Changing the conversation about health

Beyond Pills Campaign: Dr David Unwin on beating diabetes with diet – and how his own Merseyside practice has saved £68,000 a year on drugs

A decade ago, Dr David Unwin, a GP ambassador for our Beyond Pills Campaign, discovered the potential of reversing Type 2 diabetes through following a low carb diet. Last month, his practice in Norwood, Merseyside celebrated its 120th case of drug-free Type 2 diabetes remission…

Dr David Unwin had a light bulb moment about carbs in 2012 when a patient with long-term type 2 diabetes completely reversed her condition with a low carb diet, based on information she
found online.

“I had been prescribing her drugs for years without any change,” he admits. “Now she had lost three stone, looked marvellous and achieved drug free remission without my help.”

A GP ambassador for our Beyond Pills Campaign, Dr David Unwin has seen the health of patients with diabetes Type 2 at his Southport surgery transformed, after they followed a low carb diet (Picture: Dr David Unwin)

He was struck by how upset his patient was that he hadn’t explained how bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals and pasta were all forms of sugar. “This is because starchy foods digest down into surprising
amounts of glucose,” he explains.

He was also struck that, as a doctor, he was unhappy. “Giving my type 2 diabetic patients drugs for life never made them feel much better whereas offering them the alternative of a low carb diet really did.”
With the support of his wife (a consultant psychologist), and his practice nurse, Dr Unwin started weekly Low Carb Diet groups at Norwood Surgery in 2013.

“It was such fun, and the results since have been amazing.” One of his simple mottos is ‘swap out the white stuff, eat green instead’.

A patient at Dr Unwin’s Norwood clinic on Merseyside, who shed nearly half of his body weight on a low carb diet (Picture: @lowcarbGP)

Over the last nine years in his practice of 9,500 patients, over half (117 patients from a total of 224) of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who chose to follow a low carb diet are in remission after over two years. “This is 20% of the entire diabetic population of the practice,” he points out.


Mainstream medical opinion is often still resistant to offering patients the choice of drugs for life or trying a low carb diet but the situation is changing. An increasing number of UK doctors now accept that treating every patient with drugs to balance a carb-based diet is not the answer for every patient and a low carb diet can help a significant number.

“For 95% of people with type 2 diabetes the true cause of type 2 diabetes is 20 years of consuming too many sugars,” says Dr Unwin.

Both the US and Canadian Diabetic Associations have come out in support of a low carb diet, he adds.

With over four million diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in the UK and much earlier age of onset (from an average age of 60 two decades ago, children are now being diagnosed), the £1 billion drug bill is clearly not good value. Because of offering the low carb option, Dr Unwin’s practice now saves over £68,000 annually on diabetes drugs.

Sadly, the Treasury keeps all the saving. “So GPs are not incentivised to make those savings,” he comments.

Obesity is accepted as the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. With three in five adults in England now overweight or obese, it’s clearly vital to give patients the option of lifestyle changes that may mean they will never need to go on drugs.

“Over nine years, not a single practice patient has refused the opportunity to try a low carb diet as an alternative to lifelong medication,” says Dr Unwin.