Diet doctor diabetes
Jill Newsham, 62, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes seven years ago and has managed to reverse it with a low-carb diet
Jill Newsham, 62, is a university lecturer and lives in Southport with her husband Mike, 64. Jill was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2012. She says:
Diabetes crept up on me really. I was due to have an operation, but when I went for my pre-op assessment, the medics were shocked by how high my blood sugar was. I knew I was carrying too much weight — I was 5ft 2in and 15st — but I had never thought about type 2 diabetes.
They had to cancel the operation. I was referred back to my GP, Dr David Unwin, who prescribed quite a high dose of metformin. This was before he’d started his low- carb programme.
I lost a bit of weight cutting back on obvious sugar such as biscuits, but it was only when I started to get control over the starchy stuff that things really changed for me. It dawned on me that if I was cutting out sugar, should I also be cutting back on starchy carbohydrates as well, as they break down into sugar?
I’d been following a low-carb diet for about a year when the diabetes nurse mentioned that Dr Unwin had started doing this with some of his patients at the practice — and I joined the support group he runs.
I’m just over 11 st now and no longer take metformin. I’ve bumped into old colleagues and they’ve not recognised me. Also, eating this way lifts my mood — I feel more optimistic.
Thirty years on and we’ve gone from 57 patients with type 2 to 470. Twenty-one of them are aged under 50 (with an average body weight of 17 ½ st) — and the youngest is 24.
And at the root of it all lies obesity. We have eaten our way into this epidemic. But I believe we can eat our way out of it. I know this because many patients in my practice have done just that. For them, the secret was going low-carb.
By switching to this approach, 40 per cent of my patients actually reversed their type 2 diabetes so they no longer need medication — their blood pressure, cholesterol and liver function have also improved.
Thanks to this work, in 2016 I was named NHS Innovator of the Year and my approach is now being taught to GPs across the country through the Royal College of General Practitioners — I even met the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to discuss low carb for type 2 diabetes.
While this is not a weight-loss plan as such, it’s a lifestyle change, nearly all my patients on a low-carb diet have lost weight — on average around 1½ st (9kg) over 20 months — and have kept it off.
Now, I’m sharing my approach with you, too — and it could transform life.
If you’re someone who’s been diagnosed with type 2, or have been warned you’re on the cusp, and you want to try this approach, starting today in the Mail’s Weekend magazine, we’ll show you delicious low-carb breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
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Chris Hannaway, 58, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his 40s and has since used Dr David Unwin’s low-carb programme to lose weight and get his blood sugar under control. He has gone from more than 19st to just over 13st
Chris Hannaway, 58, is a retired civil servant and lives in Southport, Merseyside, with his wife. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001, he says:
Before I started the low-carb approach, I was on metformin for my diabetes, as well as a daily aspirin, a blood pressure drug and a statin. I felt dreadful all the time. I was the wrong end of 19st (I’m 5ft 10in).
Now, six years after starting the low-carb diet, I’m just over 13st.
I was in my mid-40s when I was diagnosed with type 2. In 2013, I went for a long overdue medication review, saw Dr David Unwin and he hit me with his low-carb diet sheet.
It meant a massive change: I could easily get through half a loaf of bread a day and I was also a great drinker of beer — which, as Dr Unwin puts it, is really just ‘liquid toast’.
Now I can eat olive oil, cream and cheese. I get to have things such as omelettes with spinach, or steak and salad.
Dr Unwin has turned my life around.
Today, I’ll also share the seven key principles that form the basis of the diet.
All next week, in exclusive pullouts in the Mail, you’ll be given the easy and delicious recipes that can help to reverse diabetes — from low-carb pasta dishes to tempting occasion cakes.
I’ve teamed up with top chef Giancarlo Caldesi and his wife Katie, a food writer, to show how you, too, can transform your health with low-carb recipes for the wonderful food we all love.
One of the joys of going low carb — apart from enjoying better health — is that fats from natural sources are an essential part of the diet. This means olive oil, avocado, cream, full-fat Greek yoghurt and butter (even goose or duck fat) can be part of the menu.
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Together, these six free pullouts form a potentially life-changing plan for taking control of your health.
In my first 25 years as a GP, I had never seen diabetes go into remission. But I am delighted to say that it’s something I see most weeks now in my clinical practice — hundreds of my patients have now gone low carb and, not only are they healthier, but we’re prescribing fewer diabetes drugs than other practices in our area, saving the NHS around £40,000 per year.
Chef Giancarlo’s personal type 2 diabetes story is particularly inspiring. Over the years, his love of good food left him not just overweight, but with arthritis, blurred vision and blackouts. Eventually, he was diagnosed with type 2.
Debra Scott, 56, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2017 and tried a low-carb diet in order to avoid taking any medication. She has lost four stone and her blood sugar level is back in the normal range
Debra Scott, 56, is a mother-of-two who lives in Blackpool with husband Eric, 56. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2017, she says:
I didn’t even know what a carbohydrate was before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and learned that a low-carb diet could help. I went home and cried my eyes out. I knew how serious it can be, because my mum had type 2 diabetes before she passed away 12 years ago. She’d lost her sight and had sores on her legs that wouldn’t heal. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
I was so happy to be offered a solution when I found Dr Unwin and the support group diabetes.co.uk.
I was 14st 7lb and a dress size 18/20, but I thought my diet was quite healthy. Breakfast was cereal, brown toast with butter and apple juice. I’d have a sandwich for lunch, maybe tea and a biscuit in the afternoon and dinner would be something like curry and rice, perhaps with a wine or two.
Using Dr Unwin’s diet sheet, I lost a stone in a month and was down two stone by the time I went back to see the nurse in February. I’m 10st 7lb now and don’t want to lose any more. I am keeping up the diet, though — it’s really easy to eat this way. I feel fantastic.
Despite following advice from an NHS dietitian to eat smaller portions and cut back on sugar, he got heavier, peaking at 17½ st (he’s 5ft 9in). And then his feet started to become numb — a sign of nerve damage that could lead to amputation.
That’s when he and Katie came across low carb. And they haven’t looked back — Giancarlo has lost 3st, feels healthier and his diabetes is in full remission.
Katie — who didn’t have type 2 but went low-carb anyway — has dropped two dress sizes (down to a 12) and says she has more energy, with no more afternoon slumps.
And they’ve done it by eating the delicious recipes — devised by Katie and Giancarlo themselves — that are featured in the Mail today and next week.
So what is it about carbs that’s a problem? Essentially, people who develop type 2 have a problem with sugar, or glucose. Our bodies respond to a sugary meal by producing the hormone insulin, which pushes the extra sugar into muscle cells for energy. Excess sugar is also pushed into belly fat and the liver. This results in weight gain and the insulin the body produces being less effective.
As a result, sugar builds up in the blood, resulting in higher than normal levels circulating in the blood, which, over time, damages small blood vessels in vital organs.
The combination (problems with sugar metabolism and obesity) is what often causes type 2 diabetes.
From this, it would seem obvious to cut sugar out of the diet. Yet lots of people don’t realise sugar is disguised in many foods, such as those with a lot of naturally occurring sugar — i.e. fruit juice, raisins and honey — and in starchy carbohydrates including bread, rice and potato.
Often, I come across patients who are mystified by their diabetes, saying that they have already cut out sugar, so how come they still have diabetes?
Most people only think of the obvious sources, such as sweetened drinks or chocolate, missing the important fact that starchy carbohydrates are broken down by digestion into surprising amounts of glucose. For example, a 30g slice of wholemeal bread affects blood sugar to the same extent as three teaspoons of sugar.
Of course, it has other benefits, such as B vitamins and fibre — but, if you have type 2, the sugar effect is very important. This explains why the latest NICE guidelines for type 2 diabetes state that you should eat foods high in fibre and low GI (glycaemic index) — nearly all breads and cereals have a high GI compared with green veg, most nuts and eggs.