Type 2 diabetes is a disease often caused by an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. It can be managed and reversed by eliminating the foods that cause insulin resistance, introducing foods that heal, and leading a healthier lifestyle. These changes can turn a life around and allow patients to lead longer, healthier lives. Discover the foods and lifestyle habits scientifically proven to help below.
1.5 million new cases a year 1
Over 37 million people are living with type 2 diabetes, that's more than 11% of the US adult population living with a preventable chronic disease 2.
High risk of health complications including renal failure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, and leg amputation.
Dr Laurie Marbas, who has seen the power of lifestyle medicine to manage type 2 diabetes first-hand.
Our new guest on our podcast Health and Mora with Dr. Laurie Marbas is someone who cured his mom’s diabetes! Listen to this snippet to find out how.
About 12 years ago, I was overweight, suffering from Type 2 diabetes, on medications daily, and really concerned for the future. One day I saw a doctor on TV who said that Type 2 diabetes could be reversed by using a plant-based diet. And then, when I discovered a plant-based diet, my love for food took a different direction. And as my body changed and my health improved dramatically, I fell in love with this new way of eating, which has continued for 12 years.
As a kid, Zaynub Elshamy was always the overweight youngster on yo-yo diets. When Zaynub was pregnant with her second child, she began to use medicines to regulate her blood sugar levels. Her doctor had given her three drugs by the time she was 40 years old. Zaynub initially tried a plant-based diet and made some progress; nevertheless, she was still sick. It wasn't until she learned about a 'whole food plant-based diet' from Cyrus Khambatta and Robby Barbaro that she stopped using oil and began to heal herself. Zaynub was able to get off 7 drugs and lose 120 pounds in 18 months! She has improved her own health and is now teaching others how to do the same!
A study of 89 000 Californians showed that following a completely plant-based diet is associated with a 78% decreased risk of developing diabetes. As more animal foods were added into the diet, the higher the risk of developing diabetes became, those eating meat everyday had the highest risk 3.
In 2016, a randomized control trial compared a plant-based diet to the conventional diabetic diet. Participants that adhered strongly to the plant-based diet decreased their hemoglobin A1c levels by a large and significant 0.9 points in 12 weeks, compared to just 0.3 points in the conventional group 4.
A lifestyle intervention focused on significant weight loss and dietary changes achieved diabetes remission in 46% of the participants in the intervention group compared to just 4% participants in the control group. Those that lost more weight had a better chance of diabetes remission, with 86% of participants who lost 15kg or more achieving diabetes remission. Participants were also able to deprescribe antidiabetic drugs 5.
Type 2 diabetes is an impairment in the way our body deals with sugar (glucose). For glucose to get into our cells and be used as fuel, it needs an invitation from insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of glucose into your cells. This takes glucose out of the bloodstream and keeps blood glucose levels within their normal range (normoglycemia).
Insulin is secreted by pancreatic beta-cells; in type 2 diabetes, an individual’s pancreatic cells do not make enough insulin, and cells have an impaired ability to respond to insulin, so less glucose can get into the cells.
Therefore the disease is defined by insulin resistance.
Often, insulin resistance is caused by diets high in fat, excess sugar, and processed foods, along with a sedentary lifestyle that leads to individuals being overweight, these factors cause the pancreatic cells and insulin receptors to become damaged, leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can take years to develop, and they may be hard to spot. These are the symptoms to look out for:
Elevated levels of glucose in the blood can also cause devastating health-problems further down the line via damage to blood vessels and organs. Diabetes is a leading cause of vision loss (diabetic retinopathy), renal failure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, and leg amputation 6. Diabetes considerably increases the risk of cardiovascular disease 7. Diabetes does not just impact physical health; it is also considered one of the most psychologically demanding chronic conditions and can leave patients with poor psychological well-being. Depression is three times as common in individuals with diabetes 8.
Hemoglobin is a protein within our red blood cells. When it joins with glucose in the bloodstream, it becomes glycated hemoglobin.
Glycated hemoglobin is also known as HbA1c, or hemoglobin A1c. The HbA1c test measures the amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin and is often used to diagnose diabetes. It gives an idea of average blood glucose levels over several weeks, instead of just one moment in time.
The results are as follows:
Normal - below 5.7%
Prediabetes - 5.7% to 6.4%
Diabetes - 6.5% or high on two separate tests
Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented, treated, and even reversed with changes to diet and lifestyle.
Plant-based dietary patterns have outperformed the conventional diabetes diet for improvement in diabetes markers in several studies. A low-fat plant-based diet improves glycemic control and insulin sensitivity and reduces the need for medication and insulin without using portion control or calorie counting, better than the conventional american diabetes diet 9.
In 2022, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) published a Consensus Statement on the use of a whole-foods plant-based diet as the sole primary intervention for diabetes remission. This was endorsed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (AACE), and supported by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).
Type 2 diabetes remission is achievable without invasive surgeries or pills, with intensive lifestyle interventions. Once you unlock the power of a plant-based diet, you won’t look back.
Think you may be suffering with this and need help? Join us today to make a change.
4. Lee, Y.-M. et al. Effect of a Brown Rice Based Vegan Diet and Conventional Diabetic Diet on Glycemic Control of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A 12-Week Randomized Clinical Trial. PLOS ONE 11, e0155918 (2016).
6. Salas-Salvadó, J., Becerra-Tomás, N., Papandreou, C. & Bulló, M. Dietary Patterns Emphasizing the Consumption of Plant Foods in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A Narrative Review. Adv. Nutr. 10, S320–S331 (2019).
8. Toumpanakis, A., Turnbull, T. & Alba-Barba, I. Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. BMJ Open Diabetes Res. Care 6, e000534 (2018).
9. Barnard, N. D. et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89, 1588S-1596S (2009).
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