HEALTHY BITE | Time to Take Control of Your Own Health

This week on the podcast, we released a very informative episode with Dr Peter Brukner. Peter covered some important health issues surrounding diabetes. He is world-renowned and he has his own personal experience, which he shares in this week's podcast and the initiative, Defeat Diabetes.

Join me in this Healthy Bite as we talk about taking control of your own health. Your health is just too important to leave to anybody else. You have to take control of it yourself.

Time to Take Control of Your Own Health

Now, this week’s episode is Defeat Diabetes with Dr Peter Brukner. We interviewed him over a year ago when he had written a book on low carb eating. Peter is a world-famous, world-renowned sports medicine physician. 

He has been a sports doctor, the head of medicine for the Olympics, the athletic team in 2000, he also has been head sports physician for the Socceroos, the Australian Cricket Team, and the Liverpool Football Club and an AFL team. He is world-renowned and he has his own personal experience, which he shares in this week’s podcast and the initiative, Defeat Diabetes. 

If you go on to the App Store and download Defeat diabetes, you will have access to not only some great resources in terms of research and some great talks on nutrition, but also some great recipes. If you were ever told the Type 2 Diabetes is irreversible and you are destined to a lifetime of medication, well, you may need to get other advice because that is just simply not true. Perhaps the physician that has told you that should have said, “I don’t know. You need to go out and explore this for yourself.”.

We also did a podcast many, about a year and a half or two years ago, with the doctor, Dr Rob Szabo, who at the age of 37 and “fit and healthy,” found himself suffering from Type 2 Diabetes and he’s a GP in Melbourne, and he was shocked.

This was the case, and he was even more shocked that the advice that he had been giving patients himself, he was now destined to himself, and he explored alternatives which happened to introduce him to the world of Low Carb Down Under, the wonderful work of Dr Rod Tayler, and Paul Mason, who also is involved in Defeat Diabetes.

What does low-carb mean?

The issues really revolve around advice, and you might find some public health advice to be rather confusing and contradictory. Should you be on a low carb or high carb? In fact, what does low-carb mean? What does high-carb mean? Should you be on low fat? High fat? Is cholesterol a problem? Should everybody be on statins? I thought the food pyramid was meant to be healthy. 

It’s interesting to explore this because the food pyramid actually came about and is a big contributor to the confusing health messages.

Now, in our programme over the years in this podcast, in my book, in a wellness programme, which I am developing through the Holistic Health Institute, we identified nutritional stress as a significant driver of disease. 

When most people think of nutritional stress, they think of hamburgers, chips, all the processed foods, but I would argue that perhaps the biggest nutritional stress was first floated in R.E.M. 1979, and it was the food pyramid that eventually found its way into the FDA in 1992.

Going back to that first food pyramid, as I said, it came out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was promoted in the US Congress was really fast-tracked through, and it was accepted because low fat, healthy eating was the way we were going to solve all these problems and that was the birth of the food pyramid. 

Now that happened in 1980, and at that particular moment, if you were looking at the evidence and we’re constantly told that evidence-based medicine is something we should all be focussed on. 

Well, if you actually look at the evidence and I think it’s fairly compelling to say that nutritional advice would be linked to obesity and mean, if you ever thought there was a correlation, I would say diet and obesity would have to unquestionably be it.

Food Pyramid

In 1979, 1980, the food pyramid, which said low fat was good, healthy, the carbohydrates should be at the base of the food pyramid. As soon as that happened, you just have to look at the trends of overweight and obesity. The food pyramid was eventually endorsed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 1992. 

The history of the food pyramid is kind of you can be summarised if you’re looking at this on YouTube, can be summarised in this slide that 1992 there was the food pyramid. It needed to be updated in 2007. It became my plate, and it was essentially the same thing, making the majority of the food to at least a quarter of the food was meant to be grains and proteins, fruit and vegetables. Yes, low fat was still the key.

In 2013, to this very day, the Australian Healthy Eating Guidelines more or less reflect that. You’ll notice if you’re looking at this slide down the bottom there, which says use small amounts of fat because fat is bad and that’s the message that has come through. 

Let’s just go back to the evidence, because, in 1992, the FDA endorsed the food pyramid. It was then endorsed in 1993 by the Heart Foundation in America and the American Diabetes Association. And when you look at the incidence of diabetes, from that point on, it has skyrocketed. It has become epidemic

Type 1 Diabetes

Let’s just go back a little bit here and talk about diabetes in general. Type 1 Diabetes is when your pancreas stops producing insulin and you need to have insulin injections. That is an autoimmune condition, the body attacking itself and in this case, attacking the cells within the pancreas, which produce insulin. Therefore, you have Type 1 Diabetes, which requires insulin injections that accounts for about 10 to 15% of all diabetes sufferers.

The vast majority of diabetes suffering is Type 2 Diabetes, which used to be referred to as Late Onset Diabetes. It now affects even young children, so it is referred to not as Late Onset Diabetes, but as Type 2 Diabetes. 

We will do a programme in time on Dementia, and that is now being described as Type 3 Diabetes, which kind of implies that the cells in the brain are become insulin resistant and therefore are not getting the energy they require and therefore start to die or degenerate, resulting in dementia. But I digress for a moment.

Type 2 Diabetes

The vast majority is Type 2 Diabetes, and the standard advice is that in order to control it, you need medication. You can have a diet and exercise will have an effect. Of course, National Diabetes Day is celebrated every November. I think it is. 

Interestingly, when you look at the sponsors of National Diabetes Day, the World Federation of Diabetes, it invariably will involve every pharmaceutical company in the world that will help support the Diabetes Federation Day, World Diabetes Day.

World Diabetes Day

A good example of World Diabetes Day, which in that particular year last year was on the 14th of November, I think and here are some of the quotes from the World Diabetes Day organisers, “Our purpose is to help all people affected by diabetes and those at risk to contribute to search for a cure.” This is a quote from Diabetes Australia and actually, I’ve asked this question in public lectures many times, and I’ve asked the public, “Does anyone know the cure Type 2 Diabetes?” 

Many people will put up their hands and go on diet and exercise. But here we have a world body looking for the cure for diabetes and when one looks at the sponsors of this, we have very familiar names. You will know the name, of course, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Roche, Merck, Nestlé, of course, Nestlé, the makers of chocolate and candy and all that. 

They’re helping us look for the cure. They want to be involved in the cure. Lilly Nova… Look, the list goes on and on. There are so many sponsors looking for the cure, and the International Diabetes Federation makes a note saying it’s particularly grateful to the following corporations and foundations for their support towards helping promote diabetes care, prevention and cure. 

Global partners are engaged in long term, multifaceted partnerships with the federation. They support the IDF’s core activities and specifically tailored programmes, focussing on diabetes awareness, prevention, education and more. 

There is a list of all the drug companies helping this organisation find cures for Type 2 Diabetes. Okay, it’d be great to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, but Type 2 Diabetes is the main problem, and they’re out there helping look for the cure. I can’t help but be a little bit cynical of it because the medication is the standard care and very few people are told about the fact that if they just change their diet, and that’s what we talk about in this week’s podcast. 

That’s why I’m very proud to support Defeat Diabetes because the government certainly doesn’t seem to be doing it in the professional organisations don’t seem to be doing it. 

10 Steps to Good Health with Diabetes

Let me share with you this professional organisation. When I was writing my book in 2015, I looked at all the organisations and here is the Australian Diabetes Council celebrating its 75th anniversary and on this site, I found 10 Steps to Good Health with Diabetes. I realised when I read the 10 steps and don’t even, I won’t even bother sharing any of them with you other than the first step. 

I realised that the keyword in that statement was 10 Steps to Good Health with Diabetes. If you wanted to live life without diabetes, you wouldn’t follow any of these steps. But here is the first step. “Follow a healthy eating plan, which is low in fat, particularly saturated fat, high in fibre and includes carbohydrates in each meal.”.

Includes carbohydrates in each meal, now to be clear, carbohydrates get broken down very quickly in the body into sugar, and it either gets stored as glycogen, which is stored in the liver, or it gets converted to fat because what you don’t want is glucose floating around in your body in excess. 

That is why diabetes is so dangerous because insulin helps you regulate that. If you are insulin resistant, that means that the glucose, which could also be the carb, which is also carbohydrates, carbohydrates quickly get broken down to glucose if you do not have insulin functioning properly in your body, making that conversion from carbohydrates to glucose, from glucose to glucagon, from the glucagon you don’t use to fat, then you have an excessive amount of glucose floating around in your body. 

You should have no more than 4-8 grams, 1-2 teaspoons of glucose floating around in your body at any one time because glucose is incredibly reactive and causes oxidative stress. And that has all sorts of implications, which every diabetic is very well aware of because they are a serious co-morbidity – Type 2 Diabetes, Type One Diabetes. But diabetes is a serious co-morbidity.

Here we have in 2015, many years after the food pyramid was accepted, many years after the upward trajectory of diabetes was identified still pumping out this kind of advice. 10 Steps to Living Life with Diabetes. In case you think I’m… this master has all changed now. Just before I recorded this, I thought I would go on to the US Department of Agriculture site, and this is a site for health care practitioners. 

You can go on there so that you can work out what your recommended daily intake of macronutrients are now. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You put in your age, you put in your weight, your activity level, your height and here we have the recommendation for me today, 2021, and that is for me to eat 318 to 460 grams of carbohydrates a day.

Low carb diet

A low carb diet, the one that I would certainly subscribe to I have in my book, I think is very sustainable is 70 grams of carbohydrates a day. If you were a Type 2 diabetic, you may well want to go down to 20 or 30 grams of carbohydrate a day and then see how you go. 

But by doing that very thing, that doctor that I referred to in the podcast, Dr Rob Szabo, who at 37, was shocked to be diagnosed with diabetes, was shocked that he was destined to be on medication for the rest of his life decided, no, he’s going to explore. 

He did that with a low carb approach and literally turned his blood sugar around within 24 to 48 hours and has maintained that for years afterwards. This is why Defeat Diabetes is such an important initiative. This is why that podcast this week with Peter Bruker is so useful. 

Public Health Message

I come back to this point that today public health messages are still out there proposing this kind of advice for you as a consumer, as a patient, as a doctor advising patients. This is what is being recommended and even the organisations today and when you look further down fat, avoid saturated fats, dietary cholesterol, which you know, we’ve done programmes on cholesterol with Dr Ross Walker, and cholesterol is not the demon that it’s made out to be. 

If you’re concerned about cholesterol, go and get a coronary calcium CT to score done. If that is zero or under 100, don’t worry about your cholesterol. That is the gold standard of medicine now, and if your doctor hasn’t recommended it, you recommend it to your doctor. A coronary calcium CT score. If it is over 100, then you need to be concerned. 

According to Ross Walker, if it’s over 400, don’t read Tolstoy. Mine was very high, but that’s a whole other story. So but here we have this blanket advice of a high-carb diet, a low-fat diet which is going to drive diabetes, as it has done for many for a long time.

Look, this raises a whole other issue about public health messages. And yes, we are here talking about Defeat Diabetes with Peter Brukner. But, you know, the whole issue of public health messages being contradictory and confusing and the influence of the chemical, food and pharmaceutical industry at all levels of health care from government regulatory bodies like the FDA to professional organisations like the AMA, the NHMRC, the Diabetes Council, right into the journals, right into the doctor’s surgery is pervasive. It is a pervasive influence, and we are seeing that influence today to this very day.

List of drug company

Here is a list of drug company funds that have occurred from 2000 to 2010. So this was all actually from 1991 to 2010. It’s a snapshot of the pharmaceutical industry and starting from those with the least, to those with the biggest fine. 

You will recognise some interesting names. Johnson and Johnson were fined $250 million in 2010 for unlawful promotion. Pfizer in 2004 was fined $430 million for unlawful promotion. They were again fined in 2009, only five years later for $2.3 billion for unlawful promotion and kickbacks. 

AstraZeneca is a company we hear quite a lot about. AstraZeneca in 2003 was fined $355 million, which was in 2003 unperturbed. They were fined in 2010 for $520 million in unlawful promotion and kickbacks. Merck, You may have heard the company name, Merck. There is a company that was fined in 2008 $650 million for overcharging and for kickbacks and Purdue.

If you want to look at the influence of the FDA on public health, I would recommend a series which is currently playing on Disney Plus called Dopesick, and it is all about the Opioid crisis in America from the late 90s to 2007, and this was instituted by the Purdue Company, who were the makers of OxyContin and OxyContin is an opioid that the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, gave it a special label, saying that OxyContin was unusual for an opioid because it was not addictive. 

You could prescribe this painkiller because it was not addictive and that began a promotional campaign which is documented in that TV series very timely, I think, given our current situation globally, but Purdue then went on to the market this aggressively and the office that approved that label, which said OxyContin was not addictive, left the FDA and became a senior executive of Perdue. 

The OxyContin opioid crisis in America affected tens of millions of lives and cost 500000 lives. That means 500000 people died in America because of the opioid crisis generated by a lie that was actually approved by the FDA and supported by the World Health Organisation. 

Now, that is a sobering fact for you to remember, and I mentioned it in the context of this week’s episode because your health is just too important to leave to anybody else. You have to take control of it yourself. We are very fortunate in our society to have a Western health model that we can fall back on in times of crisis.

One could argue we are in a time of crisis. I would say if you are not one with co-morbidities, then you know, we’ve talked about how to support you through this pandemic with good nutritional support and a healthy level of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Zinc. 

You will not hear any of that, sadly, from any government organisations, regulatory bodies or professional organisations like the AMA, the NHMRC. That is a sad fact. I am really alarmed at how many people have become marketing and compliance officers for companies that have time and time again been accused of illegal marketing, illegal practises, and illegal research really and have literally cost tens of thousands and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of lives. 

The number of people unwittingly who have become marketing and compliance officers for these companies is quite staggering to me. But I digress.

This week’s episode is one well worth listening to. It’s with the legendary sports physician Peter Brukner. It’s called Defeat Diabetes. As I said, I’m very pleased and proud to be a supporter of that, and I hope you will be to download the listen to the episode, download the app and take control of your own health. I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.