In 2015 it was estimated that there were 415 million people with diabetes, and every one in two people remains undiagnosed. This number is expected to rise to 642 million people by 2040 if nothing is done about it.
You’ve probably heard that there is no cure for diabetes. In this article I dig deep into research and evidence which indicates otherwise. There is a lot of controversy around this topic, but nevertheless, there may in fact be certain lifestyle modifications which can help regulate blood sugar levels and give hope for those suffering with diabetes.
When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to health complications. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes makes up approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide and is a progressive condition. The body is producing insulin but it’s not being used efficiently. Type 2 is a lifestyle issue. With appropriate changes to diet and lifestyle people have a higher chance of conquering type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a different story. It makes up 10% of all cases. Damage to the pancreatic cells leads to a reduced ability or complete inability to produce insulin. Without insulin, the body’s cells cannot turn glucose (sugar), into energy. People with Type 1 diabetes depend on insulin every day to replace the insulin the body cannot produce.
What we are told are the causes of diabetes
When people have Type 1 diabetes it is labeled as an autoimmune condition. It is believed that the body’s immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which then weakens the pancreas and drives up A1C (blood sugar levels).
When someone has Type 2 we are told sugar and carbohydrates are the culprit. They see excess glucose floating around in the bloodstream, so figure it makes sense to cut out/reduce sugar consumption. This sounds logical right? But when you look a little closer you’ll realise it’s not actually addressing the root cause of the problem, it’s simply addressing the symptom. Also, epidemiological studies have shown that populations eating high-carbohydrate diets usually have a lower prevalence of non-insulin diabetics compared to populations eating lower-carbohydrate and higher-fat diets.
Is this true? I think it’s important to first understand exactly how blood sugar and insulin work.
How does blood sugar and insulin work?
When we eat carbohydrates, the body breaks it down into glucose which is the body’s main source of energy. The pancreas monitors the bloodstream and when it detects a rise in sugar levels it produces insulin, which attaches to the cells and opens them up to absorb glucose. This gives your cells what they need while balancing blood sugar levels. Once the cells have had their fill of glucose, the liver stores some of the excess for distribution between meals should blood glucose levels fall below a certain threshold. If the pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin, or if your cells become insulin resistant, you become a risk for Type 2 diabetes.
But what actually causes the cells to become insulin resistant?
Looking at it from a different perspective
I have recently learned some interesting information from Anthony Williams in his audio Understanding Diabetes in regards to the cause of Type 1 diabetes. He speaks about the pancreas being damaged not by the body’s immune system, but by other factors including a virus, GMO organisms, heavy metals, or foods like wheat, cows’ milk, and soy, and physical deterioration in the pancreas (e.g. car accident). The reason foods like wheat and cows’ milk have been linked to diabetes is because they contain the proteins gluten and A1 casein. These proteins can cause systemic inflammation throughout the body and over time damage the liver and pancreas. Evidence has linked cow’s milk to Type 1 diabetes. Exclusive breastfeeding is widely regarded as being protective against Type 1 diabetes in early infancy, but its benefits may be lost if the mother supplements breast milk with cows’ milk formula, or if the duration of breastfeeding is too short.
This theory relates with information in “The Protein Myth” by David Gerow Irving. He suggests that “the process could commence when infants are fed cow’s milk which is inadequately digested so that the cow’s milk protein makes its way into the baby’s intestines where it gets absorbed into the blood. There the immune system, thinking the fragments are invaders, goes on the attack destroying both the “cow’s milk” invaders and the pancreatic cells.”
Excess fat in the bloodstream is the most likely cause of blood sugar imbalances. We all need insulin to survive; it’s a hormone that allows sugar to exit the bloodstream and enter the cells to empower them. Too much fat in the diet leads to insulin resistance. Excess fat inside the cells prevents insulin from doing its job.
High fat intake also puts stress on your liver because this is where fat is processed by the body. The liver becomes unable to store and release glucose as it should. Excess fat burdens the pancreas, as it is then required to release enzymes to aid fat digestion.
Anthony Williams explains that “if you eat a meal with fat + sugar combined, a healthy liver breaks down the fat to make it mobile and to reduce the blood fat ratio in the bloodstream, thereby lessening the burden on the pancreas. Excess sugar gets peed out or goes back into liver for future use. If your liver isn’t healthy, it can’t rapidly break down fat and you have fat and sugar floating around in your bloodstream. The cells become unable to absorb sugar which leads to insulin resistance.”
The problem with cutting carbs and sugar
Indeed, processed sugar and carbohydrates like pastry, cakes and lollies should be avoided. That’s a no-brainer for many reasons. The problem occurs when you start cutting out healthy whole food carbohydrates like potatoes, pumpkin, legumes and fruit etc. Our bodies need healthy carbohydrates to function. Every cell in the body runs on glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for the brain. To starve the cells of natural glucose is dangerous in the long run.
Anthony William’s states “Peoples’ ability to eat high fat relies on the health of their liver. Why? The pancreas can’t handle excess fat, so the liver works extra hard to process the fat and protect it. Everyone’s liver is different due to its levels of metals and toxins and so each person can hold out for a different amount of time e.g. weeks to many years.
If you don’t have blood sugar issues then by all means, continuing this lifestyle is okay (although starving your cells of their life force energy, sugar, will lead to other issues in the future). If you do have blood sugar issues, then this lifestyle is not going to address the underlying issue, the weakened liver. Cutting out carbs and sugar will cause the A1C levels to drop, but this will only hide the problem until you reintroduce carbs. All you’re really doing is suppressing the A1C. If you choose to eat high fat and reduce carbs you must realise that the liver will never be able to heal because the liver cannot restore and heal without glucose, and the pancreas can only restore if the liver restores.”
Can diabetes actually be healed?
Gabriel Cousens, MD has 40 years of clinical research and experience in reversing diabetes using whole, natural, plant nutrition. He has developed successful programs for the prevention and treatment of both type 1 and 2 diabetes. In his book, “There Is A Cure For Diabetes“, Gabriel outlines his research with 120 diabetics. An overview of their amazing results are as follows:
In a series of 120 people, there was a successful cure rate of 61% with type 2 non-insulin dependent diabetes and 24% with type 2 insulin dependent diabetes in 3 weeks. “Success” means a fasting blood sugar lower than 100 and all normal blood tests for diabetes for 3 months. For Type 1 diabetes, which is considered absolutely incurable, the healing rate is 21% in three weeks.
Gabriel Cousens also created a documentary called “Simply Raw Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days“. This film follows six Americans with diabetes who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, uncooked food in order to reverse disease without pharmaceutical medication.
This isn’t to say that this will work for every single person, but it does prove diabetes can be treated and definitely gives much hope and encouragement to those who suffer from it.
“All that is needed is to let go of our belief that diabetes cannot be reversed – then we are free to cultivate the understanding of what is possible” – Dr. Gabriel Cousens
Dr. T Collin Campbell writes in his book “The China Study” about the study done by Endocrinologist Dr. James Anderson who placed 25 Type 1 and 25 Type 2 diabetics on a high-fiber, high- carbohydrate, low-fat diet in a hospital setting. He initially put the patients on the American Diabetes Association recommended diet plan for one week. Then he switched them over to a vegetarian, plant-based diet for three weeks.
These patients were not overweight when they started the study, but they were on insulin shots to control their blood sugar levels. All throughout Dr. Anderson measured their blood sugar levels, their cholesterol levels, their medications, and their weight. Type 1 diabetics cannot produce insulin, and it was thought that dietary changes would not affect this situation.
The results showed that after three weeks on a vegetarian, whole-food, high-fiber diet, the type 1 diabetics were able to lower their insulin medication by an average of 40%, their blood sugar profiles improved dramatically, and their “cholesterol levels dropped by 30%. After three weeks on the high-fiber, vegetarian diet, 24 of the 25 Type 2 diabetics could discontinue their insulin medication completely.”
How to help prevent, treat and possibly reverse diabetes
Lifestyle changes, particularly diet, can be highly effective in preventing, treating, and even reversing Type 2 diabetes. A plant-based diet is an effective tool at preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes. This is a diet that emphasises legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds with little to no animal products. The same study states that dietary choices are a key driver of insulin resistance. Increases in consumption of calorie-dense foods, including fast foods, meats and other animal fats, highly refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages, are dietary risk factors for diabetes worldwide.
A diet high in carbohydrate and low in fat has been associated with low diabetic incidence, whilst a low proportion of carbohydrate and a high proportion of fat were associated with a high incidence. This study found diets high in animal protein are associated with an increased diabetes risk. Evidence shows that by simply replacing 5 percent of animal protein with vegetable protein, participants decreased diabetes risk by 23 percent. This indicates that lowering your protein intake, particularly animal protein, and focusing on plant carbohydrates for diabetes prevention may be useful.
Fat consumption must be moderated to avoid high blood fat levels. Animal fats are the worst, followed by cooked plant fats, then raw fat, but even then, too much fat is too much fat – no matter where it comes from. Look at getting around 10 – 20 percent of your calories from fat. These findings support consumption of vegetable fats (e.g. nuts, avocados, olives) in place of animal fats in relation to diabetes prevention.
Ideas of foods to eat: Begin incorporating healthy whole food carbohydrates like potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, and legumes and other root vegetables. Don’t be afraid to eat fruit. In a NutritionFacts.org video, Dr. Michael Greger explores the research done on fruit relating to diabetes, showing that people how ate an extraordinarily large amount of fructose from fruit showed no change, but actually benefited, in blood sugar or insulin levels. In this study, eating less fruit had no effect on HbA1c, weight loss or waist circumference therefore it is not recommended diabetics reduce their fruit consumption. Fruit contains essential nutrients and antioxidants which are especially important for Type 1 (if caused by tissue damage.) Fruits like grapes, blueberries, apples, papayas and bananas are great to start with. Anthony Williams explains that “the glucose will help the liver to heal, which could possibly take weeks or even years. Foods like spinach, kale, celery and asparagus detoxify the liver, support the adrenals and pancreas, and stabilise insulin.” Increasing your intake of leafy greens can significantly reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Although Type 1 diabetes is rarely reversed and the cause is different, the lifestyle and food choices to help restore the liver and pancreas, and manage the symptoms, is the same.
There are strong studies proving that people who are overweight have a higher risk of diabetes. Dr. Michael McGregor speaks in relation to this, showing that when a person is overweight the body has a “spill over” effect whereby the body is constantly spilling fat from their cells into their blood stream. It gets lodged in the muscle cells leading to insulin resistance.
This study suggests that weight-related interventions can have a positive impact on health behaviors and weight loss, along with other diabetes-specific health outcomes, such as improved glycemic control.
A plant based diet has been proven to be more effective than a diet with animal products when it comes to losing weight. Studies show that a plant-based diet actually boosts weight loss twice as effectively as a traditional diabetes diet. It is recommended to focus on foods like brown rice, legumes, green vegetables, and seaweed, and avoid white rice, processed food made of rice flour or wheat flour, and all animal food products. Other potential lifestyle modifications have been recommended for weight prevention and management like getting around 9 hours of sleep every night and exercising for 60 minutes every day.
The practice of intermittent fasting has been shown to exert a beneficial effect on glucose tolerance and should be considered as a possible approach to prevent or minimize, if not correct, disturbances of glucose homeostasis in human subjects. Type 1 diabetics should take extra precaution with this practice, but definitely not shy away. Cyrus Khambatta who earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Berkeley after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, speaks about the benefits of intermittent fasting in relation to Type 1.
Vitamin D levels appear to play a role in the development and treatment of diabetes. Dietary Vitamin D supplementation is associated with reduced risk of Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Read this article I wrote to discover how to ensure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
It is now well established that participation in regular physical activity improves blood glucose control and can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes, along with positively affecting lipids, blood pressure, cardiovascular events, mortality, and quality of life. The study states both aerobic and resistance training improve insulin action and can assist with the management of blood sugar levels, lipids, blood pressure, cardiovascular risk, and mortality, but exercise must be undertaken regularly to have continued benefits and likely include regular training of varying types. 30 min per day of moderate, or high-level physical activity, is an effective and safe way to prevent Type 2 diabetes in all populations.
I realise this information might be controversial, but to prevent and control diabetes you have to be aware of the underlying causes so you can take the necessary action to heal yourself. By consuming nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables and reducing dietary fat, you will ease the burden on your liver, pancreas, and adrenals, and help them perform as they were designed, and keep your blood sugars stable.
Want to learn more on this topic?
DOCUMENTARY: FORKS OVER KNIVES
BOOK: DR NEAL BERNARD – REVERSING DIABETES