Many people are choosing a plant based nutrition plan to improve their health conditions, including diabetes. A plant based vegan diet is one that excludes all forms of animal protein and animal fat.
And when asked if a vegan diet is safe for diabetics, the American Diabetes Association says:
“Yes! A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has found that calorie and carbohydrate restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants’ A1C.
Vegan diets are naturally higher in fiber, much lower in saturated fat, and cholesterol-free when compared to a traditional American diet. The high fiber in this diet may help you feel full for a longer time after eating and may help you eat less over all. When fiber intake is greater than 50 grams per day on a vegan diet, it may help lower blood glucose levels.
This diet also tends to cost less. Meat, poultry, and fish are usually the most expensive foods we eat.”
Constant elevated blood glucose is blamed for causing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Under this assumption, it’s no wonder people think they need to keep glucose low by restricting carbohydrates. However, elevated glucose is only a symptom of insulin resistance, not the cause. This is why low carb diets only exacerbate metabolic syndrome, rather than fix it. Not to mention, most people who follow restrictive diets like this end up creating weight and health issues long term. In fact, research shows that ditching animal fat and protein improves insulin sensitivity, and can even help people overcome diabetes.
Science shows that carbohydrates have never been the culprit, but are the cure to prevention. The Adventist Health Study examines the link between lifestyle, diet, and disease among 96,000 Adventists, ages 30-112, in the US and Canada. The researchers concluded that those who were vegan, and those who consumed the least amount of animal protein, had the lowest rates of diabetes. Looking at all the healthiest societies around the world, Japanese Okinawans taking the lead, get majority of their calories from carbohydrates and very little from animal foods.
A single high fat meal will cause impaired glucose within minutes of eating. High fat concentration in the blood stream blocks insulin signaling and prevents the uptake of glucose. Eventually, constant animal fat intake leads to intramyocellular lipids, which are fat deposits inside muscle cells. Every person with diabetes has intramyocellular lipids. In order to improve insulin signaling, animal fat must be greatly reduced or completely eliminated to restore insulin sensitivity and proper carbohydrate metabolism.
According to Garth Davis M.D. and author of ‘Proteinaholic,’ “The key in life, as I have been saying for a long time now, is natural plant based food. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. If you look at the Okinawans or the Sardinians or the Seventh Day Adventists they eat 75-80% of their calories from carbs, albeit natural carbs. The Okinawans eat mainly starches like yams and rice. Yet they have very little diabetes.” In his book, Davis presents a goldmine of data that dispells the myth that sugar causes diabetes.
See more about why Our Fear of Carbs Is Making Us Fat.
Low carbohydrate diets are popular among diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome because they are thought to keep blood sugar low and insulin low. In reality, a low carbohydrate diet will just prolong metabolic dysfunction and increase intramyocellular lipids. On top of that animal protein is very insulinogenic, which means the pancreas releases insulin when meat is consumed. A ketogenic diet, which is high in saturated fat, causes the body to switch from using glucose for energy to using fat for energy. Although this diet is thought to be most beneficial for diabetes, it only bypasses carbohydrate metabolism rather than fixing carbohydrate metabolism.
T. Colin Campbell, biochemist and former professor at Cornell University, runs T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Over his career, he has conducted large scale human studies on long term health, linking diet to health. He wrote the China Study, the largest human nutrition study ever conducted, which details the causal relationship between the consumption of animals and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. His research done in various parts of the world, concludes that populations who hate the least animal fat and protein had the least diabetes, and overall disease. Purple potatoes make up the majority of the Okinawans’ diet and they have the lowest rates of diabetes in the world. Think about it. If high carbohydrates caused diabetes, these people would have problems.
Neal Barnard M.D. is President and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training. “Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes” was created based on the research conducted by Barnard and his colleagues on the health effects of plant based nutrition. This program, which advocates a whole food plant based diet, has helped countless people lose weight, improve diabetic neuropathy, and even reverse their diabetes .
The committee has conducted many studies about the health benefits of a plant based diet, and its effects on diabetes. In one study, researchers found that “individuals with type 2 diabetes (n=99) were randomly assigned to a low-fat plant-based diet (n=49) or a diet following the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines (n=50). Participants were evaluated at baseline and 22 weeks. Both a low-fat plant-based diet and a diet based on ADA guidelines improved glycemic and lipid control in type 2 diabetic patients. These improvements were greater with a low-fat plant-based diet.”
So, although carbs, are constantly blamed for insulin resistance, there is no actual correlation between the two. Of course carbohydrates are problematic if you can no longer metabolize them properly. But the overwhelming data shows that insulin resistance is the result of intramyocellular lipids.