Oct 06 2015

The Diabetes Treatment Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About

Because it’s bogus.

It’s unfortunate that it’s so easy to convince many people that there is a vast medical conspiracy, and that a few brave mavericks are willing to bring you “the truth.” I was recently asked to look at this website, claiming that doctors who treat diabetes have all been lying to their patients and the world. They promise to reveal the secret of curing diabetes, but the long video, and the endless website, is all just one long commercial hyping their book which you can get for the “bargain basement reduced price of just $77 for the digital copy or $94.39 for the paperback copy with free worldwide shipping.”

The sales pitch is framed as an “Urgent diabetes health bulletin from the doctors at the International Council for Truth in Medicine.” (Quackwatch lists the ICTM as a “questionable organization.”) To backup their authority they claim they are in partnership with “Natural News.” Given that Natural News is, in my opinion, the most notorious crank, conspiracy mongering, health misinformation site on the web, that is all you need to know about the ICTM to make an informed judgement.

Their narrative is depressingly typical, and not even imaginative. The tropes are so common they are worth addressing in detail.

As the same of the group implies, the core of their narrative is that “doctors” are lying about diabetes, and they have the truth. As an exercise in critical thinking, one might consider how this can be true.

First, “doctors” are not a monolithic entity. Health care professionals and scientists represent a range of opinions, training, and background. They come from every country. Different specialties also often take a different approach to diseases.

In short, it is not possible for there to be a widespread conspiracy among such a large and diverse group.

A more sophisticated argument might be that the culture of medicine is biased toward certain treatments and against others – but that is not what they are saying. They are claiming that doctors are lying as part of a pervasive conspiracy of deception, all for profit. And of course, Big Pharma is behind it all.

They further claim that there are 120 quality scientific studies backing up their claims, but that these studies are “suppressed,” “censored,” and not taught in medical school. So which is it? Are doctors lying, or are they being deceived by higher powers?

In any case, this claim is also naive to the way science and medicine actually operate. Scientific studies are published in the peer-reviewed literature. Once a study is in the literature, there is no way to suppress or censor it. That is the lie. Anyone can go to PubMed.org and search the database for any study they wish.

Any professional organization putting together evidence-based practice guidelines must account for the published scientific studies. If they systematically neglect an entire class of studies, it will be obvious. Reviews of the literature, discussions at meetings, and practice guidelines are all transparent and public.

Medical education is also not monolithic. While the first two years of medical school are largely in the classroom and follow a curriculum, the rest of education (third and fourth year, internship, residency, fellowship) follow more of a mentorship model. Each individual educator is in control of what they teach.

Further still, one of the primary things that we teach doctors in training is how to teach themselves. There is far more medical information than can be formally taught, and that information is changing all the time. All doctors need to learn how to become self-learners – to access the primary medical literature and come to their own conclusions about which treatments are adequately evidence based.

Any actual conspiracy to distort access to scientific information or how that information is translated into medical practice would have to involve not only tens of thousands of individual doctors, nurses, nutritionists, etc., but also journal editors, universities, and professional organizations – in every country. There is simply no mechanism for such a conspiracy to occur. It is literally impossible. For such a conspiracy to be possible there would need to be an overwhelming international totalitarian infrastructure within the medical and scientific professions.

Of course, if such a totalitarian regime actually existed, capable of hiding an important scientific truth from the public, literally a hidden cure for one of the most common diseases in the world, then how would the ICTM be able to reveal it to the world for the bargain price of $94. In fact, if they somehow learned of this secret (apparently by looking online) wouldn’t they be guilty of malfeasance for selling it, rather than making it freely available (because the information is already freely available)?

Let’s look at their actual claims – they claim that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both caused by inflammation. Inflammation is a common crank target, because inflammation is a basic physiological process that is likely to be involved in any pathological condition. Wherever there are damaged or dying cells, there is inflammation.

The important question is, is the inflammation the primary driver of the condition in question, or is it secondary or incidental? Some conditions are primarily inflammatory, or the inflammation makes them worse, while in other cases the inflammation is actually an important part of the body’s defense. We have an immune system for a reason.

Type 1 diabetes is, in fact, an autoimmune disease. It is caused by inflammation. This is no secret. Type 2 diabetes is a more complex syndrome, involving insulin resistance. Risk factors include genetics, increased weight, lack of exercise, and a poor diet. The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown. There are basic science studies showing a host of factors, and sure, some show that there are markers of inflammation (again, which is almost always the case).

At this point, however, there is no reason to think that you can treat type 2 diabetes solely as an inflammatory disease, but that is exactly what the ICTM is claiming. Further, they claim that you can control this inflammation without exercise, weight loss, or a diabetic diet. All you need to do is go on their anti-inflammatory diet, which you can learn about by buying their book.

Make no mistake – following their advice (at least as implied by their heavy-handed sales pitch) is dangerous and unhealthy. Proper diet, exercise, and weight control are critical to controlling type 2 diabetes. For those who need medication, proper treatment is also important to limit complications.

Looking at a sample of their references, it is also clear that they are simply cherry picking studies for their own purposes. For example, they reference one small study showing a modest benefit from basil in mild to moderate type 2 diabetes. What they don’t reference are systematic reviews, like this one from the Cochrane database which concludes:

“Some herbal medicines show hypoglycaemic effects in type 2 diabetes. However, these findings should be carefully interpreted due to the low methodological quality, small sample size, and limited number of trials. In the light of some positive findings, some herbal medicines deserve further examination in high-quality trials.”

Preliminary evidence is simply unreliable. Most of it will prove to be wrong. Also, even if the modest effects hold up in better studies, that does not mean you can stop worrying about weight-control and exercise. Herbs are basically drugs, and at best the ones studied for type 2 diabetes have a modest and variable effect. This is hardly a cure.


What the ICTM seems to be doing is simply repackaging the same tired medical conspiracy theories that have become the standard narrative for any snake-oil merchant selling a dubious treatment. Their claims do not hold up to the slightest scrutiny. They essentially accuse the entire health care industry of horrible malfeasance with a conspiracy theory that is laughably implausible from beginning to end.

Their “health bulletin” is nothing but a high pressure sales pitch, using emotional manipulation and hyped claims, all leading to the goal of selling their book.

Their methods are dangerous as they claim that diabetics can be cured without the need for the basic medical care that is highly evidence-based and critically important for all diabetics. They also contribute to a culture of belief in pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and distrust of medical authorities.

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