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Vegetarian Diet Helps to Control Diabetes

It is long established that diabetics should restrict sugar and other refined carbohydrates. Now research shows that diabetics should also restrict meat. A review of nine separate trials showed that diabetics who switched to vegetarian diets had significantly lower HbA1c (a measure of cell damage from high blood sugar levels), fasting blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, body weight and waist circumference (Clinical Nutrition, June 13, 2018). The following values did not change: fasting insulin, HDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides or blood pressure. The studies included 664 diabetics who were taking oral sugar-lowering drugs, insulin, cholesterol-lowering drugs and/or blood pressure medications.

Meat Increases Risk for Becoming Diabetic
In another study, researchers followed 63,257 Chinese adults aged 45–74 for an average of 10.9 years and found that eating red meat was associated with increased risk for developing diabetes. The authors suggest that it may be the iron in meat that could cause diabetes (American Journal of Epidemiology, May 23, 2017). See my report on Why Meat May Increase Risk for Diabetes. Many other studies also associate meat with increased risk for diabetes (Am. J. Clin. Nutr, 2011;94:1088–1096; Ann. Nutr. Metab, 2008;52:96–104; JAMA Intern Med, Jul 22, 2013;173(14):1328-35; Am J Epidemiol, 2016;183(8):715-728). Epidemiological studies show that vegetarians have a significantly lower incidence of diabetes than people who eat meat (Diabetes Spectrum, May 2017;30(2): 82-88).

Most cases of Type II diabetes are caused by insulin resistance, the inability of cells to respond to insulin. Just four weeks on a high-meat diet increased risk for people not being able to respond to insulin (Metabolism, March 2017;68:173–183) as did four weeks on a high dairy diet (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 17, 2015).

Everyone should expect blood sugar levels to rise after eating. To keep blood sugar levels from rising too high, your pancreas releases insulin that lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the blood into the liver. However, if your liver is damaged or full of fat, your liver will not accept the sugar and blood sugar levels rise even higher. See Meats Linked to Fatty Liver and Diabetes

My Recommendations
To prevent or control diabetes, you do not need to be a strict vegetarian, but your diet should be very high in plants and low in animal products. Many studies show that a vegetarian diet helps to lower high blood sugar levels and treat diabetes. A vegetarian diet helps to keep iron intake low and reduces other factors that increase diabetes risk, such as weight gain and lack of dietary fiber. High blood sugar levels can also be reduced by:
• losing excess weight
• exercising
• restricting refined carbohydrates such as foods made from flour, sugar-added foods and all drinks that contain sugar
• restricting fried foods
• eating lots of vegetables, beans, nuts and other seeds

July 15th, 2018
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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