Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
By removing the cause rather than just treating symptoms
Type 2 diabetes has been referred to as the “Black Death of the 21st century”, due to its massive spread around the world and its enormous health impact. (1)
Unlike the plague which was caused by a bug, type 2 diabetes in caused by “high fat and high calorie diets, and poor lifestyle”.
Taking into account the cause it’s not a leap to appreciate that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, it’s treatable, and sometimes reversible. Reversing type 2 diabetes is possible for a lot of people if they are willing to remove the cause of their illness.
High Blood Sugar Is Only A Symptom
People tend to think diabetes is about their blood sugar being high, and don’t realise that this is only a symptom of something else going wrong.
When you focus only on controlling the symptom of a disease and don’t address the cause – you basically set yourself up to live with a disease for the rest of your life.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance, high blood sugar is only one symptom of that.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
When you eat carbs they are broken down by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood stream as glucose (sugar). This sugar is only of use when it get into your cells to be used to create energy. But it can’t just float into your cells without assistance.
When your blood sugar rises insulin is released in response, and it works like a key in a lock – it opens the door of your cells to allow the glucose to get in. This allows your blood sugar to go back down to normal.
In type 2 diabetes something happens to make your cells resistant to the action of insulin. So even though you may have more than enough insulin, it can’t do its job – because something is jamming the lock.
Most of your glucose should go into your muscle cells, but in type 2 diabetes the lock is jammed by fat. If someone stuck bubble gum in the lock to your front door the effect would be similar.
The glucose can’t get where it needs to go, so it gets stuck in the bloodstream – making your blood sugar go up and damages your body.
Where does the fat come from that blocks the action of insulin?
The Fat You Eat
The far you eat has effects on your body, but not all fats that you eat affect the insulin receptors in the same way.
Palmitic acid is a saturated fat found in meat, dairy and eggs. After you’ve eaten it and it gets into your bloodstream, your insulin resistance goes up.
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat found in nuts, olive, and avocados. Eating this does not cause insulin resistance.
This was discovered is a study where researchers took small biopsies from people’s muscles (2). It was found that the build-up of saturated fat (by eating it) in the membranes of muscle cells went hand in hand with insulin resistance. This wasn’t seen in the group who were eating fats of plant origin.
It also seems that people eating plant based sources of fat are better at producing insulin as well as using it (3).
Whereas when people eat saturated fat both the function of their insulin, and the production of it is impaired within hours (4).
So it seems that the fats you eat are not equal at all when it comes to the cause of type 2 diabetes.
But what about the fat you’re wearing?
The Fat From Your Body
The number of fat cells in your body doesn’t actually change much in adulthood, regardless of how your weight changes. Your fat cells swell up as you put on weight, and when they get to the point where they’re really bloated some of that fat can spill back into your bloodstream.
Most stored fat is the result of eating too many carbs, and is largely converted to saturated fat for storage.
In overweight people with bloated fat cells saturated fat is overflowing, and getting into the bloodstream. It’s likely that this is causing the same clogging up of insulin receptors as eating a meal high in saturated fat.
An overweight person’s body may be constantly spilling fat into their blood stream, regardless of what they’re eating. No matter the source of saturated fat in the blood – as levels go up your ability to clear sugar reduces, due to your cells becoming resistant to insulin.
Eating Differently Makes a Massive Difference
People eating a plant-based diet have a small fraction of the rate of type 2 diabetes compared with regular meat eaters. As diets become increasingly whole food and plant based – there is a stepped reduction in the rate of type 2 diabetes (5).
Compared to people eating meat regularly:
- Eating meat once/week = 28% reduced risk
- Eating fish but no meat = 51% reduced risk
- Eating no meat or fish = 61% reduced risk
- Eating no meat, fish, dairy or eggs = 78% reduced risk
People who eat significant amounts of legumes (beans, split peas, chick peas, lentils) tend to have much less insulin resistance (6). This study divided overweight people into two groups.
One group had to eat 1kg or legumes per week, and make no other changes. The other group had to cut 500 calories per day from their diet.
Who do you think got healthier?
Both groups lost weight, meaning that eating more of the right stuff is just as effective in causing weight loss as restricting calories! But in addition their insulin resistance went down.
What would happen if diabetics ate better food?
A group of diabetics were put on a 90% plant-based diet of:
- All you can eat greens
- Lots of other fruit and veg
- Nuts and seeds
Within 7 months most has stopped their medication and weren’t diabetic anymore (7).
Another interesting study was where the researchers took a group of overweight diabetics, changed their diet, but didn’t want them to lose weight (8).
They were put on a plant-based diet and weighed every day. If they lost weight they were made to eat more – some patients had trouble eating it all.
The results – even with no weight loss half of the patients came off their insulin, and the other half reduced their insulin by 60%.
This was achieved just by eating better, and in only 16 days!!!
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance. High blood sugar is only a symptom, it is not the disease itself.
Medical treatments are largely aimed at forcing down blood sugar artificially with drugs and injected insulin. This doesn’t treat the cause, and you will have to live with the disease until you do.
As diabetes gets worse the tendency is to put someone on more and more insulin. In the end it’s just like shouting at a deaf person who can’t hear you.
Rather than trying to overcome insulin resistance with force, why not focus on the cause – an unhealthy diet – and improve that?
The studies showing how saturated fat bubble-gums up the insulin receptors in cell membranes helps explain we people eating more plant-based and less animal-based diets are better protected from type 2 diabetes.
In addition to that – eating a whole-food diet rather than refined white junk reduces the amount of insulin you need.
Feeding your body properly is the key to reversing type 2 diabetes.
Your body will go to great lengths to heal itself if you give it a chance.
I’m a GP and I know doctors and nurses don’t educate their patients sufficiently well about diabetes prevention and reversal. There are a number of reasons for this:
- It takes time that we just don’t have in today’s NHS
- There is a lack of knowledge about reversing type 2 diabetes naturally with diet
We are basically not trained or set up properly to empower the patients we serve. Instead we largely rely on drugs and insulin to treat the symptoms of diabetes.
Where does that leave you if you have diabetes?
To improve your health you need to educate yourself, and then make the changes to your diet that will reduce your insulin resistance – which will have the knock on effect of reducing your blood sugar.
If you’re going to do this, don’t do it alone if you’re on medication, especially if you’re injecting insulin – work with your health care providers as your medication needs are likely to reduce.
Any questions or comments? There’s a box below, I’d love to hear from you.
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(1) Matthews DR, Matthews PC, Banting Memorial Lecture 2010. Type 2 diabetes as an ‘infectious’ disease: is this the Black Death of the 21st century? Diabet Med 2011
(2) Nolan CJ, Larter CZ. Lipotoxicity: why to saturated fatty acids cause and monounsaturates protect against it? J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2009
(3) Gojda J, Patova J, Jacek M, et al. Higher insulin sensitivity in vegans is not associated with higher mitochondrial density. Eur J Clin Nutr 2005
(4) Xiao C, GiaccaA, Carpentier A, Lewis GF. Differential effects of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fat ingestion on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, sensitivity and clearance in obese, non-diabetic humans. Diabetologia 2006
(5) Fraser GE. Vegetarian diets: what do we know about their effects on common chronic diseases? Am Clin J Nutr 2009
(6) Papanikolaou Y, Fulgoni VL. Bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight, and a smaller waist circumference in adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. J Am Coll Nutr 2008
(7) Dunaief DM, Fuhrman J, Dunaief JL, et al. Gylcaemic and cardiovascular parameters improved in type 2 diabetes with the high nutrient density diet. Open Journal of Preventative Medicine 2012
(8) Anderson JW, Ward K. High-carbohydrate, high fiber diets for insulin-treated men with diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr 1979