Diabetes is a major public health problem of epidemic proportions. Eleven percent of the U.S. adult population has diabetes (up from 8 percent in 2007), and nearly one-third of those 65 and older have the disease. Uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to complications from head to toe, including stroke, loss of vision, heart disease, kidney failure, and various problems due to nerve damage and circulatory problems, such as erectile dysfunction or lower-extremity amputation.–Physicians Committee
What if someone told you that, not only could you manage and slow the progression of type 2 diabetes, but possibly even reverse it. Would you believe them? It may sound too good to be true, but research studies are showing that a plant-based diet can do just that.
A 2006 study, conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine with the George Washington University and the University of Toronto, looked at the health benefits of a low-fat, unrefined, plant-based diet (excluding all animal products) in people with type 2 diabetes. Portions of vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes were unlimited. The plant-based diet group was compared with a group following a portion-controlled, higher-fat diet based on American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. The results of this 22-week study were astounding:
- Forty-three percent of the plant-based group and 26 percent of the ADA group reduced their diabetes medications. Among those whose medications remained constant, the plant-based group lowered hemoglobin A1C, an index of long-term blood glucose control, by 1.2 points, three times the change in the ADA group.
- The plant-based group lost an average of about 13 pounds, compared with about 9 pounds in the ADA group.
- Among those participants who didn’t change their lipid-lowering medications, the plant-based group also had more substantial decreases in their total and LDL cholesterol levels compared to the ADA group.
As a licensed Food for Life instructor with Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, one of the nutrition education and cooking curriculums that I teach is the Diabetes Initiative series. For many class participants, it is the first time they have been made aware of the power of food to prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes, and it is common (and even anticipated) that students who embrace these powerful diet changes will be able to reduce and/or come off of medications. One of the most surprising things to many is that they are able to still enjoy carbohydrates like rice, pasta, beans, vegetables, and fruit while on a plant-based diet. Not only that, but there is no measuring our counting required. Everyone gets to eat until they are full, and there is no need to go around hungry.
Carbohydrates do not cause diabetes. A diet that focuses on keeping carbs out of your diet is not a powerful way to manage–let alone reverse–the disease. If anything, healthy complex carbs help prevent it.–Diabetes Expert, Dr. Neal Barnard
So what are the basics of a plant-based diet and how can you make it work for you? The information below should be very helpful and includes video clips, fact sheets, and articles from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Please work closely with your physician or healthcare provider when making dietary and medication changes.
A plant-based diet can prevent, reverse, and manage diabetes.
There is also evidence that Type 1 diabetes may be linked to babies being exposed to cow’s milk. For more information read Why Babies Should Not be Given Cow’s Milk-Possible Link to Type 1 Diabetes.
Diabetes articles and Fact Sheets from Physicians Committee that can be great resources:
- Diabetes Fact Sheets and Recipes
- Diet and Diabetes: Recipes for Success
Latest research linking diet and diabetes:
- Vegan Diet May Help Diabetic Neuropathy
- Meat-Eating is a Risk Factor for Developing Diabetes
- Even Modest Amounts of Meat Increase Risk for Diabetes
- Animal Protein May Lead to Diabetes
Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes is the textbook we use in Diabetes Initiative nutrition and cooking classes and is a powerful resource that you can order. Click to view on amazon.
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