How to manage type 2 diabetes with minimal medications
After exercise, the most important element in a comprehensive lifestyle program managing diabetes is proper diet. New practices have shown diabetes sufferers being able to reduce their medications after following a low-fat, vegetarian diet.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), in its “Diet and Diabetes: Recipes for Success,” newer treatment programs drastically reduce meats, high-fat dairy products and oils. At the same time, consumption of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables is increased.
One study found that 21 of 23 patients on oral medications and 13 of 17 patients on insulin were able to get off of their medications after 26 days on a near-vegetarian diet and exercise program. During two- and three-year follow-ups, most people with diabetes treated with this regimen retained their gains. The dietary changes are simple, but profound, and they work. Low-fat, vegetarian diets are ideal for people with diabetes.
“Until recently, diabetics were told that in order to control their blood sugars they had to eliminate most of the carbohydrates from their diet. They were told to avoid sugar, but the message did not stop there. Plant foods—naturally rich in complex carbohydrates—were also on the ‘hit list.’ The result left diabetics gravitating to a heavy meat diet,” said Dr. Neil Nedley, MD, author of “Proof Positive.”
Nedley added that “obesity is often one of the main determinants of insulin resistance (the primary cause of type 2 diabetes). It is imperative for an obese diabetic to lose weight if control of the disease is to be obtained by lifestyle changes alone. Meat is also dense in calories and makes weight loss more difficult.” He said that “whole fruits, vegetables, and grains (without fatty toppings) are much less dense in calories, thus facilitating an excellent weight loss program.”
A 2006 PCRM study with the George Washington University and the University of Toronto looked at the health benefits of a low-fat, unrefined, vegan diet (excluding all animal products) in people with type 2 diabetes. Portions of vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes were unlimited. The vegan diet group was compared with a group following a diet based on American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. The results of this 22-week study were astounding:
Forty-three percent of the vegan group and 26 percent of the ADA group reduced their diabetes medications. Among those whose medications remained constant, the vegan group lowered hemoglobin A1C, an index of long-term blood glucose control, by 1.2 points, three times the change in the ADA group.
The vegan group lost an average of about 13 pounds, compared with only about 9 pounds in the ADA group.
Among those participants who didn’t change their lipid-lowering medications, the vegan group also had more substantial decreases in their total and LDL cholesterol levels compared to the ADA group.
Here is one sample recipe from PCRM (more recipes on www.pcrm.org):
Pasta with Lentil Marinara Sauce
1 pound pasta of choice
1 jar (26 ounces) fat-free low-sodium tomato-based pasta sauce
1 can (15 ounces) lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry red wine (can be nonalcoholic) or low-sodium vegetarian broth
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, combine the pasta sauce, lentils, and wine or broth in a medium saucepan. Heat gently and season with salt and pepper. Serve over the drained pasta.
Makes 5 servings
Per serving: 470 calories, 19 g protein, 91 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 2 g total fat, 3 percent calories from fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber and 173 mg sodium.