There is perhaps no medical condition that responds so well to a whole foods plant-based diet than type 2 diabetes. It is a nutritional disorder caused by the high fat, protein rich Western diet. Take away the cause and the disease will get better. Early diabetes and pre-diabetes can be completely cured. There are also benefits in eating a plant-based diet for people with type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes is not a genetic disease. Your genes are your predisposition not your destiny. Diabetes incidence in China has gone from from less than 1% (in 1980) to 12% (in 2010) in one generation as they increasingly adopt a Western diet. A similar pattern was seen in Japan – diabetes incidence increased as the traditional staple of rice was replaced by meat, oils and processed foods. Genes and rice are not the problem.
The current medical treatment for diabetes targets blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and other biomarkers with an ever increasing number of pharmaceuticals. This approach largely fails to deal with the cause of the disease – a high protein, high fat diet deficient in whole plant foods. The underlying diabetes physiology is largely unaltered because the dietary patterns that caused the disease have not been changed. Under this approach the severity of diabetes becomes gradually worse over the years. The most effective treatment for diabetes is a high carbohydrate plant-based diet. Low carbohydrate diets are always high in fat (see Energy Pie) and while they may result in lower blood glucose levels in the short term, they only serve to maintain the diabetic state in the long term. Whole foods plant-based nutrition is an effective solution for diabetes and obesity, and the low energy density of these foods means that there is no need for small portions and food rationing.
Low GI (glycaemic index) diets are promoted by many Australian health professionals. Unfortunately the low GI concept in Australia often translates into higher consumption of meat and other animal products as people cut back on all carbohydrates, including those complex carbohydrates which have only ever been associated with better health. We recommend that if you use the GI concept, you make sure you select from a range of complex carbohydrates, i.e. whole foods – fruits, vegetables (including starchy vegetables), whole grains and legumes. Beware of highly processed food and high fat foods which use the low GI health claim for marketing.
It’s Heart disease that is responsible for much of the early death and disability in diabetes, not spiralling blood sugar levels. Dr Barnard says that “diabetes makes everything else worse” and this includes Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. The nutrition that we use for diabetes must be the same nutrition that we use to prevent and manage heart disease – a low fat mostly vegan diet. The current trend towards higher (animal) protein diets for diabetes in Australia, even if it were effective, is not compatible with long term heart health.
A word of warning before you start – this approach may work very quickly. If you are on insulin or other medications for diabetes and high blood pressure you should consult your doctor before you make the transition to a whole foods plant based diet.
- Diabetes physiology
- Treating Diabetes with a high carbohydrate plant-based diet
- Glycaemic Index (GI)
- Dietary Transition for Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Khambatta, C. & Barbaro, R. (2020). Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes. Avery. **NEW**
- Barnard, N. D. (2018). Dr. Neal Barnard’s program for reversing diabetes: the scientifically proven system for reversing diabetes without drugs. Rev ed. New York: Rodale.
- The Insulin Resistance Diet – What to Eat and Why – Cyrus Khambatta, PhD (56 min. video)
- Does fat cause type 2 diabetes? (1 min.) Dr Neal Barnard explains how the fat we eat builds up in our cells, interfering with insulin function
- Forks Over Knives – Dr. Neal Barnard on Diabetes (2 ½ min.)
- Tackling diabetes with a bold new dietary approach: Neal Barnard at TEDxFremont (18 min.)
- A New Nutritional Approach to Type 2 Diabetes – Dr. Neal Barnard – (45 min. video). Presentation given at the VegMed Conference in Germany, 2016.
- Or this similar talk ‘Neal Barnard program for Reversing Diabetes’ (38 min.)
- Cure Type 2 Diabetes without Drugs – Dr John McDougall (2 min.)
- Diet, Drugs and Diabetes – One Hundred Years of Missed Opportunities – Dr John McDougall lecture (1 hr 21 min). An excellent overview of the causes and treatment of diabetes. > See this passionate response to a question about potatoes and diabetes: Dr John McDougall answers a question about white potatoes in his talk ‘Diet, Drugs and Diabetes’ (video, this link is 1 hr 17 min into the talk)
- The Latest Scams from the Diabetic Industry – *February 2017* Dr John McDougall (1 hr 8 min) and this associated newsletter with references: The Latest Scams from the Diabetic Industry
- Link to Dr Michael Greger’s NutritionFacts.org videos on Diabetes including ones on how to prevent, treat and reverse diabetes:
– What Causes Insulin Resistance? (5 min. video)
– Diabetes Reversal: Is it the Calories or the Food?
– What Causes Diabetes? (5 min. video)
– How to Prevent Diabetes (1 1/2 min. video)
– How to Treat Diabetes (1 1/2 min. video)
– Eggs and Diabetes (2 min. video)
– Bacon, Eggs, and Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy (4 min. video)
- Mastering Diabetes
- PCRM Diabetes Resources
- McDougall’s Health & Medical Center Hot Topics: Diabetes
- McDougall’s Health & Medical Center Common Health Problems: Diabetes (Adult Onset and Juvenile)
- How Does Fat Affect Insulin Resistance and Diabetes? – Naomi Imatome-Yun
- Potatoes & Diabetes: Dietary Trends & Truths About Taters – Jeff Novick. The idea that white potatoes are problematic for diabetics stems partly from the concept of the glycemic index, and partly from the inaccurate way that potatoes have been categorized in some scientific studies.
- Q&A by David Richards, D.C., M.D. – Do you recommend that diabetics avoid white potatoes?
- Do you take insulin? Read on… Could a plant-based diet ever be risky? – Dr Caroline Trapp (PBNSG), May 2015
- Dioxins Stored in Our Own Fat May Increase Diabetes Risk – Dr Michael Greger, 28 July 2015.
- Barnard, N. D., Cohen, J., Jenkins, D. J. A., Turner-McGrievy, G., Gloede, L., Green, A., & Ferdowsian, H. (2009). A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5), S1588-S1596.
- Barnard, N. D., Cohen, J., Jenkins, D. J. A., Turner-McGrievy, G., Gloede, L., Jaster, B., . . . Talpers, S. (2006). A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 29(8), 1777-1783. *Original research*
- Barnard, N. D., Katcher, H. I., Jenkins, D. J., Cohen, J., & Turner-McGrievy, G. (2009). Vegetarian and vegan diets in type 2 diabetes management. Nutrition Reviews, 67(5), 255-263.
- Bunner, A. E., Wells, C. L., Gonzales, J., Agarwal, U., Bayat, E., & Barnard, N. D. (2015). A dietary intervention for chronic diabetic neuropathy pain: a randomized controlled pilot study. Nutrition & Diabetes, 5, e158.
- Chiu, T. H., Huang, H. Y., Chiu, Y. F., Pan, W. H., Kao, H. Y., Chiu, J. P., . . . Lin, C. L. (2014). Taiwanese vegetarians and omnivores: dietary composition, prevalence of diabetes and IFG. PloS One, 9(2), e88547.
- Djousse, L., Gaziano, J. M., Buring, J. E., & Lee, I. M. (2011). Dietary omega-3 fatty acids and fish consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(1), 143-150.
- InterAct Consortium. (2015). Dietary fibre and incidence of type 2 diabetes in eight European countries: the EPIC-InterAct Study and a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetologia, 58(7), 1394-1408.
- Kahleova, H., Matoulek, M., Malinska, H., Oliyarnik, O., Kazdova, L., Neskudla, T., . . . Pelikanova, T. (2011). Vegetarian diet improves insulin resistance and oxidative stress markers more than conventional diet in subjects with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetic Medicine, 28(5), 549-559.
- Tonstad, S., Butler, T., Yan, R., & Fraser, G. E. (2009). Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32(5), 791-796.
- Trapp, C., Barnard, N., & Katcher, H. (2010). A plant-based diet for type 2 diabetes: scientific support and practical strategies. Diabetes Educator, 36(1), 33-48. doi: 10.1177/0145721709357797
- Wolpert, H. A., Atakov-Castillo, A., Smith, S. A., & Steil, G. M. (2013). Dietary fat acutely increases glucose concentrations and insulin requirements in patients with type 1 diabetes: Implications for carbohydrate-based bolus dose calculation and intensive diabetes management. Diabetes Care, 36(4), 810-816.
- Yokoyama, Y., Barnard, N. D., Levin, S. M., & Watanabe, M. (2014). Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy, 4(5), 373-382.
- Success Stories from the Mastering Diabetes Program – features many people with type 1, type 1.5 and type 2 who have reversed insulin resistance with a whole food plant-based diet
- Reversing Diabetes with a Plant-Based Diet | Bob’s Story – PCRM, 2020
- I Thought I Ate Healthy. Then I Was Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes – Joseph Binning, 2018
- From diabetes and stroke to healthy & medication-free – Greg Klapp, 2017, featured in the documentary Eating You Alive
- Donna Kondrak: Lost 60 lbs. No Longer Needs Diabetes Medications
- After Battling Type 2 Diabetes, My Lab Results Improved Dramatically in Just Six Weeks – Betsy Hatcher, 2016
- Scott Raphael, N.D.: Type-2 Diabetes, Obesity
- Barbara Leary: Suffered from Type-2 Diabetes (7 min. video)
- Benjamin Eksouzian: Cures Type-2 Diabetes (10 min. video)
- My Patient Didn’t Just Control His Diabetes, He Cured It! – James Loomis, MD
- How I Reversed My Diabetes and Stopped All Medications With a Plant-Based Diet – Marc Ramirez
- How I Lost 140 Pounds, Cured My Type 2 Diabetes, and Saved Thousands in Medications – Eric O’Grey
- Herbie of the Week: Keith
- Herbie of the Week: Glenn
- After Hitting Rock Bottom, Forks Over Knives Helped Me Lose 100+ Pounds – Dustin Rolofson
- Elana Slashes Diabetes Risk and Gets Fit
- For 26 Years, I’ve Managed Type 1 Diabetes With a Plant-Based Diet – Ken Thomas
- Michael Goldberg: Type-1 Diabetes without complications (5 min. video)
Page last updated 29 July 2015