Until now, my whole approach has been about managing the impact of my type 2 diabetes with a vegetarian diet.
As a type 2 diabetes, I have become insulin resistant, and in order to limit the unpleasant results of having too much glucose in my bloodstream.
I use a combination of drugs (metformin hydrochloride) which decreases my insulin resistance, and a low-carbohydrate diet in order to reduce the amount of glucose that ends up in my body.
In the early days this was successful – I managed to reduce my HbA1c results from dangerous numbers to acceptable ones.
However, as every doctor likes to tell me, diabetes is a condition that only gets worse over time, and now, 7 years after diagnosis, I find it harder and harder to regulate those readings, and find myself battling a slow but steady increase in weight.
Then I read Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs, which proposes not only the mechanism behind type 2 diabetes, but a solution for reversing it, along with a successful study that backs it up.
You can find the new edition of the book here on amazon
What isn’t working when you have type 2 diabetes?
Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas that attaches to a receptor on the surface of cells, and turns on their ability to take glucose in from the bloodstream. 
That glucose then fuels the cells, and gives us our energy.
In people with type 2 diabetes, this mechanism doesn’t work properly.
The insulin is produced by the pancreas, and travels to the cells, but for some reason it is unable to properly turn on the cell’s ability to take glucose in and so glucose builds up in the bloodstream, causing harmful effects.
Dr Barnard’s new approach is based on making this mechanism work again.
Reversing type-2 diabetes
Dr Barnard had noticed that diabetes was much less common in societies that had less meat than the typical western diet.
When families emigrated to countries with more meat in their diet, as successive generations adopted that diet, they suffered a much higher incidence of diabetes and cancers.
Additionally, there were a number of small studies on diabetics where changing diet to a plant-based or vegetarian diet, one had reduced the amount of medication that they had needed.
In one, two-thirds of the participants on diabetes medication were able to discontinue or reduce them in just 12 weeks.
Through a number of further studies, Dr Barnard was able to show that diabetics following a vegan diet or a vegetarian diet could reduce their A1c on average by 1.2 percentage points over the 22-weeks of the study – that’s three times as much as the effect of taking a medication such as metformin (Glucophage).
Dr Barnard’s theory is that people with type-2 diabetes build up an excess of fat in their cells, which causes the insulin resistance.
Removing almost all fat from the diet causes the cells to use the accumulated fat, reactivating their ability to respond to insulin.
A nice side-effect of the vegan diet is that participants also lost weight.
I’ll let you read the book for more information – it goes into a lot more detail than I have here.
The vegan or vegetarian diet itself is simple, and follows three rules:
- Set aside animal products
- Keep vegetable oils to a minimum
- Favor foods with a low glycemic index
That’s it! Nothing complicated, there, but it is quite a change from a “normal” diet.