Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 3 November 2013

WDDTY on Type 2 diabetes - not actually dreadful but could be a bit better

Plenty of people have been taking a keen interest in the magazine 'What Doctors Don't Tell You' lately. It positions itself as a health magazine but the advice within it has been shown repeatedly to be unhealthy and often dangerous. Sometimes the information in it is flat out wrong, other times it isn't particularly wrong, perhaps just a  bit preliminary, but that bit of information is given much more weight than is warranted.

I thought I'd take a look at the current issue (November 2013) and see what they had to say about Type 2 diabetes, having previously implied in a headline that you could sunbathe it away (a rather glib approach to the otherwise interesting relationship between Vitamin D and health). I'm afraid you can't sunbathe Type 2 diabetes away.

In this issue I found three main 'things' that mention diabetes, one about intermittent fasting, one about getting more sleep and one frankly loopy one about electricity.

The first two fall into the category of being genuinely interesting information but an awful lot is missed out meaning that it's not clear to readers what they should do with it. The third is plain old silliness and just lets someone spout nonsense for a bit while hinting at products you can buy to detect or solve the non-existent problem.

On page 12 - Fasting improves heart health
Although, given the magazine's title, I can imagine they're reluctant to add this sensible phrase the one thing that's missing from this piece is "speak to your doctor (or a proper dietitian) about any drastic changes you want to make to your diet". I don't think it's particularly controversial to add that, after all people are free to ignore it. I suppose they do say it in their liability statement on page 3 though.

While every care is taken in
preparing this material, the publishers
cannot accept any responsibility
for any damage or harm
caused by any treatment, advice
or information contained in this
publication. You should consult
a qualified practitioner before
undertaking any treatment.

They are reporting on a review, published in the British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease, of several studies looking at calorie restriction and intermittent fasting and its effects on cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The picture shown in the magazine has a plate with a small potato, bit of broccoli and a tomato on it - hopefully this is not provided as a 'serving suggestion'.

Intermittent fasting is a bit less arduous than the 600 calorie semi-starvation diet recently trialled which was widely reported as having 'reversed' Type 2 diabetes. I think it's important to note that the 11 people in that trial were relatively young (late 40s early 50s), had had Type 2 diabetes for just a few years and had HbA1c values of 'rather elevated' rather than 'yikes'. I wrote about this paper when it was published. As such they may not be representative of the wider population of people with Type 2 diabetes. Also, when we're talking about reversing diabetes I want to know more about the effects on long-term complications.

Having said that I think this research is interesting but reporting on it without offering any guidance as to how people might implement it seems a bit cavalier. Let's hope people reading it don't 'down forks' and go hungry.

I'm not medically or dietetically trained so I can't give any useful advice either, beyond go and talk to someone competent (be wary if they're a nutritionist, anyone can say they're that and there's an awful lot of bad practice in the nutrition world).
On page 14 - A lie in helps prevent diabetes
I'd have added 'Type 2' to the title but the rest of the short piece does make it clear. I don't think anyone's going to argue with the idea that getting enough sleep is A Good Thing but the article implies that getting a lie-in at the weekend can undo a week of poor sleep. I'm not sure that that's actually true but I suppose it's better than nothing.

The article also references a study of 19 healthy young men whose insulin response improved after a good night's sleep. I'm not sure that the physiological responses to sleep of these chaps can tell us much about what's going on in someone older and less healthy and who perhaps has other metabolic issues. But fair enough, more sleep is better than insufficient sleep. The article references "The Endocrine Society’s 95th annual meeting, San Francisco, June 18, 2013" but it's not clear if it was a preliminary poster presentation or just something someone said.

On page 60 - Unhealthy rays - is really where they go to town with poor information
"Starting with this issue, we are launching a monthly column on the effects of ‘dirty’ electricity on health and how to protect yourself against it" - utter guff.
They go on...
As Milham once put it: “There is a high likelihood that most of the twentieth century ‘diseases of civilization’, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and suicide, are not caused by lifestyle alone, but by certain physical aspects of electricity itself.”1 How can a leading doctor make such a claim?
:-o is pretty much how my face looked after reading that. I wonder if having electricity also means you're more likely to stay up late, reading by electrically-powered lights (we've just seen that getting less sleep is a bad thing) or perhaps watching an electrically-powered television in a sedentary manner. Or maybe the sort of lifestyle that lets people acquire electricity is the sort of lifestyle that increases the likelihood of certain health problems. I'm not sure I'd leap to the conclusion that the electricity itself was the cause. 

They also blether on about wifi - fortunately this nonsense has already been comprehensively debunked in a post on Electrosmog in the amusingly titled blog "What 'What Doctors Don't Tell You' Don't Tell You".

Speaking of which, after reading Josephine Jones article on the fact that a number of the doctors involved in the WDDTY editorial panel aren't actually doctors I was moved to ask...

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