According to the most recent figures available from the Arizona Department of Health Services, there are more than 600,000 people in Arizona with Types 1 and 2 diabetes, with the number of pre-diabetics also on the rise.

Seeing a stream of diabetic patients in her own practice, Dr. Mona Morstein decided it was time to do something new to prevent and treat diabetes. This month, she unveiled the new nonprofit Low Carb Diabetes Association (LCDA).

“I have specialized in diabetes for 25 years and I was speaking to a colleague and friend of mine who was expressing discontent about patients who were coming in with diabetes and poor control, and we had a brainstorm to create this nonprofit to promote comprehensive care – kind of a new paradigm,” said Morstein, a naturopathic physician with the medical clinic Arizona Integrative Medical Solutions in Tempe. “The time was really right to do it.”

Working with other physicians, including LCDA co-founder, naturopathic physician Dr. Sage Haggard, Morstein is in the first phase of community outreach to raise awareness of the group and diabetes in general.

Morstein, a former professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, said 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes patients in the nation have insulin resistant Type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes patients are not taught how to change their lifestyles,” she said. “They are not given resources, they’re not given ideas and the recipes. They’re not really given the chance to be educated.”

The LCDA is aimed at changing that.

With an integrative approach that mixes alternative and conventional medical care, the LCDA focuses on what it calls “The Eight Essentials” to treat and prevent diabetes: diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, healing the gut, detoxification, supplementation and medication.

LCDA’s name is derived from the diet portion of “The Eight Essentials.” According to the organization, people whose diets are high in carbohydrates face a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or becoming pre-diabetic.

“Low-carb is a familiar term as a brand name to draw people to the low-carb aspect of “The Eight Essentials” and then introduce them to the other factors they have to look into,” Morstein said. “When people are educated on what to eat and why it is important, they do make changes.”

Members of LCDA will receive education on the different types of low-carb diets and all the many ways to ensure it is a success.

The group will offer recipes, cookbook recommendations and interviews with low-carb chefs, as well as discuss what to eat and how to eat in order to encourage weight loss.

LCDA members will also have access to an informational website, a newsletter, blogs, podcasts, video interviews, community outreach programs, medical journals, webinars and conferences, all focused on using integrative medicine to the best of its ability to prevent and treat diabetes.

Basic LCDA membership is free to the public and physicians pay $99 annually to access more specialized information and materials.

Morstein said she and her colleagues at the LCDA are currently working on creating the members-only content that will live on the group’s website. Meanwhile, Morstein will continue with her outreach efforts to such groups as the Arizona Diabetes Coalition. She also hopes to work with the local Jewish community centers to host her talks on diabetes and the LCDA.

In Arizona, many Type 2 diabetics are African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans with limited economic means. So Morestein and her colleagues understand that any outreach efforts must hit a wide spectrum of communities.

“We want to connect with people of all races, and socioeconomic classes,” she said. “We need to set up many socioeconomic ways that people can buy the food they need that can control a condition that costs the country over $245 billion economically every year to treat.”

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Janet Perez is a freelance writer in Phoenix.

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