I know for sure is that complaining that someone else isn't helping the poor, isn't helping the poor. So I have a suggestion. If you'd like your blog translated into Spanish and the word to get out to some Rio Grande Valley communities where to find the la otra informaciĆ³n on the net, congratulations, you just got the translation help to do it. And you won't even have to put up with my opining that testing is not all there is in diabetes care.

Linda said...

[quote]It unfortunately reminds me of what I see from the American Heart Association, the sort of financial games that created the "Heart Healthy Check Mark program" proudly borne by Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp cereal, and Berry Kix.[/quote]

I just blogged about this very thing recently.

Jenny, I am adding you to my recommended blogger list. This is an awesome post. I became interested in type 2 after my dad and 3 friends were diagnosed. I knew with my obesity and family history, I was headed the same direction.

It is sad more information is coming from bloggers instead of the "experts" who are getting paid.

Jenny said...


If you'd like to put up a Spanish translation of this blog I'd greatly appreciate it. Email me at

Unknown said...

Fabulously written.

I'm a nursing student, I see this nonsense everyday. It's horrible. The only thing that keeps me sane is knowing one day I can do something to make a difference... I want to be a nurse practitioner working with patients with weight problems and/or diabetes. Every time I tell people of my plans they invariably say "oh well compliance is the issue". No it's not. Confusion and ignorance is the issue because the education for diabetes/obese people is a combination of lacking and totally WRONG (so, why should a diabetic or an obese person eat your low cal low fat diet only to become fatter and more diabetic long term?).

Anyway. Yea, great blog great post :)

Anonymous said...

Another wonderfully written and 100% on point posting. Thank you! Ignoring the ADA is what let me get my a1c down from 9.1% when I was diagnosed in January to 5.2% at last test this October. Jenny's "For the Newly Diagnosed" FAQ was the single best piece of information/advice I've found and I send it to every new diabetic I run across and hope to hell the person reads it and assimilates the advice BEFORE they get hit with the ADA propaganda from the average CDE or nutritionist who hasn't a clue about what really works: carbohydrate restricition.

For me, ignoring the ADA was second nature. I've already lost one family member to heart disease after being on the transplant list for three years. My family member followed the AHA association to the letter, and in retrospect that decision played a huge part in his death in his 40s.

Jenny said...


My condolences on the tragic death of your family member.

I just wanted to make it clear that while I assiduously promote the "Newly diagnosed" FAQ I did not write it.

That honor goes to another woman, named Jennifer who was a long time participant in A.S.D but who no longer posts there.

The similarity of our names has long been a source of confusion. My nickname which I use in daily life and online posting is "Jenny" but my actual name is "Janet" not "Jennifer."

Anonymous said...

Ooops! Sorry for the incorrect attribution for the FAQ. Your blog is a continual source of great information and good reading. Thank you for all the good information and suggestions you post.