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Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from problems in how insulin is produced, how insulin works, or both. Diabetes affects many parts of the body and is associated with serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-limb amputation.

Preventing and Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

Recent research has demonstrated that plant-based diets (especially whole, not processed foods) may successfully prevent, treat, and even reverse Type 2 diabetes, including in children. Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with severe calorie restriction, but fortunately, reversal can also be achieved by simply eating healthier.

Complications from diabetes have been shown to lessen and even disappear once patients go plant- based. For example, diabetics suffering from painful neuropathy for years were cured within days with a plant-based diet. Lifestyle medicine can work so well that it may even be able to reverse diabetic retinopathy.

Which foods increase diabetic risk?

Excluding meatmilk, and other animal products and high fat and high protein foods may reduce the risk of diabetes and gestational diabetes by boosting our hormone-binding proteins, helping to prevent obesity.

Eggs may be particularly risky–eating only one egg a week may almost double the odds of getting diabetes. Fish, especially salmon, is one of the primary sources of industrial pollutants which have been associated with increased diabetes risk.

Animal fat appears to be especially harmful, causing fat-induced insulin sensitivity leading to prediabetes.

Because sugar is associated with obesity, a significant risk factor for diabetes, sugar should be avoided. Erythritol is a nontoxic sugar substitute which can be used sparingly. The standard American diet is linked with obesity and associated with diabetes risk.  

Which foods decrease diabetic risk?

A whole food plant based diet, in general, has been shown to be protective, but some foods are especially good at cutting risks, treating and even reversing Type 2 diabetes. Indian gooseberries (amla), coffee, soyflax seedsgreen tea, purple potatoes, broccoli sprouts, whole grains, vinegar, and beans may be protective. Beans may be especially beneficial when replacing meat or refined carbs, such as white rice. 

One food thought to be protective, cinnamon, was found otherwise. Depending on the variety, cinnamon may be either too toxic for consumption at high doses or ineffective at treating diabetes. 

A lifestyle approach focusing on a healthy plant-based diet coupled with exercise and weight loss (if needed) may prevent and reverse diabetes.

Image Credit: Jill Brown / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Topic summary contributed by Joan

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