The Australian Diabetes Council needs to clean up its act.

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It’s Diabetes Awareness Week.  But the Australian Diabetes Council continues to advocate a solution that the science shows will make the disease worse rather than better.  Is their position mere negligent incompetence or is there something more sinister afoot?  Either way it is ordinary people who will pay the price.

Type II Diabetes (90 per cent of all diabetes is Type II) is a disease of carbohydrate metabolism.  Sufferers can no longer properly convert the carbohydrates they consume into energy.  The result is that their blood glucose level is permanently too high.

A permanently high blood glucose level leads to damage to the fine capillaries of the eyes and kidneys as well as the blood vessels transporting food and oxygen to our lower limbs.  Uncontrolled Diabetes will eventually lead to blindness, kidney disease and lower limb amputation.

Every day in Australia nine limbs are amputated because of this disease. Worse than that, it affects more than twice as many people today as it did in the nineties.  And that number is likely to triple in next fifteen years.

You don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that if a person has trouble dealing with carbohydrates they should eat less carbohydrates.  After all that is exactly the approach taken with other similar problems.  For example people who can’t properly digest fats (because their gall bladder is compromised) are advised to eat a lot less fat.

And if that was your hunch you wouldn’t need to look too far for science to back you up.  In 2010 the Harvard School of Public Health published the results of its meta-analysis of the research on the relationship between sugar sweetened drinks and diabetes. They reviewed eight high quality studies which involved 310,819 participants and 15,043 cases of Type 2 diabetes. Each of the underlying studies was significant in its own right and all had been concluded between 2004 and 2010.

All but one of the studies revealed a strong (and significant) association between sugar and diabetes. Taken together they showed that consuming one or more soft drinks (or fruit drinks or vitamin waters) per day would increase your chance of contracting type 2 diabetes by 26 per cent.As convincing as this meta-analysis is, it just confirms what a very strong series of studies (on the link between soft drinks and diabetes) have been saying for the last decade, sugar consumption significantly increases the incidence of type II Diabetes.

Two decades ago (when there were half the number of sufferers there are today) reducing carbohydrates in general and sugar in particular was exactly the advice given.  But strangely the Australian Diabetes Council’s  (ADC) advice to Type II Diabetes sufferers today amounts to advocacy for increasing the amount of carbohydrate.

Yesterday, their Chief Research Officer Dr Alan Barclay told the Today program that Australians hoping to prevent the onset of this terrible disease should eat less fat, less salt and more fish.  He gave no advice about sugar either during that interview or in the similar one he also gave to Alan Jones.  Neither does a word about sugar appear in the detailed booklet on preventing diabetes published by the ADC yesterday.

The official position of the ADC on sugar is that it has nothing to do with Diabetes.  Indeed it “want[s] to end the myth that sugar causes diabetes.” It’s a position which is (strangely) almost identical to the one maintained by CSR Sugar and Nestle Australia.  The ADC instead recommends “that people with diabetes choose at least one serve of a low G.I. food at each meal and snack.”

Sugar is a moderate to low GI food and pure fructose (which is one half of sugar) is the lowest GI carbohydrate available.  It shouldn’t therefore come as much of a surprise that foods high in sugar feature heavily in lists of processed food awarded Low GI certifications.  One type of pure sugar (made by CSR) has even managed to have itself certified as being low GI.

Besides being ADC’s Chief Research Officer (and oft-quoted spokesperson), Alan Barclay has some other strings to his bow. He is also a director and vice-president of the Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF). GIF exists to dispense GI Symbols.

Prospective supplicants submit their fare for testing, pay the ‘testing fee’ and, if adjudged worthy, receive a little blue G that they can display on their labels.  They can leave the proclamation of healthiness on the label for as long as they continue to pay for the privilege with a percentage of their product sales.   Some currently certified foods include, Nestle Milo (46% sugar), a range of Nestle muesli bars (around 25% sugar), USANA Meal replacement shakes (around 27% sugar), CSR’s Low GI Sugar (100% sugar) and of course Danisco pure fructose (100% fructose).

When the ADC exonerates sugar and steers sufferers in the direction of Low-GI foods, they are driving demand for the services of GIF, and the products certified by them.  Doctor Barclay’s involvement in both organisations is a clear conflict of interest (which should, at the very least, be disclosed with every appearance he makes on behalf of the ADC).

The studies linking sugar and diabetes are large, well conducted and reliable yet they are ignored on both the ADC website and in Dr Barclay’s most recent public advice to those seeking to avoid diabetes.

People with type II Diabetes will heed the ADC’s advice.  They will seek out low fat foods (which are usually high in sugar).  They will ignore the sugar content of foods and they will look for foods which bear a Low-GI certification.  This will inevitably increase their sugar intake and the science says they will significantly increase their risks by doing so.

If this was about increasing the risk of your fingernails going green then I would say, so what.    But far more is at stake in this game.  Almost 300 Australians will contract an appalling, life destroying, disease today.  And they’ll be joined by another 300 tomorrow, and another 300 the next day. They will suffer every remaining day of their (foreshortened) life even though the science on how to avoid it has been clear for at least a decade.

I don’t pretend to know ADC’s motivations, but telling at-risk people that it is ok to eat sugar is an extraordinary abuse of a position of trust.  Real people are suffering because of the ADC’s incompetent advice. It needs to clean up its act and it needs to do it now.Type II Diabetes is not a game.

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • The Australian Diabetes Council is bought and paid for by pharmaceutical companies. They exist as a marketing tool for Diabetes drugs and other products flogged to us. Health is not a concern…only money

  • Formerfattie says:

    Rory Robertson (former fattie): Reliable nutrition information is critical in the fight against obesity and diabetes. In Australia, the contribution of excess sugar consumption to obesity has been exonerated by high-profile but over-confident scientists with strong links to the sugar industry and other sugar sellers. No surprises there I guess, but what’s interesting is that this deeply flawed paper with its spectacularly false conclusion was published in a supposedly peer-reviewed science journal. That’s allowed in science? Whatever happened to quality control? I’m arguing for the shoddy academic paper’s retraction by the authors, the journal and/or the University of Sydney. It’s all documented at http://www.australianparadox.com/ If you do nothing else, simply check out whether Dr Alan Barclay and Professor Jennie Brand-Miller’s own charts – Figures 1-4 – show the relevant sugar indicators trending up or down. Why not take part in my $40,000 Australian Paradox challenge (see #12 on LHS)? It’ll only take one minute.

  • How can the ADC sleep at night, and face themselves in the mirror in the morning?

    People developing this tragic disease turn to them for help, not for the infamous Mushroom Treatment. You know the one, keep ’em in the dark and cover ’em with B——t!

    If the sugar industry was relying on this household they would be knee deep in the same ‘medication’
    mentioned above.

    Gae, in Callala Bay

  • Another terrible and oversimplified review of a complex topic. The usual mix of false dichotomies, exaggerated positions and half truths!

    Let’s start with the big ones!

    >The official position of the ADC on sugar is that it has nothing to do with diabetes.< Yet the link actually says “We want to end the myth that sugar causes diabetes. ” – a very different statement, no? >The studies linking sugar and diabetes are large, well conducted and reliable yet they are ignored on both the ADC website and in Dr Barclay’s most recent public advice to those seeking to avoid diabetes< Please re-read the website; http://www.australiandiabetescouncil.com/Resources/PDFs/NDSS-Information-Sheets/INFO-ABOUT-SUGAR-2009.aspx

    When is sugar not the best choice?
    When the food is made mainly from sugar.
    It is best not to eat foods in which sugar is the main ingredient. For example, soft drinks, cordials and lollies have sugar as their main ingredient and don’t provide any additional nutritional value

    Since the study was about Sugar Sweetened beverages, it is obvious that they don’t ignore it on the site!

    The same resource also states;
    When you need to cut down on carbohydrates
    If you’ve been advised to cut down on the amount of energy (calories/kilojoules) or carbohydrate you eat, not eating added sugars can help you to reduce calories/kilojoules and may help you to lose weight and reduce your blood glucose levels.

    How about this one;
    http://www.australiandiabetescouncil.com/Resources/PDFs/NDSS-Information-Sheets/FOOD-CHOICES-2010.aspx
    In general, foods with added sugars should be consumed sparingly (manufacturers sometimes use fruit juice or other sources of sugar to avoid using table sugar). If too much is eaten at one time, they may affect your weight, dental health and overall diabetes control.

    http://www.australiandiabetescouncil.com/Resources/PDFs/NDSS-Information-Sheets/LESS-WEIGHT-MEN-2010.aspx

    • Minimise lollies, chocolates, biscuits and pastries.
    • Minimise processed snack foods (eg: crisps and chips), takeaway and other high fat
    convenience foods.
    • Drink water for thirst and choose diet cordials or diet soft drinks occasionally for variety

    Did you look at the sample meal plans and measure the ‘sugar’ levels???

    >In 2010 the Harvard School of Public Health published the results of its meta-analysis of the research on the relationship between sugar sweetened drinks and diabetes. < You also might want to read the studies that highlight other causes of Type II Diabetes, since you seem to ignore them according to this ridiculous position as stated on 4BC in June
    DG”Type II diabetes is going out of control …… this is a disease which is entirely put down to over-consumption of sugar”
    Radio Host “Entirely?”
    DG “Entirely!’

    I also found this laughable – “Neither does a word about sugar appear in the detailed booklet on preventing diabetes published by the ADC yesterday.” Since the booklet is called “A guide to managing and preventing cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes” – it doesn’t mention preventing diabetes because the target audience already has it!

    >But the Australian Diabetes Council continues to advocate a solution that the science shows will make the disease worse rather than better. < Any references for what ‘the science’ says? Were we talking about the Sugar Sweetened beverage studies, because as we have shown – they DO address those! > Is their position mere negligent incompetence or is there something more sinister afoot?< And we can’t have an article with a suggestion of impropriety can we?

  • I was diagnosed with some ‘insulin resistance and glucose intolerance’ (so pre-type 2 diabetes), even though i had been tested approx 18 times over 10 years and never had a positive test previously, I had one test that did and bam! i was given drugs and told to go on weight loss shakes full of chemicals and (surprise surprise) sugar! I refused the shakes and took a very low dose of medication, weened myself off and have had normal glucose levels since.
    Interestingly when I became pregnant I was classified high risk of Gestational Diabetes. I was told by the hospital doctor that they were in fact reviewing the ranges for gestational diabetes, and were going to lower them (the confirmed GD range would now be even lower than the pre-type 2 diabetes range) thus more and more women will be diagnosed. When researching GD, it is hard to find any evidence that links low range ‘GD’ to large babies or health risks at all, in fact some believe it could be a normal part of pregnancy. Large babies do however have links to high range GD (confirmed Type 2 diabetes patients) who are also greatly obese. Oh, so bigger people have bigger babies? There are also doubts that the glucose tolerance test is replicable, as levels go up and down depending on what has been eaten, metabolism etc. So are more women now destined to be managed and have intervention births due to their supposed high risk of macrosomic (large) babies…
    There is clearly not enough research in this area. The recommended treatment is healthy diet and exercise – which again is fairly vague low GI diet -not low sugar!, though severe cases will be given insulin injections (is this really safe for babies?).

    I did not get GD and am so thankful for the reduced stress and in my eyes, unnecessary clinical management that does not even address dietary sugar!

  • GD and big babies – Hah! When I had my first born (a boy) I was spot on 50 kg, a little light on for my height, my blood sugar was absolutely spot on for the whole pregnancy, and guess what:

    A 10 pound 2 ounce ‘weakling’ (not really, he was a strong little sod.)

    Go figure,

    Gae, in Callala Bay

  • Jane Grey says:

    I sent the link to my sister. She was director of nursing of a large aged care home for many years, and has a diabetic mother-in-law (Anne). She writes in response: “Thank you so very much for sending this. It is just as I feared, the diabetic association are a pack of lunatics. I had come to this conclusion after dealing with them a few years ago with Anne. I could not believe the rot they told her and all the packaged foods that they were promoting was nothing that I would ever have recommended that she ate. I retired wounded, as I had no authority over the great and mighty association. Now I feel vindicated and am so very glad that our hero [David] is on to it!! Should be interesting watch this unfold.”

  • Mike Sumner says:

    Hi,

    thanks David for a great article.

    I recently listented to the ABCs PM Program where Nocola Stokes, the ADCs Chief Executive, stated that diabetes (type 1 and type 2)is increasing by about 8-10 percent a year.

    Here’s the link to the program:

    http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3542094.htm

    Again, incredulous that sugar consumption is not mentioned at all by Nicola.

  • Shaun Owen says:

    Hi David,
    I also baulked when I saw that spiv tell the Today show that we had to eat less fat, and that he said nothing about sugar. I still can’t beleive what I’ve read about the ADC’s stance on the issue! I’ve written my opinions on this in my blog (http://www.shaunowen.com/?p=39) not to detract, of course, from your excellent blogs and articles.

  • Alice Thomas says:

    This is appalling! What are they doing with the research you’ve mentioned? Clearly it’s being overlooked for company profits. Those of us who trust the information you’re sharing David and believe fructose is the killer need to keep up the pressure, things will eventually turn around. I know as a family we’re not going to fall victim to fructose poisoning and we’re also doing our bit to set a good example to those around us.

  • Fran says:

    I knew from the first time I was interviewed by my clinic’s dietician that she was clueless, or simply brainwashed.

    I had been doing my own research ahead of that appointment, after my initial diagnosis, and one look at her meal suggestions explained why there are so many people who are absolutely dependent on the expensive drugs and paraphernalia recommended for the disease.

    I did a ton of further research and found an alternative doctor’s book (Neil Barnard, if anyone is interested), and reversed my symptoms. The dietician was a bit stunned, I’m happy to say.

    It’s hard to believe the ADC can be so misleading for the sake of profit…but, of course, I do believe it. A class action lawsuit should be instigated – not for the settlement, but for the darned principle, and to re-educate people. (At the very least, 60 Minutes should feature it.) You’re a lawyer. Is there no recourse?

  • I agree to the fact that situation become worse since last decade. We have almost the same data statistics as mentioned in this blog while collecting diabetic supply leads.

  • sally says:

    When I was diagnosed with diabetes very early in my first pregnancy, the dietician tools me I should be eating low fat, and went in to give me a diet plan of 240g of carbs / day – far more than I had been eating before diagnosis. I ignore her and ate only about 50 – 100 G / day, maintained an a1c of about 5 even with insulin use, and had a very healthy 7 1/2 lb baby. Since then I still use insulin and still eat low carb, moderate protein, high fast, and still have am a1c of 5. I follow the teachings of Dr Richard Bernstein (Diabetes Solution), he also has sessions on utube “Bernstein Diabetes university”. He teaches that strict carb restrictions and exercise are critical in managing both type 1 and type 2, and that persons with diabetes need to have truly normal blood sugars.

  • […] organisations have also been happy to tell sufferers of Type II diabetes that sugar does not cause their disease.  Meanwhile the […]

  • […] organisations have also been happy to tell sufferers of Type II diabetes that sugar does not cause their disease. Meanwhile the […]

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