Overview of Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Diet

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Dr. Bernstein's diabetes diet was created by Richard K. Bernstein, M.D., a physician with type I diabetes. With this condition, his body has essentially made no insulin since he was 12 years old. For a long time, he assumed that he would have to live with the complications of diabetes he saw in so many others with diabetes. In 1969, developed a system of diabetes management which enabled him to closely manage his blood sugar and reverse his many complications of diabetes. He has remained healthy into his 80s and gained renown in advising others with diabetes about how to live long healthy lives.

Diet Appeal Beyond People With Diabetes

Dr. Bernstein has found that his system could help people who don't have diabetes lose weight, improve health, and prevent diabetes. He also believes that often what we think of as "normal" blood glucose is not—it is what might be called "pre-pre diabetic", which roughly equates to a fasting blood glucose in the 90's. His books also contain well-written information about how blood glucose works, the negative effects of too much blood glucose, and how to control blood glucose. This is useful for anyone who has issues with carbs or sugar.

Main Books

"Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars": The original book was published in 1997. The 2011 edition includes information on new technology (including insulin pumps and continuous blood sugar monitors), drugs (including inhaled insulin), and methods and has new recipes.

"The Diabetes Diet: Dr. Bernstein's Low-Carbohydrate Solution" (2005). This book is for both people with diabetes and those who want to pursue a low-carbohydrate diet. It has over 100 recipes.

Restricted Foods and Diet Details

Dr. Bernstein divides foods into those which cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, and those which don't. You simply don't eat foods in the first category. There are some carbohydrate foods which cause a slow, smaller rise in blood glucose, and people following the plan are allowed to eat measured amounts of these foods. Those on the diet follow Dr. Bernstein's food lists as published in his books. Other details of the diet include:

  • Amount of Restriction: At 30 grams of effective carbohydrate per day, this is a very low-carb diet. However, Dr. Bernstein has a lot of suggestions for foods to substitute for higher-carb foods, which has made the diet work for him for almost 50 years.
  • Amount of Structure: There is quite a lot of structure to the diet. Each meal has a specified amount of carbohydrate.
  • Individual Variation: Dr. Bernstein doesn't talk about individual variation in the diet, except that different people will eat different amounts of protein and fat.
  • Learning Curve: Dr. Bernstein's plan is fairly simple to learn. Mainly it involves knowing what not to eat, and then how to manage the carbohydrate at each meal.
  • Diet Phases: Unlike many low-carb weight loss diets, there are no phases. The main goal is to normalize blood glucose, and the diet is not anticipated to change over time. In fact, Dr. Bernstein says that phasing in more carbohydrate over time is counterproductive.

Dr. Bernstein's Philosophy

Dr. Bernstein's assumption is that anyone with diabetes will not be able to achieve normal blood glucose without a very low-carb diet. On the other hand, people without diabetes may be able to achieve the same goals and still consume more carbohydrate. As with any diet, there are pros and cons with his approach.

If you have diabetes, discuss your diet with your doctor. Your medications may need to be adjusted when you change your eating pattern. You may be referred to a registered dietitian to help guide your food choices and to confirm whether this diet is appropriate for your condition.

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