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Author Dr. John M. Poothullil: “My main lesson is that we can control our diet and prevent or reverse many conditions that destroy our health. such as obesity, high blood sugar leading to Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer”

In my two books (Eat, Chew Live and Diabetes: The Real Cause and the Right Cure), my main lesson is that we can control our diet and prevent or reverse many conditions that destroy our health such as obesity, high blood sugar leading to Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. Nature has equipped animal and human infants with necessary mechanisms to obtain nutrients as needed on a timely fashion. Nature has also packaged the nutrients needed by humans in a wide assortment of foods that require chewing for a good reason. When food is chewed, it releases nutrients at a rate that our taste and smell receptors can recognize. When they do that, the information is reported to the control center in the brain, which generates the signal to stop eating when a sufficient amount of nutrients has passed through the mouth. If people would eat mindfully, chewing their food, they could avoid overeating. Also, if nature intended grains for human consumption, we would have had beaks and the ability to digest the chaff. In sum, each person can relearn how to “eat like a child” — eating for nutrition. This simple guideline can help millions of people avoid obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

John M. Poothullil, MD, FRCP, practiced medicine as a pediatrician and allergist for more than 30 years, with 27 of those years in the state of Texas. He received his medical degree from the University of Kerala, India in 1968, after which he completed two years of medical residency in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, Arizona and two years of fellowship, one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the other in Ontario, Canada. He began his practice in 1974 and retired in 2008. He holds certifications from the American Board of Pediatrics, The American Board of Allergy & Immunology, and the Canadian Board of Pediatrics.

During his medical practice, John became interested in understanding the causes of and interconnections between hunger, satiation, and weight gain. His interest turned into a passion and a multi-decade personal study and research project that led him to read many medical journal articles, medical textbooks, and other scholarly works in biology, biochemistry, physiology, endocrinology, and cellular metabolic functions.

This eventually guided Dr. Poothullil to investigate the theory of insulin resistance as it relates to diabetes. Recognizing that this theory was illogical, he spent several years rethinking the biology behind high blood sugar and developed the fatty acid burn theory as the real cause of diabetes.

He continued researching the linkage between diabetes and cancer, and developed additional insights into the causes of childhood and adult cancer and possible treatments involving low-carbohydrate diets to initiate starving of cancer cells by removing their main source of energy — glucose from grains.

Dr. Poothullil has published three books since 2015, two of which have won publishing awards in national book competitions.

  • Eat Chew Live: 4 Revolutionary Ideas to Prevent Diabetes, Lose Weight & Enjoy Food (Over & Above Creative, 2015) — Winner, Beverly Hills Book Awards, Nutrition Category 2016
  • Diabetes: The REAL Cause & The RIGHT Cure: 8 Steps to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes in 8 Weeks (New Insights Press, 2017) — Finalist, Beverly Hills Books Awards, Diet & Nutrition Category 2017
  • Surviving Cancer: A New Perspective on Why Cancer Happens & Your Key Strategies for a Healthy Life (New Insights Press, 2017)

Dr. Poothullil has written articles on hunger and satiation, weight loss, diabetes, and the senses of taste and smell. His articles have been published in medical journals such as Physiology and Behavior, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Journal of Women’s Health, Journal of Applied Research, Nutrition, and Nutritional Neuroscience. His work has also been quoted in Woman’s Day, Fitness, Redbook and Woman’s World.

Dr. Poothullil is an active speaker on diabetes and cancer. He has appeared on television shows, been interviewed on over 60 radio programs, and given numerous talks to groups in bookstores and private settings. An interview with him appeared in the Washington Post. His articles on diabetes have been published in Alternative Medicine, Whole Person, India Abroad, and several other magazines. He has published nearly 130 blogs on his website

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I was a practicing MD for decades living in Texas. When I turned 40, I noticed that I was gaining weight during the winter months, only to lose it in spring. After I turned 50, I noticed my weight gain stayed on despite my belief that I was eating and exercising the same as before. So this got me interested in learning why people gain weight other than the simple fact of eating. I began reading medical literature to learn: 1) what is the physiological reason for our sensation of hunger? 2) During a meal, what makes one stop eating?

I could not find logical answers to these questions in medical textbooks. Although thirst sensation is specific to the body’s need for water, hunger is a single sensation to acquire over 100 types of nutrients that 200 different types of cell in the body need. I wondered: What is the physiological mechanism that even an infant can use to satisfy hunger? It definitely can’t be based on energy (calories) content of foods because there is no meter in the mouth to detect food energy. It can’t be based on a specific volume of food as the stomach can accommodate even more.

In learning about hunger and satiation, I developed more questions. What happens to nutrients absorbed after a meal? For example, four hours after dinner, one’s blood sugar is elevated but by next morning, about 12 hours after the meal, the sugar level is back to baseline. Where did the sugar go? It has not been used to produce energy, as one was likely to be sleeping.

This reasoning led me to become interested in Type 2 diabetes, and I concluded that elevated blood glucose in type 2 diabetes is not due to the development of insulin resistance, as is currently believed, but rather due to the fullness of fat storage capacity that prevents the storage of glucose absorbed after a meal. Muscles using fatty acids instead of glucose as fuel creates the appearance of insulin resistance. I realized in this notion that it is the modern diet full of grains far beyond what humans formerly ate that is the cause of Type 2 diabetes increasing throughout the world.

I sought to explain my thinking in two books that I published, the first entitled Eat Chew Live, published in 2015, and the second book, a shorter version of that book, entitled Diabetes: The Real Cause & The Right Cure, published in 2017.

My own diagnosis of having cancer in 2011 also made me look deeper into why people develop cancer and why the incidence of cancer is also increasing globally. I found insights into this from my research into diabetes, once again having to do with our modern diet full of grains. My thinking is that the global increase in the incidence of cancer is not due to increased exposure to cancer-causing agents, but to the fact that grains and grain-based foods feed cancer cells with glucose such that they can multiply faster, overwhelming the immune system which can normally kill cancer cells. I believe that cancer patients can better survive cancer by reducing their intake of grains and grain-flour products, giving the immune system a chance to succeed. This is the diet I am currently following. To explain my insights, I published my third book, Surviving Cancer, in 2018.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

One day, one of my patients, usually a very jovial business man, looked very pensive. I asked what the matter was. He replied that on this very day, his secretary was having her leg amputated. I asked whether she was in an accident. He replied no, she was a diabetic. I waited because I found the intensity of his sadness more than what I expected for the occasion. Sensing my interest, he continued telling me the story. He said that his secretary was keeping her blood sugar well controlled for the past many years with her A1C below 7, using insulin injections. Then he revealed that during his last visit with his own family doctor, he too was asked to start taking insulin, as multiple oral medications were not controlling his own blood sugar. He was worried, because he said he eats out a lot as he travels frequently for his business, and he had two sons in high school. He confessed that the biggest reason for his worry was the thought of losing his own leg and how it could affect his ability to run his business and take care of his family.

I explained my theory of Type 2 diabetes. He was very interested in hearing my insights about how he could reverse high blood sugar through diet. But he was concerned that he couldn’t change eating habits that he’d been following for decades. I promptly called my wife and told her that I would not be coming home for lunch as I usually did, and took my patient to a nearby restaurant. I explained to him my reasoning how calories coming from the extensive amounts of grain-based foods he frequently consumed are stored as fat and are responsible for his weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. I reassured him that he could obtain an optimal diet without eating even a single kernel of whole grain. As we perused the menu, I asked him to choose foods that required chewing. I asked him to chew the foods thoroughly and stop eating when he noticed that the intensity of enjoyment subsided rather than eating until he felt full. At the end of our lunch, he stated that he felt satisfied in spite of eating less than what he would have done normally.

I did not see this patient for a year and a half. When he next visited, his face was beaming. He went straight to the weighing scale to show me how much he had lost — — literally 100 pounds from his original 300. I sent him for a glucose tolerance test. His family doctor informed me that all his blood values were within normal limits, in spite of being off all his diabetic medications.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Once my secretary asked for my advice to help her husband who was rapidly gaining weight. I told her to feed him less of grain-based foods. A few weeks later she reported no change in his weight. Upon further discussion, I learned that she always put food on the plate for her husband to eat, but the quantity was based on her own feeling of hunger intensity. In other words, on days she felt hungrier, he got more food. On days she wasn’t so hungry, she gave him less. The problem was, on the latter type of days, he remained hungry and went out to eat more. My lesson was to insist that each person be in charge of his or her own food intake, because no one else can know what nutrients are lacking in your body.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

During one of my book talks about surviving cancer, a member of the audience asked whether I could explain the increasing incidence of childhood cancer worldwide. The average age of an adult with cancer is about 60 years. This age is thought to be the time needed for an adult to accumulate enough mutations to possibly cause cancer. As everyone knows, cancer occurs when a genetic mutation causes the cell to divide and divide without stop.

However, the average age of a child with cancer is 6 years old, which suggests in my view that children have simply not lived long enough to accumulate mutations. So why are children getting cancer at an increasing rate?

I became fascinated by this medical puzzle and researched it in medical literature. My resulting insights are potentially exciting because I believe I have identified what could be an explanation for cancer in children. It has to do with the growth of “stem cells” in the body, which multiply on a regular basis to replace damaged or dead cells, such as on the skin and in the lining of the intestinal tract. In my opinion, stem cells demonstrate an inherent capability to divide from genetic codes handed down to them and dating back to the very first cell that divided on earth, which I call the Adam cell. We see evidence of this in the zygote (embryo) that is formed after the egg is fertilized with a sperm and begins dividing in response to internally generated signaling. In my view, the leading types of childhood cancer happen when the orderly division of a stem cell is interfered with, due to two possible reasons. My forthcoming book, When Your Child Has Cancer, to be published in February 2020, will be presenting these insights.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I would not have been able to write scientific articles or publish books if I had not persevered in spite of harsh criticisms from reviewers, discouraging decisions from publishers, and personal experiences ranging from indifference to hostility from experts.

Going back as far as 2001, I sent one copy each of my published article, “Fullness of Fat Storage Capacity: An Alternative to Adipocyte Insulin Resistance” to 50 endocrinologists for their opinion to see if any of them would consider the insight that insulin resistance was an incorrect explanation for Type 2 diabetes. Only one replied, though her answer was that she hoped to find proof of insulin resistance very soon. Sadly, we are still waiting for it.

About 6 years ago, one major publishing house showed interest in my first full manuscript. They kept it for 6 months, only to let me know in the end that even though they thought the science was very interesting, they could not bring themselves to publish the book because there were too many titles already about obesity and diabetes and they didn’t see a way to make a profit. That is when I decided to publish the book without external financial help and landed on my publishing company whose imprints Over And Above Creative and New Insights Press have helped me publish my three books already, with the new children’s cancer book as my fourth book coming out in 2020.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

I share the following story in my first two books as it demonstrates how the brain is completely in touch with the nutrient needs of the cells in the body, starting right from birth. The story summarizes a real experiment conducted with infants. Between World Wars I and II, Chicago Pediatrician, Dr. Clara Davis conducted an experiment with 15 infants, age six to eleven months. None of the babies had been given foods other than formula or milk before the study. This age was chosen because the children had no experience of adult foods and no preconceived prejudices or biases about them. The children remained in the program for six months to six years. Four infants were underweight, suggesting that they had not been getting adequate nutrition. Five had rickets, a medical condition due to inadequate intake of nutrients such as vitamin D and/or calcium.

The children were presented with a selection of 34 different foods of both animal and vegetable origin. These items were known to contain all the necessary nutrients — proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals — that humans need for survival. The items were selected because they could generally be procured fresh year round.

All foods were prepared as simply as possible, unmixed and unaltered except in some cases by cooking in the simplest manner. Some foods were served both raw and cooked. Cooking was done without the loss of soluble substances and without the addition of salt or seasonings. Each food, including salt, milk, and water, was served in a separate dish on a tray. The infants were free to eat with their fingers or in any way they could. If an infant consumed an entire portion of an item, the size of the portion was increased at the next feeding to ensure that when some was left, it signified that the infant had eaten all he or she wanted of it.

The study found that no infant failed to manage his/her own diet. All of them maintained good appetites. The infants often greeted the arrival of their trays by jumping up and down, and showed impatience while their bibs were being put on. Once placed at the table, having looked the tray over, they usually devoted themselves steadily to eating for 15 or 20 minutes. When their hunger had moderated, they ate intermittently for another five or ten minutes, playing a little with the food, trying to use the spoon and offering bits to the nurse.

None of the infants ever gave any evidence of discomfort or abdominal pain after eating or was constipated. Except in the presence of parenteral infection, there was no vomiting or diarrhea.

There was no clue as to what influenced the infants in choosing the foods they tried and whether the choice was a random one or whether they were attracted by color or odor. It was clear that after the first few meals, the foods most desired were promptly recognized and chosen. The infants reached without hesitation no matter where the desired food was located on the tray, ignoring other foods that were nearer at hand or brighter in color. Each infant in the beginning chose some foods that he or she spat out after tasting. The infant did not choose these foods again, demonstrating that even at very early ages, infants develop specific tastes.

Every infant ended up with a unique diet, different from every other infant. None of the diets were predominantly cereal and milk with smaller amounts of fruit, eggs, and meat — which is usually considered optimal meals for this age group. Their tastes changed unpredictably from time to time. Although they showed decided preferences, it proved impossible to predict what any infant would eat at a given meal. Even the daily consumption of milk varied from 11 to 48 ounces. They ate salt only occasionally, often sputtering, choking and/or even crying bitterly after putting it in the mouth but never spitting it out and frequently going back for more, repeating the same reactions.

As mentioned, five infants in the group of 15 had a medical diagnosis of rickets when they entered the study. Rickets is a condition that occurs due to defective deposition of calcium during bone formation. Since vitamin D plays an important role in bone deposition, Dr. Davis placed cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D along with other foods. One child with rickets voluntarily drank pure cod liver oil until radiological examination showed bone healing.

While this study was conducted over 70 years ago, the results seem to confirm that humans have a natural regulatory mechanism in the brain that helps us know what we should be eating to meet our nutritional requirements.

I explain that the nutrient intake control mechanism works on the basis of chemical sensing practiced by all living organisms to respond to molecules in the environment. In humans, taste and smell receptors located in the oral cavity for water-soluble nutrients and in the nose for fat-associated nutrients, respectively, report to the control centers in the brain, which in turn, either encourages consumption by producing the sensation of enjoyment, or then reduces the intensity of enjoyment to suggest stopping eating that particular food.

In today’s world of overconsumption, many people are not using their eating habits based on their hunger and satiation signals, but rather driven by vast advertising and marketing of highly processed grain-based foods, that are convenient, affordable and made tasty with added salt.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

In my two books (Eat, Chew Live and Diabetes: The Real Cause and the Right Cure), my main lesson is that we can control our diet and prevent or reverse many conditions that destroy our health such as obesity, high blood sugar leading to Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. Nature has equipped animal and human infants with necessary mechanisms to obtain nutrients as needed on a timely fashion. Nature has also packaged the nutrients needed by humans in a wide assortment of foods that require chewing for a good reason. When food is chewed, it releases nutrients at a rate that our taste and smell receptors can recognize. When they do that, the information is reported to the control center in the brain, which generates the signal to stop eating when a sufficient amount of nutrients has passed through the mouth. If people would eat mindfully, chewing their food, they could avoid overeating. Also, if nature intended grains for human consumption, we would have had beaks and the ability to digest the chaff. In sum, each person can relearn how to “eat like a child” — eating for nutrition. This simple guideline can help millions of people avoid obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

My biggest challenge was trying to convince two key players who could impact the public. The first are endocrinologists who believe in insulin resistance whom I sought to persuade that Type 2 diabetes is not a hormonal disease but a lifestyle condition largely related to overconsuming grains. I am still struggling to attract endocrinologists to recognize that insulin resistance has not been validated by logic, mechanism or measurement and, as a theory, it needs to be rejected in favor of a more logical explanation such as my insights into the role of grains in causing high blood sugar. The second group are experts in nutrition who, I believe, can benefit by recognizing the role of chemical sensing through our taste and smell receptors as the mechanism responsible for regulation of nutrient intake. This insight can help them teach people to eat more mindfully, to eat for nutrition, and to pay attention to the brain’s hunger and satiation signals.

When I found that average people were more receptive to my ideas than experts, I realized I had to publish my ideas and find a way to explain them clearly and logically. I wanted to find an editor not only interested in my writing but also willing to take time to understand the science behind the different insights I was proposing. Luckily, I found one in Mr. Rick Benzel who could not only comprehend my hypotheses but also argue the validity or lack of it.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I have long been interested in science in general, with physiology being my favorite subject in medical school, to learn the why of things in nature. My reading list of books that have fascinated me includes Carl Sagan’s explanation of the Cosmos, A Brief History of Time by British physicist Stephen Hawking, The Panda’s Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould, Hunger by Jacques Le Magnen, Life Itself by Boyce Rensberger, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge and others.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

By understanding the reason why something happens, I believe people can better take care of their health, hopefully through prevention rather than treatment. For this reason, I try to explain the science behind my ideas on high blood sugar, diabetes, and cancer. I know many people struggle with science, but I make an effort to explain what I think people can learn about biology. This I hope helps them better appreciate the importance of being responsible for their own health.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

a) Be aware of the commitment of human volunteers when you do research.

I once conducted a study to test my hypothesis that the sugar molecule “maltose” released in the mouth during chewing could act as a signal for satiation. This would help me understand if signals originating from receptors in the mouth start the process of satiation . Each volunteer was given 5 packets of premeasured dry cereal to be eaten at home, one packet each on separate days convenient to the subject, when the subject felt hungry. Before eating the cereal, the subject was to write the date and time, and then indicate the perceived intensity of their hunger on a line going across a sheet of paper where the left end indicated “not hungry” and the right end indicated “extremely hungry. Based on the intensity of hunger felt at that time, the subject could put a mark anywhere on the line. Then, during a second series of tests, the subject was asked to eat the same cereal in the same fashion but with the variation of opening and spilling a capsule (obtained from a pharmacist) that released maltose powder onto their tongue just before eating the cereal. The problem was, the volunteer in question filled out the test sheet as instructed, including the time he consumed maltose. Later I discovered he had never picked up the maltose capsules from the pharmacy, indicating he had fabricated his results.

b) Be prepared for blind indifference from experts.

Proposing new medical ideas and getting experts to abandon current theories is one of the most difficult tasks to do in science. Here’s an example. While attending a medical lecture, I heard a diabetes expert say that insulin resistance, once diagnosed, is always present even when blood sugar level is normal. I raised my hand and asked for evidence. The expert looked at me and simply turned to another person asking a different question. After the lecture, I explained to the expert my theory of fatty acid burn switch rather than insulin resistance as being the cause of type 2 diabetes. She said that she could not comment on it because she was not an expert in fatty acid metabolism. It made me wonder how she could reject my hypothesis with no knowledge and insist that her scientific belief was right.

c) Be prepared for the power of dogma to limit scientific discussions.

I submitted an article to a major medical magazine pointing out the fact that resistance to insulin, as a causative factor of type 2 diabetes, has not been validated scientifically. For example, how can only 3 out of 200 cell types in the body become resistant to insulin? What is the mechanism of that resistance? Is the mechanism the same in each of these sites? What part of the control system decides to resist insulin while ignoring glucagon, adrenaline and cortisol, all intimately involved with minute-by-minute blood glucose level? The Editor-in-chief rejected the article without any explanation.

d) Read the small print.

I was once solicited to submit an article regarding Type 2 diabetes. I was told that it was accepted for publication and I would be giving my consent by approving the edited version. Only reading the small print did I learn that I would also be agreeing to pay a fee for its publication. So, please be sure you understand what you are committing to before agreeing with it.

e) The limited attention span of audiences on social media

In the current environment of pervasive social media, any message longer than three to four minutes is unlikely to be fully appreciated. I am still learning to use the social media effectively.

Your challenge is also going to be the same.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

My movement would be to educate people to take responsibility for their food intake and my vision is to create environments where people can experience the enjoyment of eating without fear of overeating. With the average American eating, on average, over 4 commercially prepared meals per week, often in restaurants, I believe there is a need for the type of restaurants where families can go eat foods based on nature’s guidelines. In such restaurants, all foods served would require chewing. Spices and herbs rather than salt would be the primary taste enhancer. Energy from complex carbohydrate would be less than a third of total in the food served, compared to about 50% in developed countries and about 70% in developing countries. There won’t be any visual distractions such as television or other entertainments during the meal.

How can our readers follow you on social media?




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