We’ve known that type 2 diabetes could be reversed by an extreme reduction in food intake for nearly a century and a half, since the 1870 siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. This has been demonstrated experimentally. By starving people enough, you can reverse diabetes. Diabetes specialists “have long known that the tiny proportion of iron-willed people [with diabetes] who can substantially decrease their weight and maintain this, can exhibit a return to normal metabolism.”
“A label is required to allow doctors to recognize and appropriately manage this subgroup who were willing to do anything to get rid of their diabetes. These are the Health Motivated. At the time of diagnosis, the Health-Motivated individuals will benefit from being advised that they are likely to be able to reverse their diabetes completely” by losing up to one-fifth of their body weight. And then—and only then—if they “show that they are not sufficiently strongly motivated should the routine guidelines for managing Type 2 diabetes be rolled out,” which include lots of drugs. Unfortunately, the control of blood sugar with medication has proven to be unsustainable and may actually exacerbate obesity, making us put on more weight and, thus, creating a vicious cycle.
There has got to be a better way.
Instead of starving oneself by eating less food, what if we just ate better food? What if we ate a diet that emphasizes all-you-can-eat greens, lots of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and some whole grains, and is at least 90 percent plant-based? This would be a diet including at least one big salad every day (like a pound of raw greens), veggie-bean soup, a handful of nuts and seeds, fruit at every meal, a pound of cooked greens, and some whole grains, but no refined grains, junk food, or oil, and a restriction on animal products. Thirteen diabetic men and women followed this diet for an average of seven months.
How did they do?
Hemoglobin A1C is considered the best measure of blood sugar control. Below six is normal—that is, non-diabetic. The official American Diabetes Association target, however, is to get diabetics at least down to seven. Anything above seven is uncontrolled diabetes. In my video Reversing Diabetes with Food, you can see a stunning chart that plots how the study participants’ hemoglobin A1C levels responded over time after they start plowing in the plants. All subjects had had diabetes for at least seven years, and they started off with hemoglobin A1C levels ranging from as low as 6 to as high as 12. After they began following the plant-heavy diet, their levels consistently dropped, month after month. After about seven months, their average A1C dropped from a diabetic 8.2 down to a non-diabetic 5.8. The majority dropped down to normal, and this is after dropping most of their medications.
Now, this was a pilot study with only a handful of people, no control group, and including only people who could actually stick to the diet—essentially, a retrospective case series, considered one of the weakest forms of published evidence. However, the magnitude of the effect they found indicates that a high nutrient-density diet can be very effective for some people.
In Reversing Diabetes with Surgery, another one of my videos, I discussed how type 2 diabetes can be reversed with an extremely low-calorie diet. And, as I’ve just shown, type 2 diabetes can also be reversed with an extremely healthy diet—but is that because it is also low in calories? That’s the million-dollar question I answer in Diabetes Reversal: Is It the Calories or the Food?.
You may be aware that I’ve touched previously on the ability of healthy diets to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. (See Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes and Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes if you haven’t yet watched those videos or want a refresher.) It’s so exciting to be plugging in the final puzzle pieces.
What about the benefits of blood sugar medications and more moderate diets? I discuss that topic in When Drugs and Diets Don’t Lower Diabetes Deaths.
Other videos of interest include:
- What Causes Insulin Resistance?
- How Not to Die from Diabetes
- Curing Painful Diabetic Neuropathy
- Can Vinegar Help with Blood Sugar Control?
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:
- 2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death
- 2013: More Than an Apple a Day
- 2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food
- 2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet
- 2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers