Diabetes Forecast

The Way We Eat Now

By Sara Sklaroff, Editorial Director ,

Roaming about our offices recently, I came across a threadbare old volume titled The Allen (Starvation) Treatment of Diabetes. It made for a sobering read. I'd been aware that treatments before the discovery of insulin had been drastic, but still I was shocked by this 1921 edition of Dr. Frederick Allen's infamous regimen. Patients—sometimes already wasting away from the effects of diabetes, sometimes nearly comatose—were literally starved. After a few days of no food, tiny meals were permitted. To give an example, here's how one person ate after a six-day fast: Day 1: 30 calories. Day 2: 189. Day 3: 294. Day 4: 471. And yes, those calorie counts are daily totals, not single meals.

After a couple of weeks, the "diet" allowed a more normal level of calories. Gelatin figured prominently; vegetables were to be thrice boiled, with the water dumped out after each cooking. But the saddest recipe in the book has to be the "Tomato Basket of Plenty," a tomato stuffed with cold cooked string beans and a single walnut, "moistened" with French dressing. The recipe ends with the advice to "serve on a lettuce leaf"—as if that one bit of grace could redeem such a meager meal.

At the time, this was progressive medical practice, and it did prolong life, to a degree. Today, fortunately, we have much more effective treatments, and we know a lot more about eating with diabetes. The recipes in this special issue are testimony to how far we've come. Food Editor Robyn Webb has devised dishes that incorporate contemporary food trends, exotic ingredients, and a whole lot of flavor, to boot. Those of us with diabetes now know that we can eat well, when we eat wisely.

On a different note: Last month, I wrote about my plan to learn to ride a bike for the June 14 Tour de Cure in Reston, Va. I'd like to thank the many readers who have written, e-mailed, and visited my blog. Learning and training have been a big challenge, but the support I've gotten from friends and strangers alike has made it easier.



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