Patients: Trust your doctor, not public figures

May 21, 2015

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is not an expert on diabetes, but he's telling patients he is a better resource than their own physician.

Recently, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has found himself in a bit of controversy. He is featured in an infomercial that claims to "heal your diabetes" in as little as four weeks. As an endocrinologist, I wish there was such a product or program that could do such a thing. The website claims that they can cure diabetes, and tell readers that the three types of medications given by doctors are dangerous. They even claim that they can cure Type 1 diabetes. They say that patients are being lied to. They say patients should blame the pharmaceutical companies ("the crooks") for exploiting patients.

While Governor Huckabee may say that he is no longer involved in the company, if you go to www.huckabeediabetes.com you will go directly to the company's website. And while they don't mention his name on the home page, they do refer to "the governor."

Here are the main reasons I object to the site and the program. Unfortunately, there is no alternative to insulin for people with Type 1 diabetes. They do not and cannot make insulin. And while people with Type 2 diabetes may be able to decrease it or even eliminate their need for medication with weight loss, I hate to use the word "cure" because by the time they are diagnosed, they have already lost as much as 50 percent of their islet (insulin-producing) cells. So if they resume their "bad" behavior, all the metabolic problems come back. Even patients who have had bariatric surgery can undo the good that has been done by resuming poor eating habits.

Despite the scrutiny that public figures face, people still put their faith in people who are famous. They figure famous and successful people must know what they are talking about. I believe that people in the public eye have a responsibility to do their due diligence. Before endorsing a product or program, they need to know how their words and image will be used. They should know what is going to be in the commercial or infomercial (really, what's the difference?). Governor Huckabee says that the plan is about diet and exercise, and yes, the plan does discuss healthy eating and avoiding carbs, but it also encourages patients to doubt their physicians' recommendations about medications and promises a cure.

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It repeatedly talks about "the lies" and "the phony solutions." Regardless of whether the governor espouses all the beliefs the company proclaims, if he endorses the plan, he in effect endorses the statements in the video.

We've had Dr. Oz, who is finally being called to be responsible for his show, which has turned into one long infomercial. I don't know how many times I have had to convince patients that the products he raves aren't the miracles he claims they are. If raspberry ketones work so well, why do we need green coffee bean extract? And now we have the governor claiming we can cure diabetes. I do agree with one thing he said, that we need to find a cure, or better yet, a way to prevent diabetes. But this just isn't it.

Melissa Young, MD, FACE, FACP, is an endocrinologist in private practice, an assistant clinical professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University, and a working suburban mother of two in Freehold, N.J.

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