Dr Richard Bernstein broke new ground in the management of type 1 diabetes when he discovered that keeping excellent control of blood glucose levels – through combining a low carb diet with insulin therapy – could make diabetic complications go away.
‘An ordinary diabetic’
Bernstein was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1946 at the age of 12. In his book Diabetes Solutio, he referred to himself as “an ordinary diabetic”, but by the time he turned 30, he was questioning the advice given by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines.
In 1969, Bernstein was able to obtain one of the first blood glucose meters , which was originally intended for hospital staff to distinguish a diabetes patient from someone who had been drinking heavily.
Bernstein began testing his blood sugar multiple times a day, and started conducting his own research. He found he could normalise his levels through diet, exercise and medication. Within a year, he had refined his insulin dosages to the point that his blood sugar levels were within a normal range for most of the day.
Law of small numbers
One of Dr Bernstein’s most enduring finding is his ‘law of small numbers’ which states that taking smaller doses of insulin will result in much less error and therefore a much lower risk of severe highs or lows occurring.
When the medical community rejected his findings, Bernstei, at the age of 45, decided to leave his career in engineering and study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1983 he opened his own medical practice.
Diabetes Solutio, which was released in 1997, addressed his findings, where he reported that normalising blood sugar levels can prevent diabetes-related complications, or make them go away.
Bernstein had to battle established theories about diabetes treatment, such as the diet guidelines of eating high-carb, low-fat. His low-carbohydrate solution to keeping blood glucose levels has helped patients of all ages, but he admits: “Many in the field of diabetes care still do not accept it!”
Bernstein is now 81 years old. He attributes his surpassing of the average life expectancy for type 1 diabetes to a low-carb diet and keeping good glycemic control.
Many members of the diabetes patient community have cited a debt to Richard Bernstein in being able to finally take control of their diabetes after years of struggling.
Bernstein’s approach is regarded as strict and whilst some patients follow his advice very closely, others have chosen to adopt his general approach without following the advice to the letter.
Many people that have followed his advice, even in part, have reported very good blood glucose control and greater well-being.