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Dr. Sarah Hallberg on Carb Restriction as a Sustainable Diabetes Treatment

ByCrossFitJune 5, 2019

Dr. Sarah Hallberg made several career pivots—all fueled by her anger at unscientific and harmful practices perpetuated by the medical community—before becoming Medical Director at Virta Health. In this talk, delivered on Dec. 15, 2018, at a CrossFit Health event at CrossFit Headquarters, Hallberg speaks about some of those unscientific and harmful practices, specifically those pertaining to the management of obesity and Type 2 diabetes (T2D). She outlines the physiological problems inherent in treating T2D with insulin, the benefits of treating the disease with a carb-restrictive diet, and the data from a recent Virta Health study that demonstrates the positive effects of carb restriction.

Hallberg began her career as an exercise physiologist but decided to go to medical school when she discovered the misguided exercise advice a cardiologist with whom she worked was doling out to his patients. After medical school, she became a primary care physician, but she knew her career path would involve another pivot when she realized, “I am part of the problem. I am doing nothing helpful here. I am a drug dealer.” That pivot occurred when Indiana University Health asked her to develop an obesity program.

Hallberg delved deeply into the scientific literature on obesity. Her reading was fueled by a curiosity about why, when she was a physician, none of her patients were losing weight with the recommended low-fat diet. She soon discovered there was no scientific basis for this recommendation. There was, however, a considerable amount of data supporting carb restriction, so this is the treatment they recommended through the Indiana University program.

After Hallberg performed a TED Talk at Purdue University, 500 people enrolled in the program. Not only did those who followed the low-carb recommendation lose weight; many were cured of T2D as well. Hallberg notes that after one year, “60% of the patients with Type 2 diabetes had reversed their diabetes,” and 83% of participants were able to adhere to the diet.

With more than 50% of adults in the United States suffering from diabetes or prediabetes and health-care costs on the rise, Hallberg claims we are collectively experiencing a “slow suicide under the direction of bad advice.” She concedes that solving the problem of health care is a “David and Goliath situation” and says, “The Goliath is the status quo.” To make the necessary changes, she insists, we have to band together and remember that we have science on our side.

Read a transcription of the presentation here.

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