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Ontario Optometrist Beseeches Canadian Health Minister To Seriously Consider Low-Carb For Diabetics

Posted Aug 18 2009 11:05pm

A reader’s encounter with Canadian Minister Of Health Promotion Margarett R. Best

I’ve always maintained that any major changes that are going to happen with the low-fat dietary recommendations in the United States and in other industrialized countries around the world is going to have to happen at the grassroots level first from concerned citizens and medical professionals who say enough is enough with the same old failed methods for weight loss and disease control. We have already seen it happening in the nation of Sweden the past couple of years and now it seems to be moving to North America–in Canada!

Ontario-based optometrist Dr. Jim Bjork, a carbohydrate-restriction advocate out of necessity because of his Type 2 diabetes, has corresponded with various people in positions of power over health and nutrition policy in recent months. He shared quite a bit of information with the Canadian Diabetes Association, including links to web sites like mine to show them there are alternatives to the high-carb, low-fat diet they are promoting for diabetics. Here is the dismissive e-mail Dr. Bjork received in return:

Dear Dr. Bjork,

Thank you for sending the CDA these web sites to scan, which we have done. As you indicated, most of this information is not new and some of it is controversial. There have been a lot of discussions about the various diets through the years – low carbohydrate diets, high fat diets, and high protein diets. We at the Canadian Diabetes Association do not endorse any one specific program/diet/approach.

The dietary approach you describe has been working for you. However, every person with diabetes is different. Our evidence-based 2008 Clinical Practice Guidelines recommend people with diabetes follow Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide for a balanced, healthy approach to eating. This involves consuming a variety of foods from the 4 food groups (vegetables and fruits; grain products; milk and alternatives; meat and alternatives). In addition, nutrition therapy and meal planning should be individualized for people with diabetes to accommodate age, needs, culture, lifestyle, economic status, activity level and readiness to change, all of which must be planned with a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.

If you would like to advance your area of interest and experience with low-carbohydrate diet and diabetes, we suggest you define your work within the scope of a formal research project, affiliated with scientific researchers in an academic institution.

Best wishes as you continue your work.

The Canadian Diabetes Association

Translation: we don’t give a rip about your “evidence” about low-carb and are content with doing things the way they are now–regardless of the lack of any measurable success in lowering diabetes rates and making people healthier. What a shame, but it’s becoming more and more that way as these last vestiges of the low-fat lie are holding on for dear life. I do believe that someday soon it’s all going to break free and the low-carb message will be embraced by groups like this. We’re already seeing it start to happen with the American Diabetes Association in 2008 when they started promoting low-carb alongside low-fat for diabetics to aid in weight loss for up to one year. Of course, you and I know that livin’ la vida low-carb is about so much more than weight loss–ESPECIALLY FOR DIABETICS!

But Dr. Bjork wasn’t finished yet. Not content with the generic answer he received back from the CDA regarding his serious concerns, he decided to take his message to the top of the food chain on health in the Canadian government–the Minister of Health Promotion Margarett R. Best! Addressing her with the highest level of respect, Dr. Bjork laid out all of his concerns with the present system and why real change is needed immediately. As a fellow ambassador for low-carb living, I could not be prouder of what Dr. Bjork wrote explaining his personal connection to this very timely issue:

Dear Madam Minister,

It is true the costs of health care are rising, and are very likely to continue to do so. Our population is aging. Health care currently seems to be better than what we’ve had in the past if and only if it is accomplished though the use of increasingly expensive, high-tech equipment. We are attempting to repair problems rather than prevent the problems from developing in the first place.

The diet information I’ve previously sent to you outlines a common sense approach to maintaining proper function of the various organ systems of the body. It is based, in part, on current clinical research, and on the examinations of diets of indigenous people who are long gone. These people survived on the food they found in the places where they lived, and could not rely on food flown in from halfway around the world. Analysis of their fossil remains seems to indicate they did not succumb to most of the degenerative diseases that are so common for us now.

Exercise is only half of the battle. I have three boys aged 19, 18 and 16. With current curriculums (high school having lost one year, for instance) there is little time for physical education when students are expected to learn what is necessary for life and/or secondary education in a shortened time frame. Add to this the need for summer jobs, the negative influence of sedentary activities like computer, video games, text messaging, etc. and it is apparent we’ve let the pendulum swing way off center.

Professional associations such as the Canadian Diabetic Association eventually exist to ensure their own survival. Is a disease without signs or symptoms still a disease? They survive because of corporate sponsorship, a lot of which is inappropriate and places the organization in a conflict of interest.

In the case of the C.D.A., their acceptance of funds from food producers and from drug companies places any of their advice in question, however they have been sure to enshrine themselves as the gold standard in dietary advice. The same situation exists with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which by their acceptance of, and their parroting of, the dietary recommendations of the C.D.A., encourages and ensures a continuing supply of strokes and heart attacks. Their largest fundraising event is the Becel Walk for Heart. Madam Minister, if you use margarine yourself or supply it to your family, please allow me to provide you with information regarding the dangers of this product.

If the information these organizations provide really helped people, then we would see a decrease in the incidence of the diseases of their mandate. Has the incidence of diabetes gone down? Has the incidence of heart attacks and strokes decreased?

You mention that evidence exists that many cases of diabetes can be prevented–I would ask you to contact the Head Nutritionist at the Canadian Diabetic Association. I have been successful at getting an initial phone conversation with her and I sent her almost the same information that I did you. Eventually I received an e-mail letter from the Canadian Diabetic Association and it states that the C.D.A. is quite content with their current recommendations and thanked me very much for my interest.

They further suggest that to continue my investigations, I should perform a scientifically-designed study in an accredited institution. This assertion really shows that the information I provided was not examined–these studies have been done and the results have already been reported in numerous formats–print, video, and on web sites. We have reinvented the wheel regarding this issue so many times, it hardly needs to be done again.

Regarding the Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program, I mention again the studies of indigenous peoples and the foods they ate and the evidence of disease supplied by their bones. They did not have access to blueberries from Chile in the middle of winter. Certainly there were, and continue to be, instances of malnutrition. Generally, they survived a harsh environment and did very well at it.

I appreciate your offer of receiving EatRight Ontario promotional bookmarks and refrigerator magnets. If the quality of the information provided is not up to the level of current research, there is nothing to be gained by continuing to promote unhealthy misinformation.

My bottom line in writing you is this: working with all the public health groups, units, whatever will change nothing unless the source of their information is changed. This source is the recommendations of the C.D.A. Until their recommendations reflect the huge body of knowledge that is presently available, then nothing will change.

Every M.D. I speak to admits he or she knows very little about diet; received very little, if any, training in this area, and defers to the recommendations of the C.D.A. for diet information. M.D.’s do not have the time to adequately cover diet with their patients, and they assume an organization such as the C.D.A. has the proper tools and information and the will to do so.

I would like to become a member at large of any study group/policy group that may be formed to advise on these issues. Although I have no professional dietary certification, I have been an optometrist for 30 years and have seen some of my patients continue a long decline in their health. Since my own diabetes, I realize this doesn’t have to be, whether this be in regard to diabetes or vascular health in general.

You mention an investment of $741 million over four years to prevent, manage and treat diabetes. I have a suggestion: perhaps you could ascertain the amount of funding the C.D.A receives at present on an annual basis. Then offer the organization half of this amount, with the caveat that everyone who has any influence on the official policies of the C.D.A. be required to attend a meeting with several of the people who are involved with the websites I have sent you. If you were able to obtain such an agreement from the upper echelon of the C.D.A., I would help in finding speakers and in organizing such a meeting.

This is a serious offer on my part. From speaking with some of these people or from communicating with some by e-mail, I am certain we could arrange a wonderful group of speakers to get this diet information across to the C.D.A. policy board. Once their recommendations change, I am certain you would see a decrease in the incidence of diabetes in Ontario, and elsewhere, as the advocacy of the C.D.A. is recognized worldwide.

These issues demand action from concerned, informed, well-intentioned stakeholders. Everyone in Ontario is a stakeholder in their own health. Thank you for your time, please feel free to contact me at home, or work, or by email or by regular post.

Dr. James E. Bjork O.D.

THANK YOU Dr. Bjork for standing up for truth because you have encouraged so many of us who are advocates for livin’ la vida low-carb to make our voices heard and share the truth with our government and health leaders. For those who live in the United States, you can contact the American Diabetes Association by clicking here to encourage them to push low-carb for blood sugar and insulin control. And the American equivalent to Hon. Best is the Director of Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion named Penelope Slade-Sawyer who you can contact by clicking here. Refuse to be silent on this issue and follow Dr. Bjork’s lead wherever you live around the world. Together, we WILL make a difference!

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