Reversing Type 2 Diabetes: An Urgent Call to Action

The explosion of Type 2 diabetes following the epidemic of obesity in Western countries is well known. The implications for a rise in heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure and amputations is overwhelming. Type 2 diabetes is to a large part a food-borne illness associated with excess calories and processed foods. Logic would have it that if poor food choices and obesity result in Type 2 diabetes, then better food choices and weight loss reverse the disease. 


The ability to reverse Type 2 seems so obvious that further scientific studies might seem superfluous. Dr. Neal Barnard previously demonstrated the superiority of a plant-based diet and weight loss to standard diets in Type 2 diabetes. My friend Marc Ramirez, a former University of Michigan right guard, developed Type 2 diabetes following weight gain in his 30s. On multiple medications for “management” of his disease, he was not aware of the potential to reverse it. After viewing the documentary Forks Over Knives he immediately transitioned to a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet just over four years ago. He lost weight easily and within a few months was off all medications with normal lab results. He remains free of medication to this point and has normal laboratory values. 


More hope comes from new data available this week. The new study involved 30 volunteers with Type 2 diabetes who followed a 600-700 calorie diet consisting of three diet shakes a day and 240 grams of non-starchy vegetables for eight weeks. Some had been treated for diabetes for up to 23 years. After eight weeks their usual diet was resumed but at one-third of their prior caloric intake and they were followed for six months. They were seen monthly.


What was found? Thirteen of the volunteers were free of Type 2 diabetes after six months of maintenance diet. Participants lost on average 30 pounds. Many remained overweight or obese but had lost enough to allow normal insulin production and action. 


Lead researcher Professor Roy Taylor commented that, “What we have shown is that it is possible to reverse your diabetes, even if you have had the condition for a long time, up to around 10 years. If you have had the diagnosis for longer than that, then don’t give up hope — major improvement in blood sugar control is possible. The study also answered the question that people often ask me — if I lose the weight and keep the weight off, will I stay free of diabetes? The simple answer is yes! The bottom line is that if a person really wants to get rid of their Type 2 diabetes, they can lose weight, keep it off and return to normal. This is good news for people who are very motivated to get rid of their diabetes.” 


While a larger trial of nearly 300 subjects is underway, the concept that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed, and not just managed, continues to build momentum as the best solution to the growing epidemic of “diabesity.”

Joel Kahn, MD, FAAC

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