The Best Diet for Diabetes

“The Best Diet for Diabetes” There are all sorts of different scoring
systems to rate diet quality. My favorite, for its simplicity, is the
dietary phytochemical index: a fancy name for a simple concept. It’s just the percentage of your calories
from whole plant foods, so 0 to 100. The average American diet
has a score of 12. Twelve out of a hundred; so, like on a
scale of one to ten, our diet is a one. You can split people up based on how they
score, and show how the higher you score the better your metabolic markers
when it comes to diabetes risk. There appears to be like this stepwise
drop in insulin resistance and insulin-producing beta-cell dysfunction
as you eat more and more plant-based. And that highest group was
only scoring about 30, less than a third of their diet
was whole plant foods, but better than the lowest, which was
down around the standard American diet. No wonder diets centered around
plants, emphasizing legumes— beans, split peas,
chickpeas and lentils— whole grains, vegetables,
fruits, nuts and seeds, and discouraging most or all animal
products are especially potent in preventing type 2 diabetes, and as a little bonus has been associated
with much lower rates of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia,
cardiovascular mortality, and cancer. And not just preventing type 2 diabetes
but treating it as well. A systematic review and meta-analysis
found that the consumption of vegetarian diets is associated
with improved blood sugar control, but how much improved?
Here’s one of the latest trials. The effect of a strictly plant-based diet
centered around brown rice—it was done in Asia—versus the conventional
diabetic diet on blood sugar control of patients with type 2 diabetes:
a 12-week randomized clinical trial. For the diabetic control diet, they set
up food exchanges and calculated specific calorie and portion controls,
whereas on the plant-based diet people could eat much as they want;
that’s one of the benefits. The emphasis is on food
quality rather than quantity, and they still actually
lost more weight. But even after controlling for
the greater abdominal fat loss in the plant-based group,
they still won out. Of course, it only works
if you actually do it, but those that pretty much stuck
to the healthier diet dropped their A1c levels 0.9%, which is what you
get taking the leading diabetes drug, but of course only
with good side effects. Yeah, but would it work in
an underserved population? The impact of a plant-based diet support
program on mitigating type 2 diabetes in San Bernadino, the poorest
city of its size in California. A randomized controlled trial,
but not of a plant-based diet itself as the title suggests,
but of just an education program telling people about the benefits
of a plant-based diet for diabetes, and then it was up to them. And still got a significant improvement
in blood sugar control. Here are the numbers. Got a little better
in the control group, but way better in the plant-based
instruction and support group. And more plant-based diets
are not just effective in the prevention and management of
diabetes, but also its complications. Check this out. One of the most devastating complications
of diabetes is kidney failure. This shows the decline in kidney
function in eight diabetics in the one or two years
before switching their diets. They all showed this steady,
inexorable decline on a fast track to complete
kidney failure and dialysis. But then they switched to a
special supplemented vegan diet, and their kidney decline
was stopped in its tracks. Imagine if they had switched
a year or two earlier! Most diabetics don’t actually end up on
dialysis though because they die first. Cardiovascular disease is the major cause
of premature mortality among diabetics; that’s why plant-based diets are perfect.
There is a general scientific consensus that the elements of a whole-foods
plant-based diet— legumes, whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of processed
foods and animal products— are highly beneficial for preventing
and treating type 2 diabetes. Equally important, plant-based
diets address the bigger picture by simultaneously treating cardiovascular
disease, our #1 killer, along with obesity, high blood
pressure, lowering inflammation, and we can throw cancer
into the mix too, our #2 killer. The bottom line is that the case
for using a plant-based diet to reduce the burden of diabetes
and improve overall health has never been stronger.

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