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Can Diet Reverse Diabetes?

Is it possible to reverse diabetes with diet alone? Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has shown that switching to a vegan diet can significantly control type 2 diabetes, and, as an added bonus, people lose weight while eating as much fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains as they want.

While the diet doesn't cure diabetes, it can reduce blood sugar to levels so low in some people that medicine is no longer needed.

Barnard's study, funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, compared a low-fat vegan diet with the standard diet prescribed by the American Diabetes Association, which allows low-fat meat, fish and dairy products. Neither group was given an exercise plan for the 22-week study because Barnard wanted to compare only the diets.

In type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or the body's cells become resistant to it. Because insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use sugar or glucose -- the basic fuel for cells in the body -- glucose builds up in the blood and starts causing problems.
"It's very difficult," Goldberg said. "You're dealing with a group of people who by and large probably are overweight, and over many years developed all the habits that make important changes extremely difficult. We know if you can get weight off, you can make a huge difference, but if you can't maintain it, all the gains will be lost."

Barnard said many of the most serious chronic illnesses afflicting millions of Americans are a result of poor diet choices.

"Half the ads on TV are for fast food, and the other half are for medicines to take care of what you're doing to yourself with that diet," Barnard said.
A typical day's menu offerings in Barnard's book include oatmeal cooked with apples and topped with soy milk for breakfast; black-eyed pea and sweet potato soup, toasted rye bread and a spinach salad for lunch, and for dinner, Lebanese-style lentils and pasta accompanied by steamed broccoli, with an orange-applesauce date cake for dessert.

"People do say `I bet it's hard', but test drive it for three weeks. People may fall off the wagon, but just get back on. And as time goes on, people don't want to slip," he said. "Tastes change remarkably quickly."

Nancy McVicar can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4593.

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