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Diabetic Beauty Queen Rocks the Insulin Pump!

>> Monday, July 28, 2014

A shout out and a big High Five! goes out to Sierra Sandison this week. She's a type 1 diabetic who just won the Miss Idaho 2014 beauty pageant - wearing her insulin pump proudly for all to see, from evening wear to the bikini contest!

This has sparked the #ShowMeYourPump campaign, a Twitter campaign for awareness of diabetes and pumps, where diabetics have been invited to tweet pictures of themselves wearing their insulin pumps with pride.

In Sierra's words,

"Diabetes turned my life upside down when I was first diagnosed. Don't let your challenge hold you back or slow you down. Use it to not only empower yourself and grow as an individual, but to serve and influence other people as well."

Inspiring!  Thanks to Bob for the heads' up on this story.

@drsuepedersen © 2014


Atkins - Dr Sue's Review

>> Monday, July 21, 2014

The Atkins Diet is one of the most longstanding and highly popularized diets out there.  The foundation of the diet is based upon avoidance of carbohydrates, without restricting calorie intake per se.  It's extremely restrictive in carbohydrate intake in the beginning phase at only 20g per day.  From there, there is an eventual increase in carb allowance into the 'life long' maintenance phase.
(For a detailed review of the phases of Atkins, the Mayo clinic has written a nice summary which you can access here. )

Atkins has been studied in clinical trials, with some conflicting results.  One clinical trial showed Aktins to be superior to other diets for weight loss at one year.  However, another randomized controlled study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that, compared to a low calorie/high carb/low fat diet, there was no difference in weight at one year.  Another clinical trial comparing Atkins vs Zone vs Ornish vs Weight Watchers found no difference in weight loss at 1 year - BUT - they found that there was more weight loss seen in people who stuck to the program - regardless of which of the 4 diets they were assigned to.

Because the Atkins diet can theoretically allow for unrestricted intake of high fat foods, there have been concerns raised that it may have a negative impact on cardiac risk factors like cholesterol levels, but the overall balance of the studies seems to show that this is not the case.  That being said, the usual benefit in these risk factors that is seen with weight loss does not seem to be seen with Atkins either.

Again, I ask the bottom line question: Is this a permanent lifestyle change?  The answer, for most people, is no.  A high frequency of side effects are reported on the Atkins diet due to its low carb nature, such as headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and constipation.  It is also logistically very difficult to avoid carbs to this extent over the long term.  It's not appropriate for people with kidney problems or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  A very careful discussion with your doctor is necessary before starting and while on Atkins, particularly for anyone on diuretics or treatment for diabetes.

@drsuepedersen © 2014


Diabetic Alert Dogs - Fact or Fiction?

>> Monday, July 14, 2014

Some dog-owning diabetics have reported that their dogs alert them to the fact that they are having a low blood sugar.  As such, there are a number of organizations out there that train dogs specifically to alert their owners to a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) event.  So, does having a hypoglycemia alert dog actually work?

A recent study evaluated seventeen diabetics (age 5-66) who acquired trained hypo alert dogs.  Though the accuracy of the dog alerting the individual of a low blood sugar was variable, all 17 people reported reduced paramedic calls, decreased unconscious episodes, and an increase in independence compared to before they had the dog.  Pretty impressive!

People who have diabetes and require insulin, or are taking a type of diabetes medication called sulfonylureas, are at risk of low blood sugars.  Having a low blood sugar can be a very unpleasant feeling, and can be downright dangerous, as both the heart and the brain depend on sugar to function.  Older people with diabetes, people who have had diabetes for a decade or more, and people who have frequent low blood sugars, may not feel their low blood sugars.  Not feeling a low makes it even more dangerous, as people who not aware that they are low don't recognize the need to take steps to bring their sugars back up.  It is for these people that a hypo alert dog may be of particular benefit.

How could a dog know that a person is having a low blood sugar?  When a person is having a low blood sugar and doesn't know it, they may show symptoms of decreased blood sugar to the brain - for example, confusion, or a change in behavior.  The dog may be noticing and responding to this.  It has been suggested that there may be a scent released by the person with the low blood sugar that the dog may pick up, but this has not been proven.

Interestingly, even untrained dogs have been shown often to attract their owners' attention when the owner is having a low - to my knowledge, there is no research to study directly how a trained dog performs compared to an untrained dog.

Perhaps another reason to call a dog a wo/man's best friend!

PS thanks to Erin for the inspiration for this blog. :)

@drsuepedersen © 2014


Paleo Diet - Dr Sue's Review

>> Monday, July 7, 2014

This summer and fall, I’ll be taking you on a journey of some of the most common diet plans out there.

Today, let’s talk about the Paleo diet.  The foundation of the Paleo diet is to eat the way we ate when we were hunters and gatherers, primarily focusing on animal protein and plants.  Essentially, the philosophy is that if the caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you.

Along this premise, there are definitely foods included which are good to eat: fish, poultry, fruits, and veggies are high on the list.

Paleo also recommends avoiding any product of the agricultural revolution: this includes dairy, legumes, and grains.  (Though, butter from a grain fed cow seems to be OK, as the Bulletproof Coffee (where butter is melted into your java) seems to be popular with some Paleo advocates).     

(Editorial comment: Did we really need to take Timmy's Double Double to the next level?)

It seems that the Paleo diet has some good things going for it:

  • Avoiding grains translates to avoiding a lot of packaged food, and avoiding quick grab foods of low nutrient value (eg bakery products).   
  • Protein consumed is generous, which is good, because protein gives more of a sense of fullness than carbs or fat.  (see study)

Negatives include:

  • The fat percent is too high (estimated at about 39% of daily calories for a typical Paleo diet). If you're trying to lose weight, this could present a challenge.  I also wondered if there would be an adverse effect of this high fat intake on cholesterol, although one study actually shows an improvement in cholesterol profile. 
  • Paleo doesn’t discriminate between healthier animal sources of protein (eg fish vs red meat)
  • Avoiding dairy is unfortunate, as there is a lot of nutritional value in low fat dairy products.  The same can be said for legumes and healthy grain choices.
  • It’s deficient in some vitamins and minerals, such as calcium.


So overall, I'm not a fan.  In any case, at the end of the day, the Paleo diet is difficult to follow long term; any diet that completely restricts complete food groups is going to be tough to stick to.  And as you’ve heard me say before, I don’t even like to use the word 'diet', because it implies that the change is temporary. Any change should be a permanent lifestyle change if it is going to result in permanent success!

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2014


Obesity in Children – Resources for Parents and Physicians

>> Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A recent issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal contained a short article about how to approach the issue of obesity in a young child.  In the article was a list of online resources that I thought would be useful to share:

A Health Professional's Guide for Using the New WHO Growth Charts

Is My Child Growing Well? Questions and Answers for Parents

NutriSTEP--Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler

Canadian Paediatric Society on child obesity

Caring for Kids--information for parents from Canada's pediatricians 

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (by age group)

Canadian Obesity Network--pediatrics page

Summary report of expert committee recommendations on prevention, assessment and 
treatment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2014



I am excited that you have arrived at my site, and I hope you are too - consider this the first step towards a Healthier New You!! As a medical doctor, Endocrinologist, and obesity specialist, I am absolutely passionate about helping people with weight management. Though there is certainly no magic cure for obesity, there IS a successful treatment plan out there for you - it is all about understanding the elements that contribute to your personal weight struggle, and then finding the treatment plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle. The way to finding your personal solution is to learn as much as you can about obesity: how our toxic environment has shaped us into an overweight society; the diversity of contributors to obesity; and what the treatment options out there are really all about. Knowledge Is Power!!

Are you ready to change your life? Let's begin our journey together, towards a healthier, happier you!!

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