sarah stacey

Health notes with Sarah Stacey

A diet that works for diabetics

Diabetes is on the rampage worldwide. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, has been diagnosed in up to six per cent of the UK population, rising to ten to 20 per cent of over-65s. (Many more remain undiagnosed.) The average age of onset is 40-plus but, recently, it’s been found in children as young as ten, according to consultant ophthalmic surgeon Professor Charles Clark, who has been researching and treating diabetes since 1979.

‘The cause of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is out-of-control insulin levels, the hormone which tells our bodies to move the glucose (a form of sugar) we get from food out of the bloodstream and into the cells, where it acts as a power source – like petrol for the car,’ he explains. Type 1 diabetics don’t make enough insulin and have to inject more to compensate. Type 2 diabetics make plenty but due to an ‘insulin resistance’ condition, where the cells can’t take up the hormone, they still need to supplement with drugs and eventually insulin injections.

But why is an ophthalmic surgeon specialising in diabetes? ‘People forget that diabetes is the commonest preventable form of blindness in the under-65s,’ Prof Clark explains. ‘Diabetes affects the eyes, kidneys and heart. But early diabetic complications show up in the eyes first, usually as bleeding into the retina or glaucoma [pressure on the optic nerve].’

While medication may be necessary, the key to treating diabetes, says Prof Clark, is following the correct diet to stabilise insulin production and thus blood sugar (glucose) levels, as he explains in his book The Diabetes Revolution, written with his wife Maureen Clark, a medical researcher. Prof Clark has successfully treated thousands of diabetics: Type 1 patients are able to reduce medication significantly and Type 2 to come off it entirely in
many cases.

The diet focuses on radically cutting down on refined carbohydrates including pasta, rice, sugary and processed foods, and root vegetables (potatoes and parsnips are high in sugary carbs). ‘Simply put, refined carbs are sugars and starches which raise our blood sugar; this stimulates insulin to be released, sending sugar to the cells,’ he says. ‘Then blood sugar levels go down, we feel weak, so we eat more starchy food – and the cycle starts again.’
Prof Clark suggests a daily limit of 60g refined carbs, but you can eat as many unrefined carbs as you like in the form of non-root veg and salads, alongside normal portions of fish and shellfish, lean meat and poultry, with olive oil. The book has lots of science, menu plans and delicious recipes.

This diet will also prevent diabetes developing in people with metabolic syndrome, a precursor to the fullblown disease. It is also incredibly effective at reducing levels of ‘bad’ LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – thus reducing the need for statin drugs – and triglycerides, another heart-threatening fat, since both of these are stimulated by insulin in the liver. The National Institutes of Health in America recommend this low refined carb diet (the ‘low GI diet’) to reduce obesity; most people would benefit from adopting it, says Prof Clark.

Prof Clark emphasises that patients should always discuss any new diet with their doctors, particularly Type 1 diabetics who need to implement the programme gradually as the changes in insulin production can be so great.

Professor Charles Clark, tel: 020 7935 0640, To order a copy of The Diabetes Revolution by Dr Charles Clark and Maureen Clark (Vermilion, £10.99), post-free, contact the YOU Bookshop, tel: 0845 606 4204,


So near so spa

If you want a UK break, a friend rhapsodises about the Quay Hotel & Spa in Deganwy, North Wales, which overlooks the Conwy estuary: ‘Just watching the sunset over the water reduced my stress levels.’ The modern spa (with a pool and Turkish hammam) offers Elemis and Aromatherapy Associates treatments - a full body and scalp massage was ‘blissful’. And there’s a double treatment room if you feel sociable. Tel: 01492 564100,



The must-visit site for anyone with an allergy or food intolerance. There’s a comprehensive archive of research and articles, plus details of winners of the latest Free-from Food Awards, including Roley’s teff grain gluten-free bread mix, and Oatly Oat Cream, one of my own favourites.

Foot note

A reader with ‘two terrible fungal big toenails’ says Kolorex Foot and Toe Care Cream has given her perfect nails a year on, after her GP told her she would just have to live with them. £10.95 for 25g, from Victoria Health, tel: 0800 3898 195;

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Sarah reads all your e-mails but regrets that she cannot answer them all personally

Illustrations: Nila Aye


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