Several diabetic meal plans claim to have ended the diabetes symptoms for those who faithfully used them. Some come from doctors — and some from diet promoters. In this article, let’s consider the merits of a few of the most popular diet plans that might be used by diabetics.
Representing the mainstream, middle-of-the-road approach is the one offered by the American Diabetes Association. The weakness of this approach is that they try to include everyone — saints and diabetic sinners alike — and they try not to offend any large donors to their non-profit organization.
The attempt to be inclusive of those who might be, shall we say, “weak in their resolve” tends to make clear guidelines for healthy action impossible to determine. Their Web site is so huge that it seems anyone can find approval for any diet plan they like represented here.
On the second point — that they try not to offend large donors — their site still promotes the use of artificial sweeteners, even though these have repeatedly been debunked and shown to contribute to weight gain in numerous studies. I believe they haven’t changed their recommendation because they receive significant donations from the makers of Aspartame, Sucralose, and other artificial sweeteners. This is disappointing if one wants the best scientific information so they can follow a diet that will help them reverse the symptoms of the disease.
To their credit, the ADA has made this statement: “A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent or manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has shown that calorie and carb restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants’ A1c.” This is the type of clarity the diabetic public needs to hear, but it is hard to find on a Web site so big that it appears to be trying to be “All things to all people.”
I believe this lack of clarity is keeping millions of people diabetic, when it is on public record that type-2 Diabetes can be prevented and/or reversed with a consistent program of low-fat(meaning low in meats, dairy foods, eggs, and oils) diet and lifestyle changes(translation: “Get off the couch and take a walk, jog, swim, etc.”).
Then, too, there are the ads on the ADA Web site that promote “Tour de Cure”, which encourages diabetics to believe there may be a cure for their disease forthcoming from medical science, which might be encouraging a passive attitude that is hindering
the realization that their own efforts and certain science-based diets can effectively remove all symptoms of the disease now.
The Current Favorite Diet Plan
As Dr. John McDougall likes to say, “We love to hear good news about our bad habits.” When a diet comes along that offers weight loss while we get to enjoy all our favorite foods (that doctors have been telling us were bad for us), we’re all over it! Several popular meal plans or diets fall into this category.
Poster-child for this type of commercially successful diet is the Atkins Diet. The basic idea is that fat and animal-source proteins are universally good, while carbohydrates are bad, even in their whole, unrefined form. Advocating of consumption of a variety of non-starchy colorful vegetables is the saving grace of this type of meal plan.
The Atkins and other similar diets do produce weight loss — and therefore can be helpful in restoring diabetics’ insulin function to varying degrees — but this is a very unhealthy way to do it.
Not only is this general view of human nutrition unhealthy for those who eat this way, but it is destructive to the environment due to the extremely high energy, water, feed, and pesticide inputs. In the case of feedlot beef, it takes 16 pounds of vegetable protein to produce one pound of beef.
For hogs, it requires 7.5 pounds of feed to produce one pound of pork. For chicken, it is a 5:1 conversion, but in every case, a losing proposition.
Carbohydrates in most forms have definitely gone out of fashion in recent years. This is ludicrous to anyone who has traveled to any of the less-affluent countries where the daily diet centers around corn, wheat, rice, millet, or potatoes — and the populace there is lean and can work circles around the average overweight American. Are we so myopic that we can’t see the refutation of the now-common notion that “Carbs make you fat.”?
Lastly in this category of diabetic meal plans is the Paleo Diet, which wins the prize for “Best End-Run Around Scientific and Historical Facts Diet”.
I have read comments where those using this diet claimed success with the Paleo Diet in ending their need for diabetic medications. I don’t doubt this could have happened, but I am not on board with the healthiness of this glamorized version of the meat-based diet of modern-day America. The diet wins points for advocating its adherents should end milk consumption, processed foods, and get more exercise in the fresh air.
Consumption of animals raised on natural diets of grass, etc., in a free-range situation is a big improvement over factory-farming CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), but is also unfeasible for feeding the current world population cost-effectively.
The Paleo Diet loses points for promoting a romantic fantasy not based on archeological reality and an ecologically-destructive and self-centered world-view that its promoters admit would result in a 90 percent reduction in global population.
It is potentially a diabetic meal plan that works for increasing insulin sensitivity, but the impact of so much cholesterol seems dangerous from a health perspective. See note (1) below for a confirmation of this by Dr. John McDougall.
The Vegan Model
This is a diabetic meal plan that has shown up to 70% success rates for reversing Type 2 Diabetes in clinical settings. It has been peer-reviewed and published in Preventive Medicine in 1999 and in the American Journal of Medicine in 2005.
In one test with 99 subjects, the vegan diet controlled blood sugar levels three times better than the American Diabetes Association diet, while controlling for medication and exercise. This means the diet produced these excellent results with no additional medication or exercise.
The vegan diet advocated by Dr. Neal Barnard and others also produces healthy weight loss, lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while permitting the participants to eat as much as they want of the prescribed foods. The lack of calorie counting or serving size restrictions are also pluses in favor of the vegan diet, which excludes all animal-source foods and reduces oils in cooking, salad dressings, etc.
A cardiologist who advocates the vegan diet for clearing blocked arteries without surgery is Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. He documents the reduction in plaque-clogged arteries in his patients in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Before and after angiograms show dramatic reduction in cholesterol build-up by putting patients on a vegan diet. Dr. Esselstyn helped encourage former President Bill Clinton to adopt a vegan diet in order to lose weight and improve his recovery from open-heart surgery.
This concludes my review of some of the prominent diets that may be used as diabetic meal plans. The success rates vary depending on many factors, such as the degree of compliance, how much exercise individual participants engage in, and the scientific worthiness of the diet they choose. Much also depends on the amount of motivation possessed by each dieter — Are they aware they are fighting for their life, or are they moderately content with a lifetime of progressive physical degeneration and increasing pain?
Frankly, many diets that cause weight loss can reduce diabetes symptoms and the need for medications, but, without a commitment to maintain that weight loss, many dieters will go back to eating the foods that caused them to become diabetic. It will be harder to attain weight loss next time — and eventually, there will be the temptation to give up.
Then, too, there is the issue of the unhealthiness of some diets, even at the maintenance level. They may be safe for the short-term, but what about the long-term?
There is one medical discovery made by researcher Walter Mertz in 1957 that is being ignored by most of these diets that are sometimes used as diabetic meal plans. Only Dr. Neal Barnard makes any mention of it in his book about reversing diabetes.