Who is Dr. Fung?

Celebrities exist in every industry, niche, and community; the diabetes community is no exception. One name stands out among the rest, even more than Sir Fredrick Banting (the inventor of insulin); that name is, Dr. Jason Fung. Who is Dr. Fung? Why is he mentioned so often? What is he doing that makes him unique? I had all these questions and these are the answers I’ve found, that I’d like to share with you.

Which diets does Dr. Fung recommend for diabetes?

Dr. Jason Fung is a Canadian nephrologist. A Nephrologist is a doctor that specializes in studying the kidneys and treating kidney disease. As a nephrologist, Dr. Fung was exposed to many patients with diabetes whose treatment included dialysis: the assisted filtering of blood when the kidneys can no longer serve that function. He has advocated for intermittent fasting and a ketogenic or low-carbohydrate diet for type 2 diabetes management and weight loss. He founded the fasting method, to provide evidence-based advice for diabetics and those seeking weight loss.1

Why is he mentioned often among diabetes groups?

Whenever we see an anomaly, especially one that challenges the status quo, attention and curiosity are peaked. Dr. Fung has become very outspoken about his perspective of diabetes and how it should be treated; perspectives that challenge the hegemony of the American Diabetes Association. It is because of his notoriety and alternative perspective that makes him and his management methodology a common topic in diabetes communities.

In this perspective, he argues that modern management of diabetes misses the root of the illness. The root of diabetes being excessive insulin, due to insulin resistance. So, the philosophy is to limit the need for insulin in the body by reducing glycemic load. The management methodology is a low carbohydrate diet and/or intermittent fasting; a method that has grown in popularity as an alternative or complementary to traditional methods of management.

What made Dr. Fung so popular?

A simple answer for why Dr. Fung has gained notoriety as an MD is because he is often consumer-facing in his presence. He has written several books on the topic of diabetes management, weight loss, and even cancer management. It is because of these books and a partnership with the ‘Diet Doctor’ program, that his message has reached the non-medical communities faster.

While many doctors publish the research that they are involved in via research journals, Dr. Fung publishes books for the consumer. This is significant because most medical literature is academic or business facing, not directly consumer-facing. A streamline of his ideas directly to patients, who are eager to find solutions to their conditions, makes him a more notarized doctor among patient communities.

The need for additional diet-related research

Just this year, he was involved in the publishing of a case study pertaining to a 57-year-old woman using the ketogenic diet as a diabetes management method.2 This was likely as a response to some of the criticisms of the ketogenic diet, as a disruption to female hormones. In the future, it would be helpful to see more case studies, with women of childbearing years, a concern among those with criticisms of the keto diet.

Prior to this case study, his research has been heavily focused on the effects of intermittent fasting on the A1C of type 2 diabetic patients.3 This is a topic that receives a lot of debate within diabetic communities. The important thing to remember is that there is a serious need for more research.

Is Dr. Fung 'right'?

A loaded question. The truth is, maybe and maybe not. Dr. Fung has certainly shifted the paradigm of diabetes management and has empowered patients to have more control over their management via a dietary technique. As someone who challenges the status quo, he has faced significant opposition. Is the opposition justified though? Ultimately, there needs to be more research; as always. Ideally, with diverse sampling to fully understand the possible side-effects of the management techniques in question.

The take away

As a celebrity in diabetes communities, Dr. Fung has certainly stirred up contemporary diabetes management. He has made his philosophies and practices accessible to the average patient and has challenged modern diabetes management in the process. Some applaud him and others oppose him. If you are interested in the practices that Dr. Fung promotes, talk to your doctor about if it's right for you and your body.

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