Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Gutenberg Project

For about six years now, the Chicago Public Library has had a catalog of books that can be downloaded by people who have chicago public library cards in good standing + the right sort of computer (or kindle or whatever). When they first launched that program, some months before I was diagnosed with diabetes (in that awful summer before my diagnosis I used to download audio books from the website and listen to them as I struggled to ignore my body and fall asleep), most titles has one or two "copies" available, which basically meant they had permission to let one or two patrons have the book checked out at the same time. A few titles were "always available" meaning that they were out of copyright or for some other reason the library had permission to let all patrons have access to the title at the same time.
Last week I was looking for the "always available" titles and found that instead of having such books in the catalog anymore, the library website instead has an interface for accessing the Gutenberg Project, which makes lots and lots of public domain books available for download. Unlike the books to check out, or the former "always available" books, I don't get to preview or see much of anything about the book before downloading. I get a title, and maybe an author and subject listing. Anyways, I looked to see if anything came up when I searched with the term "diabetes". Indeed, something did. I downloaded it.
The booklet is The Starvation Treatment of Diabetes: With a Series of Graduated Diets Used at the Massachussetts General Hospital. The edition that has been scanned up was published in 1916, and it is a modification of the Allen diet. The goal of the diet was to get the urine of people with "saccharine diabetes" to be sugar free. It includes ten patient stories (probably not chosen to be the best stories, 'cause two of the patients die) and tells what diet was necessary to get to sugar free. The diet used "starvation" days in which only water, coffee, and whisky were allowed (and the whiskey was pushed even on the kids), and, once the urine was sugar free, an almost unlimited amount of fat plus gradually increased amounts of carbohydrates and protein. It is interesting to me that alcohol was used as a source of calories thought not to cause ketogenesis or glycosuria, and it's also interesting to me that they are aware that protein but not fat is apt to cause short term glycosuria. The other observation that really interested me is the claim that fat causes ketonuria. The stories had me thinking a little bit about modern diets used for diabetes. I am so glad that I have insulin!

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I've been reading a lot about metabolism lately and those starvation studies are pretty fascinating. Yep, makes you glad you were diagnosed well after quality insulin was made available.