Nutritional and Herbal Solutions

Daniel C. Luthi, N.E., C.D.C., Nutritionist & Chinese Herbalist 

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Taichung, Taiwan

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Diabetes in Taiwan

By Daniel C. Luthi

Asians eat so much healthier than Westerners, right? Well, that previously correct statement surely has lost its validity here in Taiwan. With the increasing popularity of fast foods, fried foods, instant noodles, and sweets, we are now facing an enormous threat: It is estimated that close to a million people in Taiwan (190 million worldwide) have Diabetes Mellitus Type II also known as Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM), and around 350’000 people don’t know they have it!

Causes of NIDDM

Even though genetic factors increase susceptibility to NIDDM, diet and lifestyle factors must be present to trigger it. The most important factor is what is known as SAD or Standard American Diet which is rich in refined carbohydrates, fat and animal products, and very low in dietary fiber. Refined carbohydrates are the primary component of white rice, white bread, noodles, cakes, chips, cookies, crackers, and sweets.

These refined carbohydrates, bad fats, and animal products can cause inadequate insulin production by the pancreas or resistance to insulin by the body’s cells. This condition will lead to high levels of sugar in the bloodstream and not enough sugar entering the cells which significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, loss of vision, decreased blood circulation as well as impotence in men.

Obesity is another contributing factor to NIDDM, and therefore weight loss, in particular fat loss, in conjunction with a healthful diet improves all aspects of diabetes and may result in curing NIDDM.

Treatment of NIDDM

The dietary changes preventing or treating NIDDM are complex and require a new way of looking at food. Weight loss and regular exercise should be part of any treatment plan.


Every meal should include some protein such as beans, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, and fish. Whenever possible animal protein should be hormone-free, antibiotic-free, range–fed meat, poultry and eggs, and at least three times a week should include deep-sea, cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, mackerel, and herring.


Moderate consumption of good fats are essential for good health and they include butter and pure olive oil for cooking as well as flaxseed oil and extra virgin olive oil for salads, dips, and cold sauces. Fats found in nuts and seeds are good fats especially if they are organically grown and properly stored.

Reduce consumption of animal fats and avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils found in instant noodles, cookies, cakes, potato chips, ice cream, milk powder, French fries, onion rings, salad dressings, and virtually all fast foods.

Non-starchy vegetables

These vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fiber and are therefore essential for a healthy, functional digestive system. Non-starchy vegetables have a low Glycemic Index (slower and more even absorption into the blood) and can be consumed as desired. They should include bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, raw carrots, garlic, green beans, all dark-green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and others.

Starchy vegetables

Starchy vegetables have a high Glycemic Index and are therefore absorbed more rapidly into the blood. If NIDDM has been diagnosed or is suspected, starchy vegetables (cooked carrots, corn, potatoes and yams), legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fresh fruits and whole grains should always be consumed together with protein and good fats to avoid a rapid increase in blood sugar.

Nutritional Supplements

The general consensus among leading nutritionists is that in addition to a health-promoting diet everyone should daily take a high-potency, high-quality multi-vitamin/mineral. These supplements should be derived from natural sources and should include blood sugar regulating nutrients such as chromium, vitamin C, inositol hexaniacinate (a safe form of niacin), biotin, B6, B12, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, zinc, carnitine as well as Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs).

Consult with your nutritionist for dosages and with your physician for interactions with current medications.