Is There a Cure for Diabetes? Some Doctors Say Yes—It’s Diet

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Is there a cure for diabetes, or does your diagnosis mean you’ll be taking medication and dealing with the complications your whole life?

There could be a cure for diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, and it’s not medication. We’ll cover the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and how changing your diet can help alleviate Type 1 symptoms and cure Type 2 diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Before we answer the question, “Is there a cure for diabetes?”, we need to know what diabetes is and what the types are.

Diabetes is a disease of affluence, occurring mostly in the wealthy parts of the world. In 2012, 9.3% of American adults were diabetic, and over 200,000 kids had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Almost one-third of diabetics don’t even know they have this serious disease.

Complications of diabetes include heart disease, kidney disease, damage to the nervous system, high blood pressure, blindness, and amputation.

Type 1 Versus Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes and Type 2 was called adult-onset diabetes. But now, 45% of childhood diabetes diagnoses are Type 2, so the original terms no longer apply.

As we’ll see, both types are associated with the consumption of animal foods and both involve a malfunctioning metabolism.

The Role of the Metabolism in Diabetes

A functional metabolism involves four steps:

  1. We consume food.
  2. Our bodies break down carbs into simple sugars like glucose (blood sugar).
  3. Glucose enters the blood. In response, the pancreas produces insulin.
  4. Insulin lets glucose into cells, where it’s used as energy.

In both types of diabetes, the breakdown of this system wreaks havoc on the body.

People with Type 1 diabetes (5-10% of all diabetes cases) can’t produce insulin because the pancreas cells that make it have been destroyed by the immune system. This makes Type 1 diabetes an autoimmune disease.

People with Type 2 diabetes (90-95% of all diabetes cases) can produce insulin, but the insulin isn’t effective. It doesn’t transport glucose into cells, so the glucose isn’t metabolized. It remains in the bloodstream, causing the body to produce more insulin, resulting in a vicious cycle.

Is There a Cure for Type 2 Diabetes?

There’s evidence that dietary changes can reduce the amount of insulin people with Type 1 diabetes need to take, but the most promising studies focus on treating — and curing — Type 2 diabetes. So is there a cure for diabetes? Yes, if you have Type 2 diabetes.

The Problems with Modern Diabetes Treatments

Problem #1: The drugs that are currently available allow people with diabetes to function, but they don’t treat diabetes at its source.

Problem #2: Consequently, people with diabetes spend their entire lives post-diagnosis taking daily medication.

Problem #3: This is costly. In 2013, the U.S. spent $245 billion a year on diabetes medication.

The Diet Cure for Diabetes

Multiple studies indicate that a plant-based diet can prevent, treat, and even cure Type 2 diabetes.

Seventh-Day Adventist Studies on Diabetes

First, let’s look at how diet affects your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. We’ll see that the foods that decrease your risk of developing diabetes are the same foods that can cure you.

We can observe the possible effects of a plant-based diet on diabetes risk by studying Seventh-day Adventists, whose religion advises they avoid meat, fish, and eggs, among other foods and drinks.

Consequently, a relatively high percentage (50%) of Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians. The other half still eats meat, but less than the average American.

90% of the vegetarian Adventists eat dairy and eggs, and the meat-eating Adventists don’t eat much meat by American standards, so the diets of the two groups are not actually that different.

Still, vegetarian Adventists in these studies had half the rate of diabetes and almost half the rate of obesity.

Research: A Cure for Diabetes?

Controlled Studies—Diet as Cure Rather Than Prevention

The Seventh-day Adventist studies were observational studies. Observational studies are those in which researchers observe the effect of a risk factor without trying to control who is exposed to the risk factor and who’s not.

While observational studies provide important information, they don’t always indicate as clear a cause-and-effect relationship as controlled studies.

Numerous controlled studies have studied people who already have diabetes. In these studies, researchers modify the participants’ diets and measure the effects on the disease.

For instance, one experiment involved both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients. None of the participants were overweight. They all ate a high-fiber, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. The diet was mostly plant-based, allowing for one or two cold cuts of meat a day.

Results:

  • After three weeks on the mostly plant-based, high-fiber diet, Type 1 patients could lower their insulin medication by 40% and their cholesterol levels decreased by 30%.
  • 24 of the 25 Type 2 patients were able to stop their insulin medication altogether.

Results like these have been replicated in numerous studies.

If There’s a Cure, Why is Diabetes Still a Problem?

Is there a cure for diabetes? Yes. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet reduces your risk of diabetes more than the standard drug, metformin, and that it can reverse your diabetes once you have it. But the diet-based treatment approach faces the same stigma it does with other diseases.

Frustratingly, the dietary recommendations of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) are conservative and ineffective. In one study, participants with diabetes eating a vegan diet were better off than those eating the diet recommended by the ADA. Associations like the ADA tell people what they want to hear, hoping not to scare away their audience.

Even a researcher who witnessed firsthand the astounding effects of a near-vegetarian diet on diabetes called the diet “impractical.” This expressed belief prejudices patients before they have a chance to try the diet and realize that it’s not more impractical than having a lifelong disease, for which there’s no medical cure, and which often leads to heart disease, blindness, and amputation.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Eliminate your consumption of meat and dairy products to decrease your diabetes risk and lower your need for medication if you have diabetes.

Is there a cure for diabetes? If you have Type 2 diabetes, there’s evidence you can reverse your condition by eating a plant-based diet.

Is There a Cure for Diabetes? Some Doctors Say Yes—It’s Diet

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "The China Study" at Shortform. Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll find in our full The China Study summary:

  • Why animal proteins (meat, milk) might cause cancer, diabetes, and other diseases
  • Why the medical institution is structured to hide the truth about disease and food
  • The precise diet you'll need to eat to live longer and feel happier

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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