Richard Bernstein developed T1D in 1946 when he was 12 years old. For the next 20 years he endured a poor quality of life (1). He was placed on a diet which was low in SFAs and contained about 45% of calories as carbohydrates. As a consequence he had to have very high doses of insulin. During his twenties and thirties, his general health was deteriorating. He suffered from severe mid-chest burning all the time, “burning shoulders” and progressive deformities of his feet which had impaired sensations.
By his early thirties he had trained as an engineer and was married with small children but his health continued to get worse. His wife who was a physician pointed out that he spent most of his time ei9ther experiencing or recovering from hypoglycaemia. This was usually accompanied by fatigue and headaches. The fundamental cause was the due to the high doses of insulin which were necessitated by the amount of carbohydrates he was consuming. In order to obtain information on how his blood glucose levels were fluctuating he purchased an instrument which enabled him to make these measurements using a drop of blood.
By doing this 5 times every day he discovered that his blood glucose varied from under 40 mg/dl to 400 mg/dl which is huge when compared with approximately 80 mg/dl which is considered to be normal. Applying his engineering expertise, he decided to reduce his intake of carbohydrates so that the insulin dose could be lowered and have two injection per day instead of one. So while he succeeded in reducing the fluctuations in blood glucose, his health remained poor. In an attempt to learn what further steps he could take Dr Bernstein researched the scientific literature and discovered that in animals, the complications of diabetes could be prevented or even reversed by avoiding the swings in blood glucose levels and maintaining them at normal levels.
In the light of this information he monitored his blood glucose carefully, up to 8 times a day. Crucially, he started to make small, experimental changes in his diet and in his insulin regimen to determine the effect on the blood glucose. The insight gained enabled him to fine tune his insulin treatment and his diet so that he could achieve normal values all the time. Very quickly his health improved significantly. His fatigue disappeared, he gained weight and he was able to develop muscle quite easily. His insulin dose was just one third what it had been previously. Subsequently this was reduced to one sixth with the development of human insulin. The painful lumps under the skin caused by the insulin injections which were slow to heal disappeared. Above all he had the satisfaction of solving a difficult problem and of getting his condition under control.
This was 1973 and he felt obliged to try to share his information with others who suffered from similar problems and would benefit from his experience. He believed that all physicians would be delighted to learn how easy it is to prevent and possible reverse the serious complications of the disease. He thought they would keen to make the information available to their patients. Unfortunately he was far too optimistic. A paper he prepared which described his investigations and the results he had personally experienced was rejected. The New England Journal of Medicine stated that:
“Studies are not unanimous in demonstrating a need for ‘fine control’ “.
The Journal of the America Medical Association dismissed the article by posing the following question:
“How many patients would use the electric device for measurement of glucose, insulin, urine, etc?”
At it happens once the equipment reached the market place in 1980, it has developed into a multi-billion $ business.
Despite persistent efforts to persuade the specialists in diabetes to adopt his approach, Dr. Bernstein only managed to find three physicians who were willing to try these new methods. However with the support of Charles Suther of the company which produced the glucose monitoring equipment he was able to get two studies sponsored by universities in the New York area. Both of these were successful in reversing the early complications in patients with diabetes. As a result two international symposia were organised and this helped to generate interest in self-monitoring of blood glucose although ironically not particularly in the USA. However by 1980 it was decide to launch the products on the open market.
Meanwhile Dr. Bernstein had decided that if he was to make any genuine progress he would have to become a physician. So in 1977 he gave up his career as an engineer and entered medical school. Then at the age of 49 years in 1983 he graduated and established his own medical practice.
Since then he has helped an enormous number of people who suffer from both T1D and T2D. His book (1) which is now in the 4th edition is highly regarded and has proved to extremely valuable to many individuals. There are numerous testimonials from those he has dealt with directly as well as from those who have simply relied on his book for guidance.
Here is one from an MD who suffered from T1D:
“I was always extremely conscientious about testing and exercising and eating and doctor visits, to the point where my friends thought I was neurotic. I was consistently following the conventional guidelines recommended to diabetics, and I thought I was a rather model patient.”……..
“Nine years ago, I met Dick Bernstein. Dr. Bernstein not only gave me the most complete, comprehensive, logical, reasonable, and informative teaching on diabetes that I have ever encountered, but his uniquely expert and comprehensive physical examination and testing illuminated for me the most accurate picture of my overall health and the subtle tolls that the previous management of my diabetes had permitted. Then with a personalised, comprehensive, tightly controlled but reasonable diet, exercise, and blood sugar-monitoring plan, he put me in control of my diabetes for the first time.” (1)
It is important to re-iterate that this was from a doctor who had T1D himself and presumably would have taken a special interest in the treatment and would have been familiar with the recognised ways of treating the disease. It demonstrates just how much mainstream medicine has to learn about current knowledge in order to provide their patients with what is best for them.
Here are three testimonials from reviews of his book on Amazon UK (2):
- “A really useful book for type 1 or type 2 diabetics. This is different to the recommendations by the NHS in terms of dietary advice, but this has really helped me to control my blood sugar levels. There’s a lot of information in the book and it is well worth buying.”
- “Back in 2008 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in England. I had no idea what it involved or how I was ever going to get out of hospital whilst the nurses kept offering me sugar in my tea and carbs on every menu. I didn’t know, that is, until I read this book. I researched like crazy from my hospital bed and ordered the book which my wife brought to my bedside. I immediately put into practice what Dr. Bernstein says and I always quote to people that “Dr. Bernstein saved my life”. I went from 5 needles a day to absolutely NO diabetic medication whatsoever and perfect HbA1c tests every time. You can read my story and how I reversed Diabetes in 6 months just go to www.ReverseDiabetesNow.co.uk”
- “I brought this book (older edition) for my mum (type 2 diabetes) when her doctor told her that her blood sugars were still too high and he was recommending she start insulin injections. Three years on and she still hasn’t started them and for that fact alone I can’t rate this book highly enough.”
Presumably these respondents will not have had the opportunity to consult personally with Dr Bernstein and must have been totally dependent on what is in the book. Clearly they have gleaned much useful information from it and have been able to bring about significant improvements in their own health.
In September 2015 the American Diabetic Association (ADA) asked on Facebook (3):
“What was your most recent blood glucose reading?”
It must have been shocked at the responses. A number described how they had followed the ADA recommendations which had made their condition worse. By contrast, there were many who had managed to get their diabetes under control by relying on the information from Dr. Bernstein.
He is now over 80 years old which is a great age for a person with T1D and still actively practising. He is still doing his monthly Teleseminar and Webcast (4). The next one is on Wednesday 25th May.
- R K Bernstein (2011) “ Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars” Little Brown New York ISBN 978-0316-18269-0