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By Dreassi E., Gottard A.

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He knew the diet worked but he was unable to explain why. The public didn’t care why; repeated successes with the Banting diet were becoming newsworthy – or at least gossip-worthy – events, much to the frustration of the medical profession. Enter Dr Felix Neimeyer from Stuttgart. All doctors at the time ‘knew’ that protein was not fattening; it was only fat and starch that caused you to gain weight. It was thought that fat and starch combined with oxygen in the lungs to produce energy, with any excess becoming body fat.

Once again, the change in glucose concentration is detected by our pancreas. But this time, instead of releasing insulin into the blood, it releases a hormone called glucagon. In 1923, shortly after insulin was discovered, Professor John Murlin at the University of Rochester, New York, noticed that when the pancreatic extracts were injected into diabetic patients, there was a brief, but noticeable, spike in glucose levels just before the insulin acted to reduce them. He speculated that there might be another hormone in the pancreatic extracts that had the opposite effect to insulin.

It’s that simple. Too little glucose, called hypoglycaemia (hypo – too little; glyc – sugar; aemia – in the blood), results in very immediate problems for your brain. Remember, the only fuel your brain can use is pure glucose. Without it, the brain begins to shut down. At first mental efficiency decreases, then shakiness and sudden depression occur (hypoglycaemic diabetics can sometimes be mistaken for drunks when they reach this point), followed quickly by coma and then death. Type 1 diabetics can no more manufacture glucagon than they can insulin.

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