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Vegan Diet May be Key to Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

Danielle Dent-Breen's picture
Vegan diet diabetes reversal

In the United States alone, more than 29 million people are living with diabetes, and 86 million are living with prediabetes, a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces.


New thoughts suggest vegan diet is key to treating or reversing diabetes.

Traditional dietary recommendations for Type II diabetics have been to reduce portion sizes, consume few carbohydrates, and increase protein intake. However, these recommendations, along with the use of multiple glucose management medications and increased physical activity have a very poor compliance rate. What if there was a better way?

New research seems to be pointing to the benefits of a low fat Vegan diet to combat Type II diabetes.

In the 72-week study referenced above published by Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, people with type 2 diabetes followed either a low-fat vegan diet or a moderate-carbohydrate plan. Both groups lost weight and improved their cholesterol. When people who didn’t complete the study or had medication changes were omitted from the study analysis, there was a significantly greater decrease in A1C (measure of average blood glucose levels over an extended time) and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the vegans.

Further research has suggested that eating just one serving of meat per week significantly increases the risk of diabetes. A study looked at the link between meat intake and the occurrence of diabetes in 8,000 adult Seventh Day Adventists, all of whom were non-diabetic at the start of the study. The Seventh Day Adventist church advocates adherence to a vegetarian or vegan diet for its members. This study showed that those who followed a ‘low-meat’ diet (consuming as little as just 1 serving of meat per week) over the 17 years of this long-term study had a staggering 74% increase in their risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to participants who followed a meat-free diet for the same period.

The biggest advantage for those who choose the low fat vegan diet approach to managing their blood sugars is the freedom from calorie-counting, as well as weighing and measuring tiny portions. Studies seem to show that adherence to a vegan diet alone, free from all animal products, provides excellent blood glucose control and even reversal of Type II diabetes. This diet will naturally push out overly-processed foods with little-to-no nutrition, and replace them with real, healthy, whole foods.

There is little doubt that bite-for-bite, fruits and vegetables provide us with a myriad of nutritional benefits. A recently released study even has shown that a compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may be as effective as oral medications in treating Type II diabetes.

Types of Vegetarian diets:

When speaking to a vegetarian or vegan it doesn’t take long to learn that there are huge variances in dietary restrictions from one person to another. One person may consume a raw vegan diet, and another may include fish, chicken, and seafood in their diets, and yet both may call themselves “vegetarian”. All of these terms span the plant-based eating spectrum. These definitions—from most to least restrictive—detail the foods these eating plans include or exclude beyond those all plant-based eaters consume: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. It should be noted that the benefits found in the studies above were derived from adherence to a purely vegan diet.

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Raw: Foods are not cooked, processed, or heated to above 115°F. Foods may be strained, blended, juiced, or eaten in their natural state. A raw diet is not necessarily vegetarian. Some followers eat unprocessed and uncooked meats, seafood, eggs, and raw, unpasteurized dairy foods. The diet generally excludes alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, and many fats and oils.

Vegan: Excludes foods of animal origin, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy. Meat is replaced with alternate sources of protein, such as tofu, beans, peanut butter, grains, nuts, peas, veggie burgers, and more.

Lacto-Vegetarian: Excludes foods of animal origin but includes dairy foods.

Ovo-Vegetarian: Excludes foods of animal origin but includes eggs.

Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian: Excludes foods of animal origin such as meat, poultry, and seafood, but includes eggs and dairy foods.

Pescatarian: Excludes foods of animal origin but includes seafood, eggs, and dairy foods.

Semivegetarian, or Flexitarian: These terms define eating styles based on a vegetarian diet but include small amounts of red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and/or dairy foods. Flexitarians, for instance, can eat anything from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to dairy, eggs, and meat, but most meals emphasize plant-based foods.

If you suspect that you may be diabetic or pre-diabetic, please read more about how to recognize the symptoms of high blood sugar, and see your physician for a complete blood workup. Your doctor will order a test called the A1C that will give you a picture of your blood sugar levels over the past three months, more accurate than a single finger stick.

If you are considering making a switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, please check out the following helpful resources:
What to Feed Your Vegetarian Dinner Guests

Tips for Switching to a Vegetarian Diet

Vegans Explain: Why Go Vegan vs Being Vegetarian