A few months ago, I read The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Progam for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! Published in 2012, the author is Dr. Mark Hyman. I give it three stars per Amazon’s rating system (“It’s OK”). Actually, I came close to giving it two stars, but was afraid the review would have been censored at the Amazon site.
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The book’s promotional blurbs by the likes of Dr. Oz, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Deepak Chopra predisposed me to dislike this book. But it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be.
The good parts first. Dr. Hyman favors the Mediterranean diet, strength training, and high-intensity interval training. His recommended way of eating is an improvement over the standard American diet, improving prospects for health and longevity. His dietary approach to insulin-resistant overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes includes 1) avoidance of sugar, flour, processed foods, 2) preparation of your own meals from natural, whole food, and 3) keeping glycemic loads low. All well and good for weight loss and blood sugar control. It’s not a vegetarian diet.
The author proposes a new trade-marked medical condition: diabesity. It refers to insulin resistance in association with (usually) overweight, obesity, and/or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Dr. Hyman says half of Americans have this brand-new disorder, and he has the cure. If you don’t have overt diabetes or prediabetes, you’ll have to get your insulin levels measured to see if you have diabesity.
He reiterates many current politically correct fads, such as grass-fed/pastured beef, organic food, detoxification, and strict avoidance of all man-made chemicals, notwithstanding the relative lack of scientific evidence supporting many of these positions.
Dr. Hyman bills himself as a scientist, but his biography in the book doesn’t support that label. Shoot, I’ve got a degree in zoology, but I’m a practicing physician, not a scientist.
The author thinks there are only six causes of all disease: single-gene genetic disorders, poor diet, chonic stress, microbes, toxins, and allergens. Hmmm… None of those explain hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis, tinnitus, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinsons disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, or multiple sclerosis, to name a few that don’t fit his paradigm.
Dr. Hyman makes a number of claims that are just plain wrong. Here are some:
– Over 80% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D
– Lack of fiber contributes to cancer
– High C-reactive protein (in blood) is linked to a 1,700% increased probability of developing diabetes
– Processed, factory-made foods have no nutrients
– We must take nutritional supplements
Furthermore, he recommends a minimum of 11 and perhaps as many as 16 different supplements even though the supportive science is weak or nonexistent. Is he selling supplements? You betcha!
After easily finding these bloopers, I started questioning many other of the author’s statements.
I was very troubled by the apparent lack of warning about hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Many folks with diabetes will be reading this book. They could experience hypoglycemia on this diet if they’re taking certain diabetes drugs: insulin, sulfonylureas, meglitinides, pramlintide plus insulin, exenatide plus sulfonylurea, and possibly thiazolidinediones, to name a few instances.
If you don’t have diabetes but do need to lose weight, this book may help. If you have diabetes, strongly consider an alternative such as Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution or my Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll not comment on Dr. Hyman’s substitution of time-tested science-based medicine with his own “Functional Medicine.”
Steve Parker, M.D.