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WebMD stands for Web Mindless Drivel

by Fred Hahn on December 9, 2010


After attempting to relay the benefits of low to no carb eating to type II diabetics (T2D) on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) web forum to no avail, I decided instead to do some searching around the web. I wanted to see if any web-based organization stated that a high carbohydrate diet is a cause/risk factor of/for T2D.

After a time I landed on WebMD. Web MD is a popular website for health and medical information (as is the ADA website). Many look to WebMD for solid, sound and accurate explanations of various different conditions. In looking over the section on diabetes, I came across this info on Web MD’s causes of T2D:

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Other type 2 diabetes risk factors include the following:

High blood pressure
High blood triglyceride (fat) levels
Gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
High-fat diet (The bold is my doing.)
High alcohol intake
Sedentary lifestyle
Obesity or being overweight
Ethnicity: Certain groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese Americans, have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
Aging: Increasing age is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes begins to rise significantly at about age 45 years, and rises considerably after age 65 years.

Hold the phone – a high fat diet is a risk factor/cause of T2D? Since when? Fat doesn’t raise blood sugar in the least and is an essential macronutrient unlike carbohydrate). Only carbohydrate raises blood sugar. It is well established that chronically elevated blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance which in turn can lead to T2D. But WebMD makes no mention of carbohydrate intake at all.

If they are going to point a finger at fat for whatever reason, they’d better point a finger at carbs too. Bear in mind that diabetes is a condition of carbohydrate intolerance. I am not saying that eating carbohydrates directly causes diabetes (as many of the folks on the ADA web forum thought I said – they get very touchy). But if you have either T1 or T2 diabetes, you don’t tolerate much if any carbs.

How can WebMD leave carbohydrate off the list? Again, diabetes is a condition of carbohydrate, not fat intolerance. How can the doctors that supposedly wrote this info confidently state that a high fat diet is a risk factor for T2D when there is no physiological or scientific basis for such a claim? If you want to hypothesize that it’s true, fine. Get some funding do some studies and see. But the current research show us pretty clearly that, high fat, adequate protein, low carb diets result in lower blood glucose levels and improvements in insulin sensitivity.

Makes one wonder about WebMD, no?

And if they mucked up that statement (and they did), what else on the website is flat out wrong and misleading? If someone with diabetes saw their webpage on diabetes risk factors, she might opt for a low fat diet and a low fat diet is, by default, a high carb diet. Not good.

WebMD also states:

The Basics of a Healthy Diabetes Diet
Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no “diabetes diet,” per se — and that’s good news! The foods recommended for a diabetes diet to control blood glucose (or blood sugar) are good for those with diabetes — and everyone else. This means that you and your family can eat the same healthy foods at mealtime. However, for people with diabetes, the total amounts of carbohydrates consumed each day must be monitored carefully. Of the different components of nutrition — carbohydrates, fats, and proteins — carbohydrates have the greatest influence on blood sugar levels. Most people with diabetes also have to monitor total fat consumption and protein intake, too.

Wow. You mean it’s good news that no one has yet developed a diet that is best for diabetics? Sounds more like bad news to me. And notice how they say “Contrary to popular belief…” as if scores of people are murmuring about the best diabetes diet and are wrong about it. It’s as if they are suggesting that there shouldn’t be a best diet for diabetics or that a diet that is best for diabetics is a tasteless and bland.

Notice too how they state that diabetics have to monitor their carb intake carefully. Well if they do then would not a low carb diet be the best diet for a diabetic and not a low fat diet? Someone needs to snatch these people bald headed.

The folks that write for WebMD also cleverly try to lead one to believe that protein and fat negatively affect blood glucose levels when they don’t – at all. And these are supposedly doctors who write this drivel? And if diabetics have to monitor total carb, fat and protein intake – what exactly are they suggesting – starvation?

Here is a very good paper to read if you are diabetic and want to adopt a low carb diet. You’ll see that what WebMD is saying regarding fats, proteins and carbs and how these three macronutrients affect diabetics is wrong. Show it to your doctor at your next visit and insist she reads it.

Be well!

I've been involved in exercise ever since I became a member of The Charles Atlas Club when I was 10 years old. In 1998, I founded and established Serious Strength on the Upper West Side of NYC. My clients include kids, seniors (and everyone in between), top CEOs, celebrities, bestselling authors, journalists and TV personalities.
my book. my Gym.

tagged as in diabetes,Health/Fitness,Science,Uncategorized · 28 comments

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Fred Hahn calls WebMD “Web Mindless Drivel” | S.P.E.E.D.
January 7, 2011 at 7:18 PM


almiller December 9, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Its all a big conspiracy. Its all connected to November 22, 1963.

Brandon Schultz, DC December 9, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Hi Fred,
I know, every day I have to show and reverse the logic people are taught (indoctrinated?) with regarding diet and T2D and other health concerns.
Very unfortunate that one of the largest referenced “health” websites are not exactly accurate.
On the bright side, there are still people out there promoting accurate, useful and health-promoting concepts!
Keep up the great writing Fred! You drive to never stop providing great info keeps me at it as well!
In health,

PhilM December 9, 2010 at 10:55 AM


Anybody who writes about any health matter throws low-fat in there for good measure. That is the only explanation I can find for this curious phenomenon.

BTW, after decades of trying to up my HDL from 30 to no success, my last HDL was measured at 55! The only major change in my diet was the inclusion of two eggs (yolk) for breakfast everyday! In light of this, I consider the low-fat diet advice extremely harmful to some of us.


Dana December 9, 2010 at 11:29 AM

Phil, if someone told you that you need to adopt a diet with far less than the daily requirement for vitamin A because hypervitaminosis A is a dangerous condition and they don’t want you to suffer from it, wouldn’t you worry just a little bit?

While people without gallbladders, and with certain other health conditions, do need to watch a bit more closely what types of fats they eat, the fact remains that fats are *essential* to the human diet. And unlike with vitamin A there does not seem to be an upper toxicity level–possibly because eating fat induces satiety and so there is no way to naturally discover any toxicity level, but I rather suspect it’s more like the body has ways to use up the stuff and even dump it out of the body, if necessary, before it causes harm.

I don’t think *any* advice to short oneself on an essential nutrient is good advice–furthermore, I think such advice is harmful. And I think low-fat diets are ultimately harmful. Even in the odd indigenous community where the traditional diet includes starchy foods (such as the diet of the Kitavans), the people still eat lots of fat, which is probably why they can tolerate the starch.

By the way, experts *are* advising people to eat diets low in vitamin A because of the risk of hypervitaminosis A–thinking beta carotene can make up the lack, when in many people it frequently doesn’t. This is the pass we’ve come to when medical advice is so reductionist and based on shoddy science. Just thought I’d mention in case you thought my analogy was extreme. 🙁

Dana December 9, 2010 at 11:34 AM

Oh and Fred, I can’t remember off the top of my head but I *think* the consumption of trans fats and an excess of polyunsaturated oils *might* be risk factors for diabetes, or at least obesity. That may be some of where they get this “high-fat diet causes diabetes” nonsense from, I think they induced all sorts of health problems in rats on a high-fat diet–but the fat was CORN OIL. No one in their right mind and armed with accurate information eats corn oil to any great degree. The stuff’s terrible for you.

David December 9, 2010 at 12:13 PM

As a 25-year type 2 diabetic, I wanted to add one point of clarification. I eat an extremely low carb diet, but it is true that protein also raises blood sugar. It does it less and it is over a much longer period of time (it can take several hours), but between 40 and 50% of the protein you eat eventually is converted to glucose.

Fred Hahn December 9, 2010 at 12:20 PM


Protein does not raise blood sugar – only insulin. In diabetics, protein lowers blood sugar as you can see from the study I included a link to at the end of the post. The conversion to glucose does not seem to raise blood sugar. Please see the paper for clarification.

Fred Hahn December 9, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Thanks Brandon!

Lori December 9, 2010 at 3:31 PM

As I see it, there are three main groups of diabetics, and a smaller fourth one:

Group 1: Those who think for themselves, do research, and test their own results. (Low-carbers)
Group 2: Those who go by whatever their doctor, nutritionist or conventional wisdom tells them. No independent thought required. (High carbers)
Group 3: Those who do whatever they please with little regard for the consequences. (High carbers)
Group 4: Those who are dogged by someone who cares to eat low-carb and high-fat and test the results.

My mom is in Group 4, and she’s been transformed. Her fasting BG used to get into the 300s (!) and now it’s in the 120s. She has more energy and a better mood at age 81 than she had in her 50s. Sadly, this has all come too late for her to ever be back to normal.

Fred Hahn December 9, 2010 at 3:35 PM

Well at least she can live the rest of her life, which will now be longer, in the best possible health. The sad thing is all of the diabetics who are going to lose their eyesight and feet from the wrong advice.

Debbie C. December 9, 2010 at 4:00 PM

My mom and dad were both T2 diabetics and fell into Lori’s Group 2. Took their daily metformin and lived on Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut pizzas, breakfast cereals with skim milk, coffee with fat-free half-and-half (and what the heck IS that anyway?). My mom died at 77 of Alzheimer’s complications. My dad had all sorts of health problems and died last year shortly before his 82nd birthday.

Sadly, I’m T2 also – but I like to think I’m in Group 1. Just finished a late brunch of bacon and pancakes (eggs, cream, baking powder and coconut flour) cooked in the bacon grease. My 2-hour PP reading was 107. I don’t need to tell most people here what sort of numbers I would get if I ate a high-carb meal.

I know you say that protein doesn’t raise blood sugar, but it sure does for me. I have to agree with David on that. I can demonstrate it with my glucose meter. I cut my average blood sugar readings by some 20-30 points just by cutting in half the amount of protein I eat. If I eat an 8-ounce burger (naturally without the bun) my blood sugar goes up into the danger zone (over 140) but if I eat a 4-ounce burger it stays nice and low.

Yes, I looked at the paper you linked to. I’m not a scientist, so all I can tell anyone is what my meter shows me, and the anecdotal evidence of others on the online support group I go to who also say they have to lower their protein levels to help keep blood glucose lower.

But fat? Fat certainly doesn’t affect my blood sugar negatively. I’m sure glad I don’t pay the least attention to WebMD or the ADA. 🙂

Fred Hahn December 9, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Interesting – if you eat 8 oz of beef alone – nothing else – your BG goes up?

The study showed that in diabetic subjects given 50 grams of protein (more than 8 oz) blood sugar actually lowered.

“With this [12] and other information [13-18], several years ago, we determined the glucose and insulin responses to 50 g of protein given in the form of lean beef to 8 normal subjects [19] and 7 subjects with type 2 diabetes [20]. When normal subjects ingested the 50 g protein, the plasma glucose concentration remained stable during the 4 hours of the study. When subjects with type 2 diabetes ingested 50 g protein, not only was the glucose stable, it actually decreased (Figure 2).”

You eat 4oz and you are fine and 8 brings it to the danger zone? What about 6oz?

Steven Low December 9, 2010 at 8:16 PM

It’s disgusting is what it is.

I’m currently in school for physical therapy and obviously they have to have multiple lectures on endocrine, pancreas, etc. along with specific topics such as diabetes and heart disease because a lot of our patients with have such problems.

Thankfully, our lecturer did tell us that exercise helps with regression of diabetes (most of our class was surprised which was sad to me). Clearly, as exercise increases insulin sensitivity and such… but anyway this is besides the point.

But not ONCE did we talk about diet. What??? We all know that diabetes is a problem of elevated and irregular glucose levels causing AGE-related damage of body systems along with sorbitol induced neuropathies. How exactly is this not a dietary problem consider diet is the primary factor in elevated glucose levels??

This is the same stuff with the ignorance on intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and supposed influence on heart disease.

It’s baffling. Utterly baffling.

And this is not just a PT school problem… obviously med schools and other graduate school programs are like this. Same with the supposed medical organizations.

I’m half convinced that big pharma and the 13 billion the US per year in farm subsidies (see grain/corn industry) is being put to good use as incentive packages to all of these organizations to keep “the truth” concealed. Disgusting.

Steven Low December 9, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Oh yeah,

Protein does increase blood glucose levels slightly, but it’s not much comparitively to carbohydrates.

Protein stimulates release of insulin and glucago (as opposed to just insulin for carbohydrates).

Insulin drives amino acids into tissues. Glucagon drives AA’s to liver where gluconeogenesis occurs which explains the rise in blood glucose.

I’m not convinced that spiking insulin is a problem for non-diabetics given the interplay of hormones with eating protein. It’s more of the overall damage that is being done to the system by not using the energy + ingestion of other processed foods upping omega-6 intake which leads to insulin resistance and visceral fat accumulation. Development of CVD/atherosclerosis/stroke risk/metabolic syndrome/diabetes/hypertension/etc. concurrently all at once is a multi-factorial problem from those two factors at once.

I don’t know if you Stephan’s blog but there’s a bunch of cultures without diabetes/CVD/etc. like the Kitavan’s who consume 70% carbs. Obviously, they don’t eat processed foods so it’s likely that insulin problems themselves are not an issue. It’s the combination of high blood sugar, and the pro-inflammatory omega-6 increases that cause much of the diseases of western civilization.

Though when you have a problem like diabetes obviously there’s a problem with insulin so that’s already an issue

mark king December 10, 2010 at 10:51 AM

Fred, I don’t think I gave you permision to use my X-ray.:)

Fred Hahn December 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Oh sorry Mark – it looked so much like mine that I must have mixed up the files! 🙂

David December 10, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Perhaps a diabetic’s response to protein may be somewhat individualized and dependent on a number of factors, such as how long they have been diabetic. It also may be hard to accurately attribute cause and effect (of protein ingestion/slow increase in glucose levels) in a long term diabetic because their mechanism does not work properly and will do something screwy for no apparent reason. I eat a very low carb diet, but after 25 years of diabetes, there is a limit to my level of recovery. Some other 25-year diabetic may be able to restore a completely normal insulin response (while eating low carb), but I have not been able to do that. I’ve only been eating this way for 2 years so perhaps over a longer period I can.

fredt December 17, 2010 at 4:23 PM

8 ounce burger raises blood sugar. ok. Many fast food places use fructose as a browning agent. Butter raises my blood glouscose.

Now is that corn fed beef?

Dr. William Davis December 18, 2010 at 9:30 PM

Hear, hear, Fred!

Just in the last month, I have discontinued diabetes medications in several adult diabetics after they dramatically reduced carbohydrates in their diet–not fat, but carbohydrate. I’ve stopped metformin, pioglitazone (Actos), glipizide, glyburide, and others, all thanks to reducing or eliminating carbohydrates.

The emerging research is clear on this, too: Not only does reducing carbohydrates reduce blood sugar, but it can eliminate–otherwise known as CURE–diabetes.

Fred Hahn December 19, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Thanks Bill! It’s a crazy and wacky world out there in nutrition land.

Lori December 19, 2010 at 2:13 PM

fredt, I don’t know if you’re talking about a homemade burger by itself or a restaurant burger, but some restaurants cut their hamburger with soybeans. There is also carbohydrate in tomato, cheese, ketchup, barbecue sauce, onion, some kinds of seasoning, and even a trace amount in lettuce. Not to mention the squishy white bun. I’m not saying it’s impossible that ground meat on its own could raise blood sugar, just that there might be something else at work.

Is it possible that something you ate before or after the burger or butter raised your blood sugar? Some foods take a few hours to spike.

MC-OZ December 21, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Fred, I just read your response to the idea that eating 4 oz and 8 oz protein could have a different effects on blood glucose.
I can vouch that my blood glucose increases after eating protein and Dr Vernon said it’s particularly true when the protein had low amount of fat. [I presume this increase is due to gluconeogenesis or the break down of protein/amino acids to form glucose]. The more beef tenderloin I eat, the more protein I consume but the amount of fat doesn’t increase nearly as much as the protein (tenderloin isn’t very fatty).
So given our fat phobic world, most people prefer lower concentrations of fat in their beef, which could result in higher increases in blood glucose. The 4 and 8 0z beef hamburgers could well result in different increases in blood glucose.
It’s interesting to note that it’s very difficult to have a meal of just protein! Some meat and chicken have quite low amounts of fat but it’s almost impossible to eat just protein without eating fat (or carbs if you’re a vegetarian). Protein whey powder could be one of the few foods that’s mostly protein but you have to look hard to find one without carbs and fat.
T-bone steak, filet mignon, eggs, cheese, chicken all have are protein + fat, but some have more fat than others. I’m pretty sure my blood glucose increase is lower when I take care my protein is accompanied with a good amount of fat (like in the paper, 40 – 50% fat is great!). A bison burger needs extra fat! But I’m not a fat phobic.

MC-OZ December 21, 2010 at 4:33 PM

OK Fred. 2 more things.
Your statement “The study showed that in diabetic subjects given 50 grams of protein (more than 8 oz) blood sugar actually lowered.” is not exactly correct!
Correct conversion of gms to ozs is 1 oz = approximately 28.35 gm. So 50 gm = approx. 1.8 oz or 8 oz beef = 226.8 gm approximately.

So what are Gannon and Nuttall talking about? 50 gm of protein?? According to these authors, 50 gm is the estimated amount of protein in the 250 gm beef consumed by a diabetic subject in a 1924 study. Wow. This subject ate approx 8.8 oz beef which had 1.8 oz protein and 7 oz fat. What amazing beef! 80% fat???
So what did Gannon and Nuttall actually give their subjects? According to them it was “50 g of protein given in the form of lean beef”. I’m curious how much beef was this?

Well, Gannon and Nuttall’s paper was a review. So they’re quoting their own and others when they wrote: “The studies cited above were single meal studies testing the effect of dietary protein alone” ie, somehow they believe that they know the effect of protein on blood glucose.
As I pointed out in my previous posting, it’s nigh impossible to have a meal of protein alone, and this is not what they studied. I would argue that the amount (and maybe even type) of fat with the protein could be very important in determining whether or not blood glucose increases.

One final thought. Not all diabetics’ (or prediabetics) pancreases (and/or metabolisms) are created equal. One diabetic’s reaction to 50 gm of protein [+ 177 gm fat] could be very different from anothers. How come no one ever talks about hyperinsulinemia? It’s not an all or nothing situation. I may be more hyperinsulinemic than another prediabetic. Couldn’t my blood glucose level be different because I’m more hyperinsulinemic?

Fred Hahn December 21, 2010 at 5:18 PM

Your questions are good ones and that is why glucometers exist. From what I have read fat does not affect BG at all and protein little if any if you are eating a normal portion. Dr. Bernstein’s book on diabetes would be a good resource for you.

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