Low Fat Diet Reverses
Diabetes - At Least in Mice
By Maggie Fox
Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fat, not sugar, is the key to controlling diabetes, U.S. researchers said Thursday. They said mice fed a simple low-fat diet were cured of their diabetes, and say the same should be true of people. ``If you cut out fat and cut it down to a very low level -- in our case it was 10 percent of calories consumed -- you will reverse diabetes,'' said Richard Surwit, a psychiatry professor at Duke University who led the study. He said problems controlling blood sugar levels are a side-effect, and not a cause, of diabetes. Surwit's team tested mice that had been bred to develop type-2 diabetes -- the type that affects more than 14 million Americans and millions more around the world. Cutting their fat intake to 10 percent of calories from 40 percent reversed their diabetes, Surwit reported in the journal Metabolism. He said people are wasting their time when they try to eat a low-sugar diet to control or prevent diabetes. ``Sugar is not a problem. It really isn't,'' he said. ``That should not be something that people should concern themselves with. It should be fat and total calories.'' Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of the hormone insulin. Insulin is important for metabolizing both sugar and fat. Because people's blood sugar levels are so strongly affected by this, doctors and patients alike have focused on sugar as both a cause and effect of diabetes. But Surwit says this is wrong. ``A high-fat diet keeps the insulin elevated inappropriately,'' he said. Most Americans, and indeed most Westerners, eat a high-fat diet, typically getting more than 30 percent of calories from fat. Most Americans -- 55 percent -- are also overweight, and obesity and diabetes are very strongly linked. Surwit says it will be nearly impossible to get most people to eat a 10 percent fat diet. ``Low-fat food doesn't taste good. It's that simple,'' he said. He hopes new fat substitutes such as Procter & Gamble's Olestra and a U.S. Department of Agriculture product known as Nu-Trim, which is made from oats, will be proved safe and useful. Surwit says he has tested his ideas in people, as well. He says obese women put on high-sugar and sugar-free diets that were identical in other ways both lost the same amount of weight, and their blood sugar and fat levels were the same. He says his ideas have no bearing on type-1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes. This disease accounts for only 5 percent of all cases of diabetes and is caused by damage to the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin.