A Plant-Based Diet May Prevent, Or Even Reverse, Type 2 Diabetes

By: Joel Fuhrman MD

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S., and doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke.1 However, type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease – our food choices can either prevent or promote insulin resistance and resultant diabetes.

Many conventional diabetes diets rely on meat or grains as the major calorie source. However, these strategies have serious drawbacks (read more on Diseaseproof.com). High-nutrient, low glycemic load (GL) foods are the optimal foods for diabetics, and these foods also help to prevent diabetes in the first place:

Leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables: Green and non-starchy vegetables have almost nonexistent effects on blood glucose, and are packed with fiber and phytochemicals. A recent meta-analysis found that greater leafy green vegetable intake is associated with a 14% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes.2  One study reported that each daily serving of leafy greens produces a 9% decrease in risk.3Greens, mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplant, peppers, etc. are essential components of an anti-diabetes (or diabetes reversal) diet.

Beans: Beans, lentils, and other legumes are the ideal carbohydrate source.  Beans are low in GL due to their moderate protein and abundant fiber and resistant starch, carbohydrates that are not broken down in the small intestine. This reduces the amount of calories that can be absorbed from beans; plus, resistant starch is fermented by bacteria in the colon, forming products that protect against colon cancer.4  Accordingly, bean and legume consumption is associated with reduced risk of both diabetes and colon cancer.5,

Nuts and seeds: Nuts are low in GL, promote weight loss, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may prevent the development of insulin resistance.7, 8 The Nurses’ Health Study found a 27% reduced risk of diabetes in nurses who ate five or more servings of nuts per week.  Among nurses who already had diabetes, this same quantity reduced the risk of heart disease by 47%.9-11

Fresh fruit: Fruits are rich in fiber and antioxidants, and are a nutrient-dense choice for satisfying sweet cravings. Eating three servings of fresh fruit each day is associated with an 18% decrease in risk of diabetes.3 For those who are already diabetic, I recommend sticking to low sugar fruits like berries, kiwi, oranges, and melon to minimize glycemic effects.

This approach works. In a recent study on type 2 diabetics following this diet, we found that 62% of the participants reached normal (nondiabetic) HbA1C levels within seven months, and the average number of medications required dropped from four to one. 12  A diet of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and fresh fruit can prevent and even reverse diabetes while promoting long-term health.

 1. American Diabetes Association: Diabetes statistics [http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/]
2. Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, et al: Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2010;341:c4229.
3. Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, et al: Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fruit Juices and Risk of Diabetes in Women. Diabetes Care 2008;31:1311-1317.
4. Hamer HM, Jonkers D, Venema K, et al: Review article: the role of butyrate on colonic function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008;27:104-119.
5. Villegas R, Gao YT, Yang G, et al: Legume and soy food intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Shanghai Women’s Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:162-167.
6. Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al: Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control 2009;20:1605-1615.
7. Casas-Agustench P, Bullo M, Salas-Salvado J: Nuts, inflammation and insulin resistance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010;19:124-130.
8. Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Bes-Rastrollo M: Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence. Nutrition, metabolism, and cardiovascular diseases : NMCD 2011;21 Suppl 1:S40-45.
9. Jiang R, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, et al: Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. JAMA 2002;288:2554-2560.
10. Kendall CW, Esfahani A, Truan J, et al: Health benefits of nuts in prevention and management of diabetes. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010;19:110-116.
11. Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, et al: Regular consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr 2009;139:1333-1338.
12. Dunaief D, Gui-shuang Y, Fuhrman J, et al: Glycemic and cardiovascular parameters improved in type 2 diabetes with the high nutrient density diet. Presented at the 5th IANA (International Academy on Nutrition and Aging) meeting July 26 & 27, 2010 Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa 1300 Tuyuna Trail Santa Ana Pueblo, NM, USA J Nutr Health Aging 2010;14:500.

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Joel Fuhrman MD

Joel Fuhrman M.D. is a board-certified family physician who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. He has been practicing for more than 20 years and established the Center for Nutritional Medicine located in Flemington, New Jersey. Dr. Fuhrman is a New York Times best-selling author, nutritional researcher and board certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. Twitter: @drfuhrman

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