Oatmeal Diet Put to the Test for Diabetes Treatment

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What are the extraordinary, lasting benefits we may get from a few days of an oatmeal diet?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, diabetes was described as a “too great emptying of urine” and, more poetically, as being “like the River Nile between the thighs.” The recommended remedy, ironically, was a diet consisting of wheat grains, grapes, honey, and berries. The guy who coined the term “diabetes” about 500 years later also prescribed a high-carbohydrate diet. Then, right up until we had insulin, doctors were saving the lives of diabetics with an oatmeal diet. This wouldn’t make any sense until Sir Harold Himsworth arrived on the scene, the first to separate out type 1 diabetes from type 2 diabetes and define this concept of insulin resistance. After just a few days on a high-fat diet, you can get twice the blood sugar spike in response to drinking sugar water, compared to after eating a high-carb diet.

Now that type 2 diabetes is like the Black Death of the 21st century in terms of devastating health impacts, what about revisiting the almost forgotten, short-term dietary oatmeal intervention as an economical, yet—spoiler alert—highly effective tool to achieve better blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes? Basically, patients are offered up to about two and a half cups of oatmeal three times a day as their meals with nothing but some herbs and maybe small amounts of raw vegetables just to mix things up. For how long? Just a couple of days. Note that’s only about a thousand calories; so, the result is a hypocaloric, plant-based dietary intervention that is low in fat—in fact, no added fat—no salt, and excludes animal protein.

Is a few days of oatmeal really going to make much of a difference? Check out this case report of an oatmeal intervention for severe insulin resistance in the ICU. Within 48 hours of admission, the patient developed such severe insulin resistance she required more than 200 units of insulin per day. Up until then, the patient received standard diabetic tube feeds, which obviously were not working. So instead, they dropped oatmeal and vegetables down the tube instead, presumably using a really good blender. And lo and behold, it worked. But you have got to see the numbers. Yeah, her first blood sugars of the day dropped from up around 250 down to about 100 five days later. But that near-normal blood sugar was on 160 fewer units of insulin, down from over 200 units a day. Lower blood sugars on 160 fewer units of insulin!

Okay, I can see how if you’re trying to save a life in the ICU, an oatmeal diet can be near-miraculous. But just in regular diabetics, what good is eating oatmeal for a few days if you just go back to your regular diet? Several studies have suggested that the beneficial effects could last like a month after the few days of oatmeal. For example, in this randomized controlled crossover trial, not only did insulin needs drop about 40 percent in just two days, compared to just restricting calories alone with a hypocaloric diabetic diet, but also a measure of long-term blood sugar control taken four weeks later reflected the benefit. So, we’re talking about a highly significant reduction of required daily insulin doses, with beneficial effects shown weeks later. Who cares if you have to take huge doses of insulin, though? Because insulin causes weight gain, which just makes the underlying insulin resistance worse. So, it’s like this vicious cycle. But instead, with the oatmeal you’re actually treating the cause, not to mention the incidence of cancer and overall mortality associated with having such high levels of insulin in your body all the time.

Other new studies have shown the same thing. Two days of oatmeal significantly reducing the required amount of insulin and improved blood sugar levels with beneficial effects noted for up to four weeks. For example, here. Patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, with the two-day oatmeal diet leading to a 40 percent reduction of insulin dose, accompanied with almost normalization of average blood sugars. Although the intervention only lasted for two days, they observed a lasting significant reduction of insulin dosage and ameliorated mean blood sugars for weeks after they were dismissed from the study. And this was after they resumed their regular diets. Look at this. A massive drop in insulin needs after the oatmeal for two days, but look, a month later they were still needing like 40 percent less insulin. Wait a second. How could this short intervention lead to such dramatic results that somehow continued for weeks? Although short-term dietary oatmeal interventions cannot be compared to whole food, plant-based diets in terms of maximizing the intake of protective foods—I mean that’s ideally what people should try to eat to reverse their type 2 diabetes completely—but they both strictly exclude the animal-based foods that seem to increase the risk of developing diabetes. So, even cutting out saturated fat for like two days may so reduce insulin resistance you can free ride on that for at least a few weeks, even if you go back to eating crap.

WARNING, though. If you try this oatmeal diet, your physician has to be ready to rapidly deprescribe your blood sugar drugs, else you become dangerously overmedicated. Imagine if this woman was still getting 200 units of insulin. Her sugars would crash so low she’d be dead. So, oatmeal interventions should not be performed in patients that might have difficulties in reporting symptoms of low blood sugars, who you can’t closely monitor. So, the downside of trying oatmeal days is that it may work a little too well; so, it must be done under close medical supervision.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, diabetes was described as a “too great emptying of urine” and, more poetically, as being “like the River Nile between the thighs.” The recommended remedy, ironically, was a diet consisting of wheat grains, grapes, honey, and berries. The guy who coined the term “diabetes” about 500 years later also prescribed a high-carbohydrate diet. Then, right up until we had insulin, doctors were saving the lives of diabetics with an oatmeal diet. This wouldn’t make any sense until Sir Harold Himsworth arrived on the scene, the first to separate out type 1 diabetes from type 2 diabetes and define this concept of insulin resistance. After just a few days on a high-fat diet, you can get twice the blood sugar spike in response to drinking sugar water, compared to after eating a high-carb diet.

Now that type 2 diabetes is like the Black Death of the 21st century in terms of devastating health impacts, what about revisiting the almost forgotten, short-term dietary oatmeal intervention as an economical, yet—spoiler alert—highly effective tool to achieve better blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes? Basically, patients are offered up to about two and a half cups of oatmeal three times a day as their meals with nothing but some herbs and maybe small amounts of raw vegetables just to mix things up. For how long? Just a couple of days. Note that’s only about a thousand calories; so, the result is a hypocaloric, plant-based dietary intervention that is low in fat—in fact, no added fat—no salt, and excludes animal protein.

Is a few days of oatmeal really going to make much of a difference? Check out this case report of an oatmeal intervention for severe insulin resistance in the ICU. Within 48 hours of admission, the patient developed such severe insulin resistance she required more than 200 units of insulin per day. Up until then, the patient received standard diabetic tube feeds, which obviously were not working. So instead, they dropped oatmeal and vegetables down the tube instead, presumably using a really good blender. And lo and behold, it worked. But you have got to see the numbers. Yeah, her first blood sugars of the day dropped from up around 250 down to about 100 five days later. But that near-normal blood sugar was on 160 fewer units of insulin, down from over 200 units a day. Lower blood sugars on 160 fewer units of insulin!

Okay, I can see how if you’re trying to save a life in the ICU, an oatmeal diet can be near-miraculous. But just in regular diabetics, what good is eating oatmeal for a few days if you just go back to your regular diet? Several studies have suggested that the beneficial effects could last like a month after the few days of oatmeal. For example, in this randomized controlled crossover trial, not only did insulin needs drop about 40 percent in just two days, compared to just restricting calories alone with a hypocaloric diabetic diet, but also a measure of long-term blood sugar control taken four weeks later reflected the benefit. So, we’re talking about a highly significant reduction of required daily insulin doses, with beneficial effects shown weeks later. Who cares if you have to take huge doses of insulin, though? Because insulin causes weight gain, which just makes the underlying insulin resistance worse. So, it’s like this vicious cycle. But instead, with the oatmeal you’re actually treating the cause, not to mention the incidence of cancer and overall mortality associated with having such high levels of insulin in your body all the time.

Other new studies have shown the same thing. Two days of oatmeal significantly reducing the required amount of insulin and improved blood sugar levels with beneficial effects noted for up to four weeks. For example, here. Patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, with the two-day oatmeal diet leading to a 40 percent reduction of insulin dose, accompanied with almost normalization of average blood sugars. Although the intervention only lasted for two days, they observed a lasting significant reduction of insulin dosage and ameliorated mean blood sugars for weeks after they were dismissed from the study. And this was after they resumed their regular diets. Look at this. A massive drop in insulin needs after the oatmeal for two days, but look, a month later they were still needing like 40 percent less insulin. Wait a second. How could this short intervention lead to such dramatic results that somehow continued for weeks? Although short-term dietary oatmeal interventions cannot be compared to whole food, plant-based diets in terms of maximizing the intake of protective foods—I mean that’s ideally what people should try to eat to reverse their type 2 diabetes completely—but they both strictly exclude the animal-based foods that seem to increase the risk of developing diabetes. So, even cutting out saturated fat for like two days may so reduce insulin resistance you can free ride on that for at least a few weeks, even if you go back to eating crap.

WARNING, though. If you try this oatmeal diet, your physician has to be ready to rapidly deprescribe your blood sugar drugs, else you become dangerously overmedicated. Imagine if this woman was still getting 200 units of insulin. Her sugars would crash so low she’d be dead. So, oatmeal interventions should not be performed in patients that might have difficulties in reporting symptoms of low blood sugars, who you can’t closely monitor. So, the downside of trying oatmeal days is that it may work a little too well; so, it must be done under close medical supervision.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

This is the third and final video in this series on oatmeal for diabetes treatment. If you missed the others, see Is Oatmeal Good for People with Diabetes? and How Does Oatmeal Help with Blood Sugars?.

If you are on insulin or blood sugar pills and want to give the oatmeal diet a try, make sure to talk with your medical professional first so your medications can be closely monitored and adjusted as needed.

What else might oatmeal do? See:

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