The reversal of diabetes, not just treatment, should be a goal in the management of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be reversed not only with a low calorie diet, but it can also be reversed with a extremely healthy diet. Could it be because an extremely healthy diet is also low in calories? This is the topic of my video Diabetes reversal: it is calories or food.
The subjects of the study lost a lot of weight on a green plant-based vegetable and vegetable diet, like those who were following a semi-starvation based diet based on liquid meal substitutes. So, does it matter what we are eating until we are eating fewer calories to lose 15 pounds a month?
Although the reversal of diabetes is just a matter of caloric restriction, instead of largely suppressing sugar, milk powder, corn syrup and oil (common ingredients in some liquid diet drinks) on the plant-based diet, at least one can eat real food – in fact, like many low-calorie vegetables as desired. So even if it works only because it's just another type of low-calorie diet, it's definitely a healthier version. But even study participants who did not lose weight, or even gained weight by eating huge amounts of healthy plant foods, seemed to improve their diabetes. Therefore, the beneficial effects of this type of diet seem to extend beyond weight loss.
The success of treatment of type 2 diabetes with a plant-based diet dates back to the 1930s, providing "incontestable evidence" that a diet centered on vegetables, fruits, grains and beans was more effective in controlling diabetes than to any other diet treatment. In a randomized controlled trial, the insulin requirement was halved and a quarter of the subjects completely eliminated insulin. But, again, this was a hypocaloric diet. Walter Kempner of Duke University School of Medicine reported similar results 20 years later with his studies on diet based on rice and fruit, showing for the first time a documented reversal of diabetic retinopathy in a quarter of his patients, something that was not even thought possible. One patient, for example, was a 60-year-old diabetic woman who was already blind in one eye and could only see outlines of large objects with the other. Five years later, while on a diet, instead of his vision getting worse, it was better. She "could make out the faces and read the signs and the large print of the newspaper", and stopped insulin, had normal blood sugar and had a drop of 100 points in her cholesterol. Another patient has only been able to read the most important titles of being able to read newsprint four months later. What was behind these extraordinary downpours? Perhaps because the diet was extremely low in fat or because there were no animal proteins or animal fats? Or, why was the diet so restrictive and monotonous that patients lost weight and improved their diabetes that way?
To tease this, we needed a study in which the researchers changed people to a healthy diet, but forced them to eat so much that they did not lose weight. So, we could see if a plant-based diet has unique benefits independent of all weight loss. For this, we had to wait another 20 years until a study in the 70s. In it, diets have been designed to maintain weight. The participants were weighed every day and, if they started losing weight, the researchers made them eat more food – in fact, so much food that some of the participants had trouble eating it all, but eventually they adapted. So, there were no significant changes in body weight despite restrictions on meat, dairy, eggs and junk food, and there were enough whole plant foods – whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit – to provide 65 grams of fiber a day, four times what the standard American diet provides.
The control diet they used was the conventional diabetic diet, which actually had almost twice the fiber content of the standard American diet, so it was probably healthier than what they had been used to eating. So, how did the healthier diet group? With zero weight loss, dietary intervention has still helped? The study compared the number of insulin units with which the subjects had to inject themselves daily before and after taking the plant-based diet. Overall, despite no weight change, the insulin requirement was reduced by about 60% and half of the diabetics were able to completely dispose of insulin. Was this after five years, or after seven months, as was the case in the other studies discussed above? No.
It was after 16 days.
To be clear, we are talking about diabetics who had had diabetes for more than 20 years, injecting 20 units of insulin a day, completely removing insulin in just 13 days, thanks to less than two weeks in a diet plant. For example, patient 15 had injected 32 units of insulin during the control diet, and then, 18 days later, none. Lower blood sugars on 32 units less insulin.
This is the power of plants.
As a bonus, their cholesterol dropped like a rock to less than 150 on average in 16 days, making them almost heart-proof too. Just as "moderate dietary changes usually lead to only modest reductions" in cholesterol, asking people with diabetes to make moderate changes often achieves equally moderate results, which is one of the possible reasons why most end up with oral drugs, injections or both. Everything in moderation can be a truer statement than you think. Moderate changes in diet may leave one with moderate blindness, moderate renal insufficiency, moderate amputations. Moderation in all things is not necessarily a good thing.
The more we, as physicians, ask our patients, the more we-and they-get. The old adage, "shoot for the moon", seems to apply. "It could be more effective than limiting patients to small steps that may seem more manageable but not sufficient to effectively prevent the progression of the disease."
Although I have dozens of videos about diabetes, I think Diabetes reversal: it is calories or food it could be the single most powerful one I've ever made. Please share this life that changes, lifeSaving video with anyone you know who has type 2 diabetes or is at risk for the dreaded disease. As far as I am concerned, visualization for each healthcare professional should be required. I wish I saw it when I was a medical student!
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This is the last episode of a three-part series. If you've lost the first two, check Inversion of diabetes with surgery is Inversion of diabetes with food.
For more information on the remarkable work of Dr. Kempner, see:
For other related videos, try one of these!
Michael Greger, M.D.
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