Updated: Jul 17, 2022
My tryst with Type 2 Diabetes began the day I was born. 3 of my 4 grandparents were diabetic and had related complications. I lost all 3 of them to Diabetes – my paternal grandfather died due to steato-hepatitis (fatty liver), my maternal grandfather died of hemorrhagic stroke and my maternal grandmother died of heart failure. Both my maternal grandparents were on exogenous insulin for several years. My mother developed diabetes when I was 10 and my father developed diabetes when I was 20.
Fast forward 10 years and at the age of 30, as a globe-trotting, working-long-hours-and-eating-poorly strategy consultant, I was showing classic signs of insulin resistance myself – weight gain, borderline hypertension, fatigue, foggy brain, etc. I was eating hotel dinners at 12 midnight, desserts at 2 am, sleep-deprived and stressed out. I developed thyroiditis and started gaining even more weight. My endocrinologist told me that thyroiditis is a “lifelong” condition and I’ll be on thyroxine pills for the rest of my life.
Back in India, my mother’s Diabetes had gotten worse after 20 years of getting bad advice from doctors in the small town where we grew up. The MBBS doctors she was seeing never even asked her to get her Hba1c tested. Her Hba1c was 8.4% (target of 7% or lower), she was on 80 units of insulin a day, she had hypertension, high uric acid, high cholesterols and foot neuropathy. Her doctors never checked her complications like neuropathy. She had gained weight and was constantly struggling with fatigue. Her doctors had just one advice for her: “Get used to it because you have Diabetes!”. My mother who taught us to never give up in the face of adversity had started to give up and that broke my heart. I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew this had to change and there had to be a better way to tackle this problem.
Being an engineer trains you to think analytically. I started doing my own research. 5 books, 300 journal papers and countless discussions with doctors and YouTube videos later, I knew that the current Diabetes treatment paradigm is riddled with shortcomings and conflicts. A disease born out of poor diet and lifestyle (helped by our genetics) can’t be treated by just pills and injections without fixing the diet and lifestyle. No wonder the Journal of American Medical Association says that “Advances in diabetes care over the past decade have not translated into meaningful improvement in population-level treatment outcomes”.
While my mother was visiting me in Dubai, I started collaborating with a famous doctor here who also believed in insulin resistance reversal through diet and lifestyle. By informing my mother of all the acute complications of Diabetes, including foot amputations and disability, we got her to agree to change her diet and to try time-restricted eating. I realized how patients will not change behavior unless they are made aware of the real consequences. 70%+ patients in India don’t even know that Diabetes can ever lead to any complications. Their doctors just ask them to keep popping pills and continue with their current diet and lifestyle. I don’t blame the doctors because they are overburdened themselves and they were never trained on human psychology to make behavior change and to make that sustainably. Worst of all, doctors get a grand training on nutrition at medical school of exactly 0 hours!
Two months after changing her diet and lifestyle and fixing her medicines, my mother went from 80 units of insulin to 0. She started losing weight and her fasting glucose levels came down from 160 mg/dl to 130 mg/dl. 6 months later, her Hba1c had come down further to 7.2, she had lost 10% of her weight and most of her biomarkers were coming back in range. After 12 months, her Hba1c came down to 6.2 meaning after 27 years of struggling with Diabetes, she was no longer diabetic (the threshold for diabetes is Hba1c of 6.5). She had lost more weight and regained her energy levels. Her neuropathy was almost gone, her uric acid, hypertension and cholesterol levels had all come down. She was also saving INR 5000 every month she used to spend on insulin. When she saw her original doctor back in our town, he just said “keep doing whatever you are doing”.
Around the same time, I had made changes to my diet as well (e.g., elimination of added sugars, vegetable oils, processed carbs, branched chain amino acids and enhancement of high fiber and plant-based foods) and implemented time-restricted eating to reverse my insulin resistance and reduce my inflammation levels to turnaround my thyroiditis. I also lost 10 kgs of weight and most surprisingly, my thyroid levels went back to normal. My doctors were surprised and couldn’t explain how this could have happened – they do not like to admit that they don’t know.
Since then, I have consulted 5 of my friend’s parents in India and Egypt and reversed their condition as well. This is when I knew that our parents need a transformative paradigm for their chronic metabolic diseases like Diabetes. I have been working on conceptualizing this paradigm for about 2 years now and we will build it into a new healthcare platform for the 130 million Diabetes and prediabetes patients in MENA and India and for more such patients everywhere.