Vegan Diabetes Summit — Day 3 Part 2

Published 2.8.2017
This is the fourth in a series in which I will be commenting on the Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, otherwise known as the Vegan Diabetes Summit. The two hosts, Cyrus Khambatta and Robby Barbaro, manage their type one diabetes (T1D) with a raw high carb low fat diet, consisting of mostly fruit. Videos and audio recordings of the event expire at the end of the last day (Thursday, February 9th at 9:00 PM Pacific time).

I wound up listening to more of the summit than expected, but there is, mercifully, a dearth of "integrated" medicinal mumbo jumbo being presented. With few exceptions, actual medical doctors and degreed dietitians or nutritionists are making the presentations. Yes, a vegan diet— excuse me, a whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD)— is the backbone of the recommendations, with few exceptions (Marc Hellerstein, MD) made no dietary recommendations, for example. Few doctors are going to tell you to avoid vegetables and fruit— unless they are low carb shills. However, most doctors aren't going to tell you to avoid animal products because they are "toxic," either. There's a huge difference in eating less animal foods and eating no animal foods.

To be fair, a number of the presenters have admitted that eating animal foods is not instantly dangerous or toxic. Most are still practicing, and they recognize that you have to meet people where they are. They present what they believe to be the best plan, but some (most?) patients aren't willing to be that extreme. And it is extreme, in fact, I think the word used is radical, to change to a low fat WFPBD. What matters in any diet is adherence. If you can't stand to eat this way, it really doesn't matter how many amazing stories of transformation you hear, you're not going to do it. (Day 8 is all about personal testimonies. Just as a head's up, I will not be commenting on them, just as I don't comment on low carb testimonials.)

One last comment before beginning today's talks. I am not a nutritionist or medical professional. I am stating what these presenters claimed, mostly without any fact checking. When I know a statement is false, I say so. However, no endorsement is implied for statements presented without additional commentary or fact checking.

Garth Davis, MD

Garth Davis is a bariatric surgeon and the author of Proteinaholic.
  • Became vegan after failing a health insurance test at 35.
  • Even obesity doctors don’t discuss diet at their industry conferences and meetings. No, they talk surgery and drugs.
  • The protein surge (thinking we need tons of protein) stems from the 1800s.
  • Admits that Atkins does work.
  • On a low carb diet, you lose water weight and your appetite due to ketosis. Blood glucose (BG) will go down but the disease process the insulin resistance (IR). BG is the symptom of the blood sugar (this is type two diabetes — T2D).
  • Says that dairy industry spends a lot of money to create confusion. 100% of dairy funded studies say dairy is great. Only 36% of nondairy funded studies say that it’s not great.
  • Claims that sugar doesn’t cause inflammation, but cream does. They think it’s because of endotoxin. Endotoxin is in the bacteria that gets killed by pasteurization.
  • “It’s the meat that makes you sweet” is a chapter title in his book.
  • Can’t say it’s the protein that's damaging, it might be everything else that comes with the meat protein.
  • Says there’s more fat than protein in chicken, but a quick google search as I formatted this page shows this is not true. That's very disappointing because Davis seemed to be one of the more reasonable presenters. He does not say that meat is toxic in any amount.
  • Claims that animal amino acids are higher in sulfur, which the body has to buffer with calcium (Ca).
  • Gary Taubes comes up and the lab results he posted online to prove his low carb diet is healthy. Davis says that Taubes's carbon dioxide level (a measure of the body's ability to battle pH) was low. His pH was fine, because he’s losing Ca from his muscle said Davis.
  • He goes through several studies that low carb proponents like to use in their arguments and claims that they are ignoring signs of Ca loss.
  • Heme iron is very toxic to the beta cells according to a researcher (unnamed) at a meeting. She got asked, what do you eat? She said a low carb diet (which likely means a lot of heme iron). Heme iron are toxic to beta cells he said again— I will have to look into that.
  • If you eat very low fat diet, you can become carb adapted, just as you can become fat adapted (which he admitted could happen on a high fat low carb diet).
  • How much protein do people mean. Noted that the RDA was two standard deviations above average, meaning 46g for women and 56g for men. You can get that from plants. But you can’t get B12.
  • He’s never seen a protein deficiency unless it goes along with a calorie deficiency. But in the mean time we are fiber deficient, magnesium deficient, etc. but not protein deficient.
  • Is plant protein incomplete? False, he says.
  • Claims to try and talk people out of surgery, but admits that the surgery works. He thinks it works a little too well.
  • Gastric bypass does fix diabetes, but will be temporary if you eat like crap. You still need to change your lifestyle.
  • Low carb (LC) works with diabetes— admits that there are studies that prove it. Blood sugars come down, but it doesn’t address the disease process.
  • LC is an easier sell because people already eat a lot of meat. Basically skip the bread and sides. It’s not a radical change to go to a LC diet, it is to go plant based. And in 15 minutes, that’s difficult to do.
  • Does not think that protein is filling and cites Barbara Rolls research that showed it's the fiber content. Not sure I buy this. Plenty of people find protein filling.

Brenda Davis, RD

Brenda Davis is a vegan registered dietitian who I have seen previously, She has a number of Youtube videos discussing how to consume a healthy vegan diet. She's written a number of books including Becoming Vegan.
  • Her presentation has two purposes: To slam the Paleo Diet and tell the tale of her work with diabetics (T2D) in the Marshall Islands.
  • I thought Paleo was fading, these folks seem to think it’s not. Maybe because of the crossover between paleo and vegan types.
  • So she went and looked at nutritional anthropology work to see what our ancestors ate. For 80% of our time on the planet we were mostly plants with bugs and maybe small animals. Last 20% of human history we were hunter-gatherers HG with the amount of H or G depending on location and season. There was no one paleo diet— which Cordain actually says.
  • Claims Paleo works because it gets rid of dairy, processed foods, refined carbs and a lot of “concentrated” oils. So a lot of “garbage” is “junked” — pun intended.
  • She points out that actual (latter) paleo people ate a ton of fiber (75-150+ grams per day), which means plants. That’s during the animal eating phase. Why so much fiber? Wild plants.
  • In the Paleolithic era, Vitamin C intake was 500-600mg per day. Vitamin K intake was 7000-10000mg (The US RDA* is 4700 mg) Again, plants FTW. So it’s closer to vegan.
  • So she want to a “popular” (and unnamed) paleo diet website and took 3 days of menus, analyzed them then compared them to vegan diet menus and to the actual diet from the Paleolithic. No surprise, the modern Paleo diet falls short.
  • Protein, zinc, and cholesterol intake were closer on the modern paleo diet, but in everything else vegan diet won.
  • No legumes or grains because of “anti-nutrients” but there is evidence that paleo peeps did eat legumes and grains. Avoidance of legumes remains that stupidest precept of the paleo diet— and that's true to The Paleo Diet™.
  • Modern day paleo: long term data showing effects on health? No. The same, however, can be said of veganism— short term studies show benefits.
  • Claims 100s of studies show benefits of plant based Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s NOT veganism though. Vegetarians have been studied long term. Vegans… not so much.
  • Credits Paleo for avoiding milk and refined foods.
  • She brings up sustainability of the paleo diet, says it can’t feed all people meat without destroying the planet— that’s a big claim. No data or reference given. And yes, it would be awful for all the dead animals.
  • And meat production has the highest carbon footprint (Cowspiracy stuff here)
  • Claim volumes of evidence against red meat. But wait a second, if studies show lowering meat intake to 5% is all that’s required, then why insist on 0% meat?
  • Blue zone eat predominantly plant based— but. not. vegan.
  • And legumes are the ONE food that’s common to all blue zones. And paleos eliminate them. This is the stupidest part of the paleo dogma.
  • Whole grains and legumes: paleos say weren’t consumed and are source of anti-nutrients. But all plants have anti-nutrients as a protective mechanism. But cooking them solves the problem.
  • Is a lot of plants with a little bit of meat better? She claims we don’t know. This is a lie. This is vegan propaganda. She claims that only in poor populations this would be the case— meaning perhaps people who don’t have supplements and fortified foods? There is nothing wrong with eating a bit of meat, especially if the meat isn’t red meat.
  • NONE of the blue zones are vegan— not even in Loma Linda. And some blue zone people eat dairy. And they are thriving— and don’t require supplements and fortified foods. Right there she was backed into a corner and had to admit the truth.
  • The part of her presentation discusses her efforts to work with diabetics in the Marshall Islands. Long story short, post World War II, people on the Marshall Islands started eating ultra-processed foods almost exclusively. As a result they became obese and diabetic.
  • Davis went there, got them to eat a whole food plant based diet, and voilà, people's biomarkers and health improved. In no way does this prove that veganism is the answer. Replacing ultra-processed foods with a paleo diet diet of meat, vegetables and fruits would have had the same effect, but at a much higher cost, because meat is more expensive.
  • ENERGY BALANCE!! She is the FIRST speaker to use that term. Veganism (even WFPBD) does NOT negate the energy balance!! And she mentions the fat need to absorb some vitamins. Of course, she gets them from nuts and seeds. But CALORIC LEVEL is key.
  • Energy balance comes up because she had to limit the intake of starchy vegetables for some of the adults on the Marshall Islands. She mutters something about carb sensitivity, but then admits that it was a calorie intake issue.
  • She's not a fan of drinking your calories, a position I concur with— though I still enjoy an adult beverage now and then. Beyond adult beverages, my drinks have no calories.
  • She created the whole grain hierarchy. Notes that you have to be careful with rice. Glycemic index of rice is all over the places. (she has a youtube video about this I’m sure)
  • Her hierarchy from best to worst: intact, cut, rolled, shredded, ground (flours), flaked whole grains, puffed whole grains
  • That is actually a good point. People use the phrase “whole grain” to mean all of these. I wonder if a similar hierarchy would apply to beans and bean flours. .
*Recommended Daily Amount

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