Treating diabetes with a high carbohydrate plant-based diet

It may seem counterintuitive to treat diabetes with a high carbohydrate diet, but consider the following points:

  • Diabetics have elevated blood sugar levels even on low carbohydrate diets.
  • There is least diabetes in cultures where the most carbohydrate is eaten, such as rural Asia.
  • Some of the most successful dietary intervention programs for diabetes are those that use a high carbohydrate mostly vegan diet.

The epidemiology provides evidence that high carbohydrate diets are less likely to result in diabetes. There is least diabetes in the regions of the world where people eat a mostly plant based diet consisting of minimally processed starchy foods and vegetables. These type of diets are not only high in carbohydrates but also low in fat, high in fibre and have a low energy density. But foremost, they are based on whole plant foods, and as such we should not expect any reconstructed processed foods of similar composition to have the same effect. The China study observed that there was more diabetes in regions with quite modest departures from this eating pattern.

Observational studies such as the Seventh Day Adventist study contradict the notion the higher protein intakes control obesity and prevent diabetes. The meat eaters were heavier and had more diabetes than the vegetarians while the vegans were the leanest and had the least diabetes. It is likely that meat has diabetes promoting properties beyond its fat content, energy density and lack of fibre. Conversely, whole plant foods have metabolic effects that are not fully explained by their nutrient composition.

It is not surprising that the same nutrition that prevent the diabetes can also be used to treat diabetes. Dr Neal Barnard has decades of experience in treating diabetes with a low fat plant-based diet. His published studies on dietary intervention in diabetes have shown remarkable results with this approach. Some individuals were cured of diabetes, with blood measurements returning to the non-diabetic state and staying there. Please listen to presentations by Dr Neal Barnard through the links in the Diabetes Resources if you want more information.

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