Dr. Wendy Pogozelski: How Knowledge is Power in Nutrition (Transcript)

Dr. Wendy Pogozelski

Here is the full transcript of biochemistry professor Dr. Wendy Pogozelski’s TEDx Talk: How Knowledge is Power in Nutrition at TEDxSUNYGeneseo conference. This event happened on April 4, 2015 at Geneseo, New York.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: How Knowledge is Power in Nutrition by Dr. Wendy Pogozelski at TEDxSUNYGeneseo

Dr. Wendy Pogozelski – Professor of Biochemistry

Good evening. It’s a privilege to be here.

I would like to thank the organizers for doing a great job. And I’m very happy to begin sharing with you some of my experiences, and I really want to emphasize the point that knowledge is power.

So when I came to Geneseo, I had to teach a course in metabolism. And this is metabolism. So talk about needing some memory techniques.

If you’re learning all these reaction pathways, the students really had to pull out some memory links. But also, as a teacher, I felt that I was being deathly dull in teaching this. So I knew that I had to find some ways to make this interesting and memorable for the students.

So I thought, well, everybody eats, right? The obvious thing would be to link biochemistry with nutrition. You’d think that the biochemistry textbooks would do this, but they don’t do it.

So I said, let’s look at some of these controversial diets that are out there, and maybe I can compare these diets and bring this information into class, and make it a little more exciting for the students to learn. I especially began focusing on some of these low-carb diets, there are even ones in Russia and France, Australia and across the United States.

And these diets were very useful because they illuminated many of the things about metabolism and about insulin in particular. The approach was very good in my classes. The students really liked the approach of linking biochemistry with nutrition.

And since I’d read a couple billion papers, I thought, why don’t I just write this up in a paper and save some other biochemistry professors the trouble? But I never expected all of this work to actually benefit me personally.

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But then in February of 2007, I began experiencing some strange symptoms. I had raging thirst, debilitating fatigue, and I’m not being overly melodramatic, this is really the case, blurry vision, I couldn’t even distinguish the people in the front row of my freshman chemistry class. And then crazy, overnight weight loss, which for all my life had been impossible, but was suddenly possible.

So I had this diagnosis, “You have type 1 diabetes”. And I was very surprised by this, and devastated, of course. But it was unusual because I was age 40, and usually type 1 diabetes is the autoimmune attack on the pancreatic beta cells that make insulin, and usually that affects people in adolescence. That’s why it’s usually called juvenile diabetes. But in fact, about ten percent of the newly diagnosed type 1 diabetics are in adulthood.

Since I had spent three of four years studying the metabolic effects of various diets, I thought I knew just what to do.

So I, of course, began taking insulin, but I also began reducing the carbohydrates in my diet, and I did that partly because I knew that carbohydrate is the biggest dietary contributor to high glucose. And I also know that it’s difficult to estimate the amount of carbohydrate and then match that with estimating the amount of insulin needed.

So you just minimize your errors with a low carbohydrate approach. And I had very nice, flat, normal blood sugars. My doctor said that I had the blood sugars of a non-diabetic, basically, on this approach, and that I was his best patient ever.

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