This post is a critique of the advice I have read and heard by a so called ‘low carb diabetes expert’, Jason Fung. I’m writing this post to alert people to the fallacies, half-truths and potentially harmful advice Jason Fung has given.
- Fung wrongly demonizes exogenous (injected) insulin
- Fung trivializes elevated blood sugar levels
People need to learn to question everything, even the advice from so called ‘low carb gurus’ like Fung. Fung continues to make ridiculous claims and use laughable analogies… see if you agree.
The goal of every diabetic and every person on the planet should be truly normal blood sugar levels. Our bodies were designed to maintain a tight range of blood sugars, the pancreas secretes insulin when blood sugars exceed these tight ranges. It is THAT important.
My Diabetes Story
I was an obese, drug and insulin dependent diabetic. On the day of my diagnosis (2/15/09) I was told that I would likely be on drugs and insulin the rest of my life.
By the end of the next month I had weaned off of all drugs and insulin with ‘diabetic normal’ blood sugars. Later in 2009 I achieved consistent ‘non-diabetic’. truly normal blood sugars, drug and insulin free.
Except for pain medication due to a biking accident, I have been completely drug and insulin free since March 2009 and I was once a Big Pharma cash cow.
I accomplished this with a three pronged approach.
1) I took insulin as prescribed. I also took Actos but I do not advise that today and do not believe Actos had any significant lasting affect on lowering blood sugars.
2) I reduced my carbohydrates lower and lower, consistently.
3) I exercised, including cardio and weight resistance.
This three pronged approach is critical to my success. In less than 1 1/2 months I weaned off of all drugs and insulin. I credit the injecting of insulin four times a day for allowing my pancreas to rest while I cranked down the carbohydrates.
When I was diagnosed, my A1C was ‘too high to read’. By May 26, 2009 my A1c had sunk to 5.8%, in the fall of 2009 it was at 5.2%.
Note: Not only did my insulin requirements decrease but my blood sugars reduced as well, in a safe and orderly fashion.
Also during the time I began injecting insulin, I was losing weight. If you reduce carbohydrates, injecting insulin does not mean weight gain as Fung falsely believes.
1) Elevated Blood Sugars are harmful to every single cell in the body. Elevated blood sugars are so toxic the body creates insulin to remove the sugar from the blood stream.
Results of elevated blood sugar? Organ damage, amputations, blindness and early death but another is elevated insulin levels. The pancreas pumps out more and more insulin attempting to bring down the blood sugars to normal levels. Over time, due to the excessive insulin, cells become insulin resistant..
The root cause? Elevated blood sugars. Reduce the blood sugars.
Elevated insulin levels are harmful.
Elevated insulin levels are associated with many health problems … AND elevated insulin levels lead to insulin resistance. I do not know of ANYONE with common sense and a basic knowledge of biology who disagrees with this.
This is NOT new news, this is NOT a revelation.
Diabetes is NOT curable
I know, there are reports of cures all the time. Those who claim cures are typically promoting themselves, a book or a snake oil. However, they all fail to meet the criteria below.
a) Truly Normal Blood Sugars. Those who claim to be cured of their diabetes do not obtain and maintain truly normal blood sugars.
Most of those claiming to have been cured maintain ‘diabetic normal blood sugars’, but none maintain normal blood sugars for non-diabetics.
However, maintaining non-diabetic normal blood sugars alone does not mean you have ‘cured’ diabetes. You could be someone like me. I still have insulin resistance; I simply successfully self-treat my diabetes with diet and exercise.
My personal targets: To to obtain and maintain truly normal blood sugars, I lay out my case in this post, “My Blood Sugar Targets and Why“. In brief bad things happen when fasting blood sugars rise above 100 mg/dl (5.5 mmol/l) therefore my targets are 60-90 mg/dl fasting, try to stay below 100 mg/dl (5.5 mmol/l) but not to exceed 120 mg/dl (6.7 mmol/l).
I maintain truly normal blood sugars but NOT even I claim ‘cure’.
b) Successfully take an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) consuming 75 grams of sugar and be below 200 mg/dl at one hour and below 100 mg/dl at two hours. If you accomplish this, then by a medical standard you will no longer be a diabetic.
I have been below 100 at two hours, but I was above 200 at one hour .. so I am close! But again, I have improved insulin resistance but I do not claim a cure. I would love to claim a cure but that would be a lie.
c) General Claims, No Details. The most frustrating of the ‘cure’ claims are people who just claim “I’m off all diabetes drugs and I am cured”. Note to self, if you are going to claim you are cured from a disease that’s destroying the lives of over 300 million people worldwide … bring a few details please.
You do not have to post your blood sugars all over social media and in a blog like I do… but at least bring some evidence so it can be verified or vilified.
I lay out my strategy for obtaining and maintaining non-diabetic normal blood sugars in this ebook, “How to Reduce Blood Sugars“.
I follow a VERY Low Carb Meal Plan eating 10 – 15 grams of carbs or less per day. Here is the low carb paleo meal plan I advocate. I also promote fasting and intermittent fasting to achieve weight loss and blood sugar targets.
I laid out my targets, my plan and I have shown you my results.
Next let’s talk about the Accord Study briefly.
Accord study is so flawed I mocked the study in this post, “This Accord is no Honda“. I urge you to read it or at least skim the post now. In brief the flawed study has been used by the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators to promote poor blood sugar control.
In the post I wrote, “Hardly a day goes by that some ADA Minion or ADA “newsrag” does not write an article supporting poor glucose control and cites the ACCORD studies as a source.”.
This is a quote from the actual study.
“As compared with standard therapy, the use of intensive therapy to target normal glycated hemoglobin levels for 3.5 years increased mortality and did not significantly reduce major cardiovascular events. These findings identify a previously unrecognized harm of intensive glucose lowering in high-risk patients with type 2 diabetes”
What the above quote is saying? Blood sugar control is not effective and the study claims that blood sugar control can actually be harmful.
This advice HARMS MILLIONS of people every single day.
The Accord studies (and similar studies) were ALL based on participants who were on a high carb, ADA style meal plan. That is why the studies were flawed. Anyone who knows anything about diabetes knows that a ‘carb up and shoot up’ approach to diabetes is a losing proposition.
The studies were NOT a condemnation of tight blood sugar control (although that was the claim), it was a condemnation of the failed policies of the Medical Industry.
Low Carb / Paleo Against Accord Studies
There were other ‘low carb’ voices speaking out against the Accord studies… prominent people, not just me. :)
The Nutrition and Metabolism Society created a petition and Dr. Davis of Wheat Belly fame shared the information on his earlier “Heart Scan” blog.
Also Dr. Kenneth Tourgeman who is an Nephrologist, came out against the Accord studies as well. In regards to the Accord studies Dr. Tourgeman states:
My opinion: Of course, they treated the blood sugars but the pro-inflammatory diet did not change.
So therefore, in one hand the patients had “healthy foods” (honey, juice, whole wheat breads, pastas, sports drinks with crystalline fructose, oatmeal, granola bars, etc.) and in the other hand anti-diabetic pills +/- insulin.
It is like a drug addict injecting heroin in one arm and in the other arm simultaneously injecting the antidote. Makes no sense
Tight blood sugar control with a very low carb diet works… it works every time!!
Tight control with a high carb, carb up and shoot up diabetes protocol does not work.
You can view all of this on my post, “This Accord is NO Honda“.
I believe it’s obvious to any un-biased person it’s not “tight control” that is dangerous to diabetics. It’s tight control while attempting to follow the high carb “carb up and shoot up” meal plan of the ADA or the Standard American Diet.
Before we move forward, here is a picture of MY fasting blood sugar yesterday.
I did use tight control to control my blood sugars. It worked for me and it works for EVERYONE who tries it, safely and effectively.
Do NOT believe those who deny this… even it is a low carb ‘expert’ like Jason Fung.
I first heard of Fung a year or so ago. People sent me his videos and I could not tolerate listening to them; they were filled with half-truths and out right falsehoods.
I’ll examine a blog post and a video so you will see proof of the claims I am making against Fung.
Note: Jason Fung is an Nephrologist. A nephrologist is a medical doctor who specializes in kidney care and treating diseases of the kidneys
Medical doctors are often wrong.
As you will see, Fung bases much of his protocol and public statements on the previously mentioned, flawed Accord Study.
It boggles my mind that a ‘low carb expert’ would not be able to grasp the errors in the flawed Accord Studies. After all, I … as a simple lay person saw it.
Guess who agrees with the American Diabetes Association that tight blood sugar control is ineffective? Fung. In fact I think you’ll see that Fung bases his entire protocol on failed studies advocating poor blood sugar control.
Fung’s distaste for tight control is based on a faulty premise.
His claims that blood sugar control is ineffective are all regurgitated non-sense, regurgitated from the flawed Accord study.
We know why the ADA and their minion support the Accord study; it’s because tight control is impossible to achieve and even it it is achieved, their high carb meal plans cause roller coaster effects of soaring highs and crashing lows… which ARE harmful to the body.
Why does Fung not see that? Ignorance? Alternative motives? … I don’t know.
First Fung’s Post
I have started writing this post several times and stopped. Why? Just like the American Diabetes Association, Fung speaks in ‘half-truths’ and unraveling the lies is time consuming.
I kept hoping others would expose his ridiculous claims but … no one stepped up to the plate, in fact many ‘low carb experts’ embrace him.
I do not know if Fung’s falsehood’s are out of ignorance or if he’s purposely deceptive but regardless of the motivations, his advice can be harmful.
Ironically , I find falsehoods in his post, ‘The Two Big Lies of Type 2 Diabetes“.
The other big lie in the treatment of type 2 diabetes is that ‘it is all about controlling blood sugar’. Actually, it makes virtually no difference at all.
Remember the Accord study? He’s regurgitated and paraphrasing the study here. Telling diabetics that blood sugar makes no difference at all is in a word or two, appalling and irresponsible. I said the same thing when the ADA was spewing such nonsense, the same non-sense Fung is repeating.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Elevated blood sugars are toxic to every cell in the body.
If you want your body to heal, you need to obtain and maintain normal blood sugars.
I have reduced all known diabetes complications and I am still completely drug and insulin free, controlling blood sugars is THE KEY.
The high blood sugar is only the symptom, not the disease. Therefore, treating the symptom alone is useless.
Again Fung is wrong. Elevated blood sugars requires more and more insulin which causes insulin resistance.
Controlling blood sugars while eating a low carb, paleo style meal plan will reduce blood sugars and reduce insulin requirements at the same time.
Lastly, from his blog post…
In order to treat/ cure diabetes, you must reverse the insulin resistance.
Fung claiming to know how to cure diabetes and people let him get away with this claim? Why would he make such a claim? Is he deliberately misleading people or is he ignorant?
Next, let’s take a look at quotes from his video, “How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes“.
First the title… I almost ‘laughed out loud’ when the screen displayed the message below.
I didn’t know if the next slide was going to involve ancient aliens sending Fung a secret message. :)
This is more evidence of his hype, as if Fung has ‘special’ knowledge that he is about to be REVEAL. Fung is NOT revealing anything new.
As you’ll see he only rehashes what many of us ‘low carb paleo’ adherents already know, the problem is he takes the good, jumbles it up and after regurgitating it, he gets it wrong.
I can criticize so many statements but that would turn this post into a book. I will address the main points.
Fung starts out by belittling the importance of treating elevated blood sugars… a theme we’ve noted in his blog post.
At the 2:30 point, Fung makes the analogy that diabetes is like an infection and elevated blood sugars is like a fever caused by the infection. His point is that the infection should be treated and not the fever.
This is an example of Fung being half right. Here is a quote in response to Fung’s statement from Terran Murphy, I couldn’t say it better myself. :)
“High blood sugar is a symptom of diabetes, but some symptoms must be treated. High blood sugar damages every cell in the body. A fever exists to help the body kill the infection, a normal bodily function. High blood sugar is not a normal bodily function.”
Well said Terran! The analogy Fung chose is wrong and it is the basis for his harmful advice.
Just to restate this AGAIN. Elevated blood sugars cause excess insulin and insulin resistance! Reduce blood sugars with a very low carb diet, exercise and insulin if needed. Blood sugars and insulin levels will reduce.
3:08 ‘so you can see that controlling high blood sugars actually doesn’t do anything for you because you are not actually treating the disease, the disease actually continues to progress.”
Half truths and quite possibly the most harmful advice I’ve ever heard. Note that once again he’s using quotes from the Accord study, blood sugar control works every single time with a very low carb meal plan.
Fung making these blanket statements that controlling blood sugars is useless is harming people.
This is where he really falls off the tracks…
3:20 “Up to about five years ago, we thought that treating the sugars would make you better…. it actually didn’t make any difference you still got complications of diabetes… ”
Fung doesn’t list them here but he did in twitter. He’s talking about the Accord study and others. He’s basing his potentially harmful protocols on a flawed set of studies that were designed in my opinion to support a high carb based meal plan.
I will skip ahead to the 6:57 minute mark of this 35 minute video.
6:57 “…as you get higher insulin levels you get higher insulin resistance, as you get higher insulin resistance you get higher insulin levels, it’s a vicious cycle.”
This is ONLY true if you eat a high carb meal plan as promoted by the ADA and as was used in the Accord studies. It gets worse… this next statement is why I wrote this post in the beginning.
Fung is demonizing the injecting of insulin. He is wrong and he is harming people.
7:05 “in fact treatment with insulin now is not simply not effective it’s actually making things worse … it’s actually making your diabetes worse by taking your insulin.”
Complete and utter non-sense. Possibly the most ignorant and harmful statement I have ever heard, and certainly the most preposterous statement I’ve heard from a ‘low carb diabetes expert”.
The fact that people do not call him out on this disgusts me.
He goes on…
“What is actually causing the disease [insulin] is what you are treating it with. That’s never going to work.”
Fung is wrong, in fact treating diabetes with insulin and a low carb approach works EVERY TIME. He does not know what he’s talking about.
The cause of diabetes is complex but the cause is definitely NOT insulin. I can only repeat again, elevated blood sugars are the cause.
“treating diabetes with insulin is like treating alcoholics with alcohol. It’s the exact same thing.”
Oh god… the ignorance! Diabetes and insulin are nothing like alcoholics and alcohol.
I make the analogy all the time that diabetes and carbohydrates are like alcoholics and alcohol. THAT is exactly the same. You see, people need insulin … they do not need alcohol.
People are not addicted to insulin, people can be addicted to carbs and alcohol.
The ‘doctor’ is going to extremes making up these false analogies to promote his idea that insulin is the enemy.
ELEVATED INSULIN is the enemy as is ELEVATED BLOOD SUGARS.
How do you reduce them both? … cut carbs, exercise and take drugs or insulin if needed.
And finally this… skimming the video, just looking at screen shots, I can’t stand hearing him state untruths or at best half-truths when I saw this. Fung is stating that this patient’s A1C remained fairly stable for the first two to three time periods. Then notice the climb, there is one more data point you can see briefly when Fung moves his head, but it’s even higher… coming close to approaching 7 % A1c.
Only a biased person would call that stable.
A1c’s of (6) are too high… and here Fung seems proud his patient originally was in the mid 6’s before Fung’s protocol. By the way, an A1c of 6 is approximately an average of 126 mg/dl and Fung’s patient was going far above that.
My maximum desired level is 120 mg/dl. I don’t like to go above 100 mg/l. But Fung seems quite pleased that his patient’s A1c is rising.
In the next ‘scene’ Fung shows a slide showing that the patient’s insulin usage decreased and by the 6th week the patient was off all insulin. This ties in well with the above picture of the A1c increasing. Remove insulin and blood sugar rises.
This is not a good thing.
Given Fung’s demonizing of insulin Fung and the patient believe this is a GOOD THING!
Fung says at about the 19:50 mark.
“his sugars are doing fine and he’s off all of his medications” (including insulin)
Bull Shit. Then he adds a stunner.
‘His levels of A1c are no longer at a level where you could make the case that he is diabetic. In other words you could say that his diabetes has been cured. “
So much deception and lies in one statement. Or … so much ignorance.
The patient’s A1cs are getting worse since removing insulin.
The patient STILL has elevated blood sugars that are causing him harm while raising risks for neuropathy and dementia.
The patient’s pancreas is still overworking… attempting to produce the insulin needed to obtain normal blood sugars.
The patient is STILL DIABETIC.
Fung has purposely or due to ignorance lied to this patient.
AND he’s lying to everyone.
As a nephrologist Fung must be aware of the damage elevated blood sugars cause to cells and organs in the body. He can not really believe that a patient with an A1C of 6+ (and trending higher) is healthy.
And keep in mind, Fung’s strategy is still taxing the patient’s pancreas … 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at those blood sugar levels.
Compare Fung’s results with my own, from ‘too high to read’ to 5.8 in three months. Fung’s patient went from low 6’s to upper 6’s…. in roughly the same time period.
And by me continuing insulin until I reached normal blood ranges, my pancreas rested and I maintain truly normal blood sugars, drug and insulin free.
I reduced and weaned off insulin as well but only as my blood sugars reduced. When I had reached ‘normal’ levels … I weaned off drugs and insulin.
Is his protocol successful?
For some, but the answer depends on your definition of success.
Yes it does work at reducing blood sugars for some, but just about any reasonable diet will do that when transitioning from a Standard American Diet (SAD). Vegan diets will reduce blood sugars for those formerly on SAD, but like Fung’s example above it does NOT produce truly normal blood sugars and certainly would not be considered optimum. That’s not my definition of successful.
Success is obtaining and maintaining truly normal blood sugars, normal for non-diabetics.
I also find fault with Fung’s ‘marketing’ …
Claiming to reveal ‘ancient secrets’, claiming cures when patients still have damaging elevated blood sugars … demonizing and encouraging people to stop taking insulin when their blood sugars are …
1) Elevated before insulin reduction.
2) Trending upwards after insulin cessation
…. is irresponsible and harmful.
Fung’s only saving grace is that he promotes a low carb meal plan with fasting but so does everyone I know in the ‘low carb paleo’ universe. That’s certainly not unique.
What makes Fung unique is the basing of his protocols on a failed study and being blind to the harm he has caused people.
Some may think that my tittle is too harsh… I agree. I apologize to all of the friendly and beneficial fungi … for associating you with Fung.
(Thanks to Lisa Purro for the idea of this last sentence).
Thanks to Terran Murphy for editing. :)