Diet Right and Regenerate Your Pancreas

February 27, 2017

Diet Right and Regenerate Your Pancreas 

 References: BBC News, Cell

 This is a major story. Type two diabetes is what we all get when we live on a diet of too many carbohydrates and too many calories for too long. The effect of carbs is to make us secrete insulin. Insulin is our storage hormone, not our blood sugar-controlling hormone. It instructs our body to make and store glucose into fat in an integrated fashion. It is the hormone we need in September and October as we store up calories for January. Our bodies were not designed to have continuous exposure to carbohydrates year round, year after year. 

As we get fatter, our fat cells get larger, not more numerous. As our fat cells get larger and are continuously bombarded with insulin, the number of insulin receptors on their surface declines. With that, our fat cells become insulin resistant. And in the pancreas gland, our insulin-producing cells begin to decline in number and ability to make insulin. Our bodies show it. In a progressive fashion. We can observe our insulin level rising in response to increasing weight (fat cell size), then our glucose rising, then gradually insulin failing and glucose shooting higher. 

It's as though we only have the ability to make a certain amount of insulin in a lifetime. If we use it up at a rate faster than our pancreas can make, we run out. Our fate is to start on pills, then transition to insulin, all in the vain attempt to forestall organ failure. But organ failure comes inevitably with kidneys failing, arteries plugging, joints stiffening and brains fading. A method to reverse this would be attractive. That's what this week's news is about. In a mouse model of diabetes, the authors demonstrate that the mice progressively lose beta-cells in their pancreas glands as their diabetes progresses and worsens. Just like in humans. 

But, their intervention was unique. The put the mice on a 4 day diet of just fat with only a tiny trace of protein and carbohydrate. Mostly fat. Fat is insulin neutral. No demand on the pancreas. But it is fuel to work with. Not much. It was the equivalent of 1100 calories in humans. Key, though, is providing some calories in the form of fat instead of carbohydrate. Then, the mice could eat whatever they wanted. Repeat the cycle every week. 

 What they found was extraordinary. The mice reversed their type two diabetes. They stopped losing beta cells. In fact, they grew them back. By every measure, the fasting turned off what has been thought to be a one way street - a down hill slide into diabetes. Inflammatory cytokines went down, (TNFα and IL-12) and anti-inflammatory cytokines went up (IL-2 and IL-10). Whatever was killing off the beta cells went away. The authors were so surprised, they then took a known pancreas poison, streptozotocin which is known to kill insulin-producing cells. 

They treated normal mice, not diabetic prone with the streptozotocin. Guess what happened. Yup. The treated mice got diabetic with sugars up to 350 but then recovered within a month with normal insulin production and no diabetes. This suggests they really were inducing brand new beta cells from scratch. Did you get that? Recovered! The authors warn folks not to do this on their own without supervision from their doctors. They don't know if the method applies to humans. But they do mention that it would be about the equivalent of 800-1,100 calories a day, mostly in the form of olive oil and a tiny bit of protein and carbohydrate. 

 WWW.What will work for me. I have a broken foot right now. I'm very anxious for it to heal/heel. I've been extremely careful with my diet in the last month and have had most days at 75% fat with a few of them being around 1400 calories. Close to this study. More importantly, my blood sugar has been in the mid-70s all month, my surgical wound is closed and fixed, and I'm on the road to better. I've probably rejuvenated some pancreas cells. I've had a few days of 1400 calories, not 1100. I've been tiptoeing close to reproducing this study in myself. Now, I'm determined to show folks in my practice that they can do it. We can reverse diabetes. This throws open a huge door of opportunity. We should take it. Carefully, of course!   

Pop Quiz 

 1. Type Two Diabetes will happen to all of us if we put on too much weight. T or F ?            Answer:  Almost true. There are something like 20-30% of folks that can get way overweight and never get diabetic, but it's a pretty good premise. ‪

2. Fat cells get insulin resistant as they get bigger. T or F?               Answer:  That would be true. It's as though insulin receptors get further apart. 

‪3. Starving mice with an insulin-neutral high-fat diet stimulates the regeneration of pancreas beta cells that make insulin. T or F?                    Answer:   Bingo. ‪

4. Repeated cycles of the 4 day fasts even regenerate poisoned pancreases that have their beta cells killed off. T or F?                      Answer:  True. ‪

5. If this is that effective, trying it in humans may be risky? T or F                       Answer:  True, mostly because if you stay on diabetes medication, your blood sugar may go too low once your own pancreas starts kicking in. You can imagine what the answer to that is. Check your sugar a lot. Like 4-6 times a day and be ready to stop taking as many pills.