As editor of ASweetLife, the Diabetes Magazine, one of my jobs is to block the barrage of comments we receive from people claiming to have cured their own diabetes with a home remedy, or those espousing the instantaneously successful treatment of a doctor whose name appears to be an amalgamation of Latin suffixes. Daily, I delete suspicious comments, things along the lines of a man who claims a donut a day keeps diabetes away, which he can prove because he has been eating a donut a day for the past 52 years and does not have diabetes. He can also sell you donut extract for $4.99 per drop, if you want to avoid all those donut calories. It might be sold on Goop, but I have not checked.
If we get a message proclaiming a one-pill-cures-all-diseases from a devotee of someone with a name like Dr. Abiliusesco, who is only reachable by clicking HERE on this very safe link, it gets marked as spam. But as I bid adios to the snake oils, I do so not only with the satisfaction of obstructing the swindlers and scoundrels, but with a tinge of regret. I grew up with a mother who had an incurable disease. Over the duration of her illness, which progressively worsened, we tried to cure my mother with everything from experimental surgery to bee venom to acupuncture. Though only a young child, I understood we were fighting a battle that was already lost. Those scarce moments of hope, however, that perhaps a charlatan’s newest injection would give way to even the slightest improvement, were glorious. What I’m trying to convey is not that I believe in tossing aside scientific facts and reason, but having worn the shoes of desperation, I feel tremendous compassion for the desolate, and I don’t enjoy being the one to mark hope as spam. Luckily, it’s not all on me. The FDA monitors companies claiming to cure diseases, and a few days ago it issued 14 warning letters and four online advisory letters to companies illegally selling more than 65 products that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure cancer.
Last May the FDA issued a consumer update warning for people with diabetes to beware of illegally marketed diabetes products. The statement said, “As the number of people diagnosed with diabetes continues to grow, illegally marketed products promising to prevent, treat, and even cure diabetes are flooding the marketplace.”
For anyone with type 1 diabetes even the slightest suggestion that there is a cure or a way to live without insulin should elicit an immediate red flag. Or more like a thousand red flags. Yet, the internet abounds with individuals who will attest to curing their type 1 diabetes with diet and supplements. For example, Michelle, a blogger, claimed to have cured herself with the paleo diet. If that doesn’t raise your eyebrows, the dubious comment below the post thanking Dr. Gaga for casting a lucky spell should do the trick. A year later Michelle shared a post called “I’m back on insulin and I quit the paleo-diet.” Chances are Michelle experienced a diabetes honeymoon period, where the pancreas starts working again—though not perfectly—after diagnosis. ASweetLife contributor Katie Bacon explains, “The theory, in layman’s terms, is that the hard-working pancreas has given up the ghost, but then revives a bit after getting the rest that outside insulin injections provide honeymoon phase.” A low carb diet, that puts less stress on the pancreas, may help extend a diabetes honeymoon. However, anyone who publicly claims she’s cured type 1 diabetes with diet and understands that, in fact, she has not, has the responsibility to remove misleading posts, titles, or information. To suggest that a person with type 1 diabetes can live without insulin is not only to give false hope, but it may put a person’s life in danger.
It’s not only personal blogs, that dole out purported cures. A website called GreenMedinfo, founded by Sayer Ji, published an article that says type 1 diabetes is a ‘so-called incurable disease’ whose cure may be in your kitchen cupboard. GreenMedinfo has an endorsement from Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the best selling book, Grain Brain. Dr. Perlmutter calls GreenMedinfo, “An incredibly rich venue of leading-edge scientific, user-friendly, health empowering information.” GreenMedinfo also charges for membership. But the article that suggests a flaxseed treatment cure is free! Other ‘natural’ substances that may help cure type 1 diabetes, include avocado extract, chard extract, and… wait for it… honey! To each her own, but I’ll take a grain brain over a honeyed pancreas any day. And the GreenMedinfo cure-related theory that involves kitchen cupboard remedies is hinged on their ability to regenerate beta cells. Fortunately, there are scientists who’ve looked beyond the kitchen and into the lab. And the challenge of creating insulin-secreting beta cells has, for the most part, been met. What remains to be solved is the problem of the autoimmune attack on beta cells, whether they be the original cells or the tumeric-regenerated ones.
Hopefully, there will be a diabetes cure one day very soon, but until someone other than Mr. Ji, Dr. Perlmutter, and bloggers (understandably) desperate to rid themselves of a chronic illness that requires constant attention, I’m going to side with the Mayo Clinic. “There are no treatments — alternative or conventional — that can cure diabetes, so it’s critical that people who are receiving insulin therapy for diabetes don’t stop using insulin unless directed to do so by their physicians.”
In other words, drinking unicorn milk won’t give you diabetes and it also won’t make it go away. If someone offers you something that sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably a scam. The FDA recommends watching out for these and similar red flags:
“Lowers your blood sugar naturally!”
“Inexpensive therapy to fight and eliminate type II diabetes!”
“Protects your eyes, kidneys, and blood vessels from damage!”
“Replaces your diabetes medicine!”
“Effective treatment to relieve all symptoms of diabetes!”
“Natural diabetes cure!”
To their list I will add that it’s worth being wary of anything with one or more of the following words: natural, supplement, extract, miracle, overnight, free, tincture, elixir, healing, cinnamon, okra, bitter gourd, or the phrase, the simple thing pharma doesn’t want you to know about.
The FDA created a video to alert people with diabetes to fraudulent diabetes treatments. Interestingly, at 13 seconds into the clip, the featured person with diabetes hears a beep, which comes from his glucose meter. His meter shows 425, and he appears to have received this reading without the involvement of a drop of blood or a test strip, which brings the word fraudulent to mind… or maybe it’s just one of Dr. Gaga’s spells. Either way, the FDA should quickly investigate.